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Air Force Men, Women Win Armed Forces Bowling Championships

By Tim Hipps
Special to American Forces Press Service

DALLAS, Jan. 19, 2005 – First Lt. Rickie Banister and Master Sgt. Christine Dash led Air Force to the men's and women's team titles in the 2005 Armed Forces Bowling Championships Jan. 10-12 at Don Carter All-Star Lanes West here.

The tournament was contested in conjunction with the 2005 USA Bowling National Amateur Championships, and the field was cut to the top 32 men and 24 women after three days of competition. Banister, who won the armed forces men's division with a 24-game total of 4,847, was the only military bowler to make the cut and finished 29th in the nation.

"The most touching thing happened to me last night when two Marine ladies told me: 'We're all behind you because if you make the cut, you represent the military,' " said Banister, 33, a missileer at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo. "It was never any clearer to me than at that moment. Yeah, I'm in the Air Force, but what I do represents the U.S. military. That's why I wanted to give it everything I had to make the cut. We all fight together, and if you saw us here, we were all together."

All-Army coach Dean Ryan said Banister was the difference in the armed forces men's tournament. "I really thought this was the year that our men honestly had a chance to beat Air Force and we probably should've," said Ryan, manager of Fort Meade Lanes in Maryland. "I feel one man beat us, and that was Rickie Banister. He just had a tremendous tournament."

Air Force won the men's division with a score of 27,343, followed by Army (27,174), defending champion Marine Corps (26,080) and Navy (25,680). The Air Force women prevailed with a score of 25,134, followed by Army (23,755) and Navy/Marines (23,143), who combined for one team.

Dash overcame a pinched nerve in her left leg to win the armed forces women's division with a 24-game total of 4,390.

"I fell out of every shot, because I couldn't get down with the ball," said Dash, 38, stationed at the Air National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va. "It was a matter of figuring out what was the easiest way to deal with the pain and make a shot."

Dash won the women's title in 1988 but didn't return to the tournament until 2001 when she won her second championship. She said her "mental game" was the key to winning a third crown.

"I stay focused," she said. "I don't worry about what other people are doing around me. It's a mental game, it really is. You could see that here because I had no physical game. Execution is the key. When I throw a bad shot, I forget about it. A lot of people have a hard time doing that."

Many military bowlers admitted they were flustered by the national championships' use of sport-oil conditions, which are much tougher to score upon than most house-league surfaces. "The big difference I notice is that you don't get an area to shoot at like you do in a house shot," Dash explained. "On sport-shot, you've got one board you have to go over every time. That's where the mental game comes in. The way the oil is laid on the lane it wears different and it has different thicknesses in different places than what you're normally used to, so you have to be extremely accurate to shoot well on sport- oil conditions."

"It makes a bowler out of you, that's what it does," added Army Staff Sgt. Dwayne Watkins, who finished second in the Armed Forces men's division with a 4,627 total. "It's mental, it's tough, it's physical it will wear you down if you don't know what you're doing."

Watkins, a Kiowa Warrior crew chief at Fort Rucker, Ala., bowled a 290 on the second day after settling for a spare in his first frame.

"I rolled 11 strikes in a row after that," said Watkins, who has 14 perfect games on his resume. "But I also threw some games away on Tuesday. My spare shooting was not a good thing.

"We were up more than 200 pins on the first day and yesterday a lot of us just fell apart," Watkins said of the Army men. "It's not an individual thing. Everybody has to click, and we didn't click the last two days. Air Force bowled well today, but we kicked it away yesterday. A lot of us dropped a lot of sticks."

Watkins, a native of Austin, Texas, began bowling as a child with his family and has continued for 30 years. His parents drove to Dallas for the All-Army Trials Camp but had to return home so dad could compete in a league during the Armed Forces Championships.

The Army and Air Force had a three-day camp in Dallas a week prior to the Armed Forces Championships to select their teams.

Watkins' performance here was his best on sport-oil conditions since he finished all-events runner-up in the 1993 American Bowling Congress National Championships. He also won a tournament at K-Bay Lanes in Oahu, Hawaii, while stationed at Schofield Barracks in 1997.

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Bobbi Boutwell won the armed forces women's silver medal with a score of 4,271, followed by teammate Tech. Sgt. Kimberly Thompson (4,249). Army 1st Sgt. Susan Paschal finished fourth at 4,220.

"We didn't bowl as well as we could have, but second place is pretty good considering how strong the Air Force team is," Paschal said.

Army Maj. Renea Greenlee, stationed at Reno, Nev., finished ninth among military women with a 4,039 total.

"I'm a firm believer that you have a little extra anxiety because of the environment here," she said of bowling alongside the best amateurs in America. "And we couldn't catch the Air Force because of the way we bowled the first couple of days."

Army Sgt. 1st Class Bill Anthony, 46, an attack helicopter repairman stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., finished fourth in the Armed Forces men's division with a 4,593 total. He has competed in this tournament all but two years since 1989. He missed the 2004 event because of deployment to Iraq, where he never found a place to bowl.

"It feels very good to be back," Anthony said. "I bowled fair to middling. I just puttered right along and tried to keep it simple because the shot was kind of grueling. I didn't have any really bad games but I didn't really have any high games, either. Consistency was the key."

Anthony said nothing shy of deployment can keep him away from this tournament. "To compete against the other services means the world to me," he said. "The competition, fellowship and reunions it's just a lot of fun. We brag about it all the time. There's always a lot of pressure to make the [All-Army] team but I enjoy it very much."

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ricky Beck, a two-time individual champion who was deployed most of last year in Qatar, finished ninth in his final Armed Forces Bowling Championships.

"Between the people and the competition, it will be very hard to give up," said Beck, 43, who plans to retire Oct. 31. "It's always been a great time."

(Tim Hipps is assigned to the U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center Public Affairs.)

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