Juniors John Looney and Colin Hueser are two very different people. Looney wears a T-shirt with kittens floating in space every Tuesday. Hueser dedicates game day to wearing a suit and tie.
According to junior Kevin Connor, they, as the number one and two boys varsity bowlers, are the leaders of the team in different ways.
“They definitely use each other’s differences and fill where the other can’t,” said Connor. “Johnny can be joking to Colin, and Colin will use it in the game, and it helps us out.”
Together, they plan to uplift and improve the team to hopefully compete in the state championship in Wichita — a wildly different ending than last year’s winless season according to Looney.
It’s easy with their complementary strengths and weaknesses to provide a well-rounded skill set and moral for the team.
“Looney and I work together well because he’s kind of a jokester, and I’m the ‘get this dub’ guy, so it’s a good dynamic,” Hueser said.
The two met their freshman year during practices at both AMF and Ward Parkway Lanes, and fell in love with the sport.
“I took bowling to heart after the first season,” Hueser said. “It’s the feeling you have when you get those strikes, it’s just so good.”
As different as Looney and Hueser are — Looney’s a lineman while Hueser tackles ping pong — they have similar intentions. As freshmen, they needed a leader, and that’s exactly what they want to bring, Looney explained
“I’m trying to step up because I remember being a freshman and the help I needed,” Looney said. “They are in a similar position to where I was, and I can relate to the problems they have, so I want to help them get to where I’m at now.”
The two juniors serve as the bumpers of the team — keeping everyone focused, in line, and moving forward. To do this, Hueser plans on using a similar strategy as the older bowlers he timidly watched his first season on the team.
“I remember seeing the older guys hitting all these strikes, and seeing how that built respect and natural leadership,” Hueser said. “As a bowler you naturally really want to go after that, and it becomes its own motivation.”
Looney and Hueser lead by example — any given game their scores range from about 175-200, compared to Nick Zillner at the number three spot, with a 165.
Being this role model to the freshmen and less experienced can be difficult, because it’s hard not to show frustration. At one of their meets, assistant coach Shabon Scott could tell a few missed shots were getting to Looney and Hueser. He could tell the team was losing a bit of energy.
“It sets a bad tone when your teammates see that on your face,” Scott said. “You always gotta look like you’re on top of your game regardless of if the whole world is collapsing around you.”
Looney and Hueser know what it’s like to lose — last season, the team didn’t win a meet. Hueser knows as a leader that it’s on him to keep team spirits high.
“I have a few teammates who haven’t been doing as well lately, and you can’t become worried about just yourself,” Hueser said. “You’ve got to have their back, and drive the pressure in the right way to help them bowl a great game.”
When one isn’t there, the other is fills that void. At their Jan. 29 meet, Hueser was sick and couldn’t bowl. Looney kept his teammates spirits up through Hueser’s absence, and focused on being conscious of his attitude towards the team and his bowling.
In the middle of their meet, Looney was up to bowl. He stepped up to the line, took a deep breath, and launched the ball. It was a bit wide to the left, and three pins were still standing after the ball had done its damage. Looney turned, and suppressed any frustration he may have had with a smirk and shrug. He fist-bumped his teammates and opponents, and sat back down at the table, casually talking to the players.
Once his teammates were done bowling, he stepped back up to the line. The same deep breath and release, with a different result. He released the ball, and it pummeled all ten pins, earning a strike. He held his hand pistols to his side, sheathed them, and sat back down.
It was his turn again. He stood up, approached the line and got another strike. And another. And another. A wide miss to the left, four strikes in a row, yet the same smirk and shrug. Even in the team’s struggles, and without one of the top two, the support and spirit was exemplified by Looney.
With this enthusiastic demeanor, Looney sees state-bound potential in them, as he says they consistently place second or third, and have won once.
“We have a ton of new bowlers that show a lot of promise, and we’re stronger than I’ve seen in awhile,” Looney said. “Even the less experienced guys can do it. All it takes is one great game. That can shoot a team to state, and I think we have even more than that.”
With Looney’s light-hearted attitude, Hueser’s determined mindset and a promising team to lead, number one and two see a promising future with their senior season on the horizon. But with regionals coming up, Looney and Hueser have developed a tunnel vision this year with only one thing in the distance: the bus to Wichita.