Bowlers came into the Garden Center Lanes bowling alley and started lacing up their shoes as late spring snowflakes swirled outside on April 5.
After a review of the team's scores from the previous meet, a group huddle and a cheer, the Alexandria adapted bowling team settled into the lanes and got to work as some of the only athletes who don't have to worry so much about what conditions are like outside.
The Cardinals competed with Dassel-Cokato, but the teams bowl on their home lanes so it takes a few days for the final results to be calculated. With eight seniors on the team, many of whom have been bowling since seventh grade, Alexandria is feeling confident about its season.
"We've got a lot of veterans coming back, which is always good to have," head coach Wade Traphagen said. "They've got a good team chemistry. We've got a lot of kids on the team that are best friends and that really helps."
The Cardinals CI team of junior Crystal Krohnfeldt, senior Daunte Houck, senior Jonathon Jahnke and sophomore Jenica Bostock beat the Dassel-Cokato team 1,630 to 1,494.
Senior Lily Hjelle bowled a 426 series total in PI singles. Sophomore Alex Eggert bowled a 415 in PI singles followed by senior Ross Minnerath with a 402. Junior Matt Senstad took home a 361 series total in the PI singles.
The CI singles team had two bowlers in the 400 club. Junior Daityn Thompson bowled a 479 series, followed by sophomore Jett Thurston with 405. Seventh-grader Trenton Tuey was one point shy of a 400 with a 399.
Junior Elton Gruber bowled a 352 in the CI singles and senior Robb Erlandson had a 329.
Dassel-Cokato doesn't have an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) team so the Cardinals ASD team of junior Ty Burg, sophomore Marcus Decker, senior Cameron Arndt and freshman Evan Larson completed unchallenged. They had a team score of 1,528.
Alexandria added the ASD component of the program just last year. There are eight bowlers on the ASD team ranging from seventh grade to 12th grade.
Sophomore Mercedes Nelson bowled a series total of 361 points in singles, followed by seventh-grader Joe Mello with a 346. Eighth-grader Sebastian Billings rounded out the ASD singles section with a 325.
Because of the growing number of participants in the sport, a section qualifying meet was implemented for the whole sport of high school adapted bowling two years ago. Before the section qualifier, everyone made it to state. But even with the qualifying round, the Cardinals have a history of returning a large presence to the state tournament.
Last year, 22 athletes competed at state and six finished among the top-10 of the singles and doubles categories.
The Cardinals are reaching even higher this year. They want every single one of the 25 students on their roster to qualify for at least one event at the state tournament.
"Our team's been doing really well," Erlandson said. "I'm hoping to go to state."
Erlandson's been bowling with the team since he was in seventh grade. Some of his best friends bowl on the team with him. The support of his teammates and his coaches has helped him become a much better bowler over the years, Erlandson said.
"My favorite part is getting strikes and being with my friends," Erlandson said.
With the state competition still months away, a more immediate goal for the Cardinals is to increase the number of athletes bowling over 400 every meet.
"It'd be like golfing below par if you bowl over 400," Traphagen said. "All of our bowlers bowl over 400 at least once, but it's a good way to measure how they're doing and how much progress they've made."
But it's not all about the numbers for the Cardinals. Coach Traphagen sees a community building amongst the players. A community that often extends beyond the highschool years as many alumni return to help out and bowl with the team.
"It's just as much social as competitive. To be able to make new friends, to develop a little bit of independence, stuff like that. And to have a good experience and hopefully develop a passion for the game of bowling," Traphagen said. "This gives them an opportunity to be part of a team."
The smiles and laughs were abundant as the team cheered on their teammates and celebrated their own successes.
"Their positive attitudes are contagious," Traphagen said. "Some of our kids have some pretty serious disabilities but they don't let that affect them. It's really inspirational watching these kids do what they're doing and making those life-long friendships. That's really what it's about."
PI SINGLES - Lily Hjelle - 426; Alex Eggert - 415; Matt Senstad - 361; Ross Minnerath - 402
CI TEAM - Crystal Krohnfeldt, Daunte Houck, Jonathon Jahnke, Jenica Bostock - 1,630
CI SINGLES - Daityn Thompson - 479; Jett Thurston - 405; Trenton Tuey - 399; Elton Gruber - 352; Robb Erlandson - 329
ASD TEAM - Ty Burg, Marcus Decker, Cameron Arndt, Evan Larson - 1,528
ASD SINGLES - Mercedes Nelson - 361; Joe Mello - 346; Sebastian Billings - 325