By Kevin Albarez
BATON ROUGE, La. - League season may be over for the members of Nite Owls of Lynchburg, Va., but the team didn't miss a beat on the way into the Classified Team lead at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships on Wednesday night.
Despite not bowling at all for the last two weeks, the group rolled games of 971, 870 and 866 for a 2,707 total and passed Frazee 2 of Vergas, Minn., which previously held the lead with 2,678.
John Sperry led the way for Nite Owls with a 579 series and was followed by Winston Ware (578), David Dean (541), Michael Hicks (506) and Leon Clark (503).
"Our league (at AMF Lynchburg Bowl) finished two weeks ago," said Clark, who made his ninth USBC Open Championships appearance. "It was the first time we picked up a bowling ball in over two weeks. The first game, all of us bowled real well, but then, we started to drop off a little bit. Not bowling the last couple of weeks showed towards the end."
With Sperry about to bowl the 10th frame and close things out, the Nite Owls already had the lead but didn't know it. When they found out the news, they were excited but knew that with half the tournament remaining, anything could happen.
"We never looked at the standings," said Clark, a member of the Lynchburg, Virginia State and Southeast Bowling Association Halls of Fame. "I was waiting until after we finished to see if we had a chance of doing anything. It feels great, and it's an honor to be in first place. Hopefully, we can hold on and stay in that spot, but there is still a lot of bowling left. We have finished decent in the past, and it would be a great honor to at least finish in the top 10. We will be looking at the leaderboard weekly to see where we finish."
To be eligible for the Classified Division, a team must have a combined average of 900 or less and 360 or less for doubles. Individuals must have an average of 180 or less for singles and all-events.
Sponsors for the 2012 USBC Open Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno. Other sponsors include the Belle of Baton Rouge, official brackets sponsor; Kegel, official lane maintenance provider; Humana, official registration sponsor; Bud Light and Budweiser, official beer sponsors; The Advocate, official publication sponsor; Brunswick, official lane provider; Steltronic, official scoring system; Storm Bowling Products and Nationwide Insurance.