Magic adapted bowlers shine at state

The 2019 spring Monticello Adapted Bowling team (not included in this picture are Taylor Monette and Trey Winfield). From left to right:

Front Row: Ethan Fick, Ciara Aydt, Meghan Garaghty, Brandon Saldana

Back Row: Alyssa Johnson (manager), Justin Garaghty, Kyle Eicher, Lucas Rowan, Mikey Caspers, Darla Aleckson, Cassidy Le (manager)

Monticello participates and helps run a number of sports for people with disabilities, and one of the most successful ones is Monticello’s adapted bowling team. Even offering an adapted bowling team is something that relatively few school districts put money into supporting, but Monticello has had theirs for quite a while.

“The adapted bowling program here at Monticello has been around for a while,” said Craig Grams, the leader of Monticello’s adapted bowling team. "This is my eighth year in the district, and my second year coaching the bowling team, and even when I was teaching at the middle school there was an adapted bowling program, so it's been around for at least ten to twelve years."

It being just his second year on the job, Grams talked about what it was like taking over Monticello's adapted bowling program last year.

"Last year was a big learning year," said Grams. "I was learning the ins and outs of the rules, what can and can't be allowed, how many contests [we can have]. It was a learning experience about the background of it."

Grams introduces his kids to bowling during his in-year phys-ed programming, and he asks the ones most interested in the sport to join the team when they begin to practice in mid-March.

"One of the things I do as part of my curriculum as adapted phy ed teacher is that we do bowling for a little while," said Grams. "We use those as practices as a warmup to when we start participating in meets in late March and early April. Not all of my adapted students participate, it's a choice like in any other sport."

As Grams tells it, there are three different divisions in the adapted bowling program run by the MSHSL that separate out the participants into the correct group for their disability.

“There are three divisions,” said Grams. “The PI division, the physical division, is where students with physical abilities are grouped. The CI division is where students with cognitive impairments are sorted, and it’s based off their IQ score. The ASD division is the autism spectrum division. We use their IEP, among other things, to decide what division they go into.”

He also discussed how points are tallied in competitions.

“Each kid establishes a handicap and an average of so many points,” said Grams. “If a kid bowls for a low average in the early part of the season, they’ll start with a high handicap. Then if they have good rounds later on, they can really up their game and go up in the standings.”

The team has several different ways of competing during their regular season; one is a straight competition against another team in the same bowling alley, and the other is something that the trap shooting team also does.

“You can do a bowling tournament against another team,” explained Grams. “But you can also do a paper meet, where you exchange your scores with other teams in the state.”

This year, Monticello hosted a state qualifying meet, and their team did very well in that competition. Coached by Grams, who works at the high school in the physical education department, the Magic sent close to a dozen bowlers down to last week’s state tournament at Bowlero Bowling Alley in Brooklyn Park.

“Everyone can qualify as singles,” said Grams. “We had 17 bowlers bowl singles and the top 192 bowlers in the state qualify, and 11 of our 17 bowlers qualified. You can also qualify as a doubles pair, and those can be co-ed, not just boy-boy, girl-girl. You can also enter as a team of four. Most teams do a lot of singles and doubles, and that's what I've done the last two years.”

While the Magic qualified about the same number of bowlers as they did last year, they didn't qualify for the same events as last year.

"Last year, we had more doubles qualify than singles," said Grams. "This year, a couple of groups couldn't quite align their scores, but that's how it goes some days."

Lucas Rowan and Michael Caspers were Monticello’s only male singles bowlers in the ASD division at state. Rowan had a good day, finishing 11th with a grand total of 422 points. Caspers had a lower average and scoring handicap [97, 92] and finished farther down the list, taking 38th with a grand total of 372.

Ciara Aydt and Darla Aleckson competed in the girls singles division of the ASD class and both finished in the top five. Aydt had an average/handicap of 102 and 88 and totaled 414 points, which was good for third. Aleckson had an average/handicap of 54/131 and finished fifth with a grand total of 403, just a single point behind the fourth-place finisher.

Aydt and Rowan paired together in the ASD doubles division and had two great rounds, finishing with an overall total of 900 points, just nine behind the first-place team from St. Paul Como Park for a runner-up finish.

Monticello advanced three bowlers into the CI boys singles division’s finals, with Kyle Eicher having the top finish at 14th with a score of 407. Ethan Fick finished second of Monticello’s CI competitors, bowling a two-round total of 399, and Justin Garaghty rounded out Monticello’s CI qualifiers with a score of 370.

In the CI girls singles division, Meghan Garaghty placed 14th with a score of 400 and Taylor Monette was not too far behind her in 20th place with a score of 390.

Eicher and Fick also bowled in the CI doubles division and they finished with a score of 384.

“It’s a long day for everybody,” said Grams. “Some of our kids were right on the edge of making the cut, and our kids just went there and did their thing.”

Brandon Saldana and Treyvon Winfield competed for the Magic in the PI boys singles division. Saldana finished in 25th with an overall score of 371, and Winfield finished in 30th with a score of 270.

"It's all about having fun down there," said Grams. "I tell the kids that if they smile at the pins, they're more likely to fall over than if they're angry at the pins. They usually go up on the next roll more relaxed and usually knock down more pins. These kids are competitive and they want to win."

Grams uses the chaotic and large-group nature of the state tournament to make sure his athletes remember to be good sports.

"We talk about how to be a good sport and how to communicate with kids from other teams," said Grams. "You get to know kids from other schools and they cheer you on if you cheer them on."

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