The collegiate bowling season is a long one, lasting nearly the entire school year.
That’s fine with Western Hills High School graduate Chelsey Stephens.
Stephens recently completed her sophomore season at Campbellsville University by placing 10th in the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Intercollegiate Singles National Championships.
She was the first athlete in the five-year history of the school’s program to qualify for nationals and was one of just two from NAIA institutions to advance to the tournament last month in Reno, Nev.
It was a great way to cap off a season that ran from September through mid-April.
“It’s enjoyable, especially the team aspect,” Stephens said of the bowling season. “The team bonding is fun, so it’s not like a job. It’s more like a hobby.”
It’s been a lifelong hobby for Stephens, who’s been bowling since she was 3 years old. Her parents and grandparents all bowl, and she took up the sport at Eastland Lanes in Lexington.
What does she like best about bowling?
“Probably just meeting new friends,” Stephens said, “competing against them, having a good time.”
Stephens played in leagues growing up but stepped up her game when she was in middle school.
“I was 12 or 13 when I started doing more competitive bowling,” she said. “I played golf and softball in high school as well, but I knew I wanted to do bowling in college.”
Bowling wasn’t the main factor in deciding where to attend college.
“I definitely chose Campbellsville for my major,” Stephens said. “I liked the school atmosphere better than other schools.”
Stephens started out as an education major but has switched to social work.
This year she was named to the Mid-South Conference all-academic team and the National College Bowling Coaches Association academic all-America team in addition to being named second team all-conference.
Stephens was recently named CU’s women’s bowling Champion of Character, an NAIA program that emphasizes the core values of integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership.
Campbellsville’s women’s bowling team has 14 members. Most tournaments allow a school to field two teams, and that’s what CU does with a varsity and junior varsity squad.
The Tigers compete in tournaments nearly every weekend of the season, with the exception of a break in December, and most of them are out of state.
“You definitely have to have time management, but I don’t think it’s that hard,” Stephens said about balancing school and bowling. “I’m really not a procrastinator.”
Stephens competed in a sectional qualifier for the chance to advance to the national tournament. The top four bowlers earned a berth at nationals, and Stephens finished third at sectionals.
Just 16 bowlers qualified for nationals, where each competitor played a game for seeding purposes.
Stephens was seeded seventh, and the top eight received first-round byes. She went on to place 10th.
Her college season may be over, but Stephens won’t stop bowling.
“I keep going on with individual tournaments,” she said. “I don’t really stop throughout the year.”
In January Stephens qualified at Eastland for the United States Bowling Congress Junior Gold Championships July 12-18 in Buffalo, N.Y. This will be her sixth and final time to compete in the tournament.
She’ll be participating in the U20 category, the same one she was in last year when she placed 34th.
This season Stephens was ranked 48th among female collegiate bowlers with an average of 188.5 during the regular season. Last year she placed in the top five in two tournaments, and she held the high average on the Campbellsville women’s team with an average of 184.6.
“Usually what I want to do is improve my average from the year before,” she said. “We practice every week, every day, and when you practice constantly and with others you get better.”