Keeping Pace: Young Rifle bowler sets sights on Buffalo
NEW CASTLE, Colo. Though it may garner him funny looks, Rifle High School senior Nick Pace is serious about bowlingHe’s not too bad at the sport, either. Visit Burning Mountain Bowl in New Castle on the right day of the week and you’ll likely see the 18-year-old tearing up the lanes, tuning his game. If he’s not there, he’s probably bowling in Denver. Pace likes the cerebral nature of his chosen sport.”It’s just that you have to think,” said Pace, who – if going it alone – can bowl about 15 to 20 games in a three-hour session. “It’s not a physical game. It’s all about hitting the same place on the lane every time.”Pace’s affinity for bowling took root roughly 10 years ago and peaked a few years back when his family moved to Arkansas from Colorado.”They had high school programs down there,” Pace noted. “I joined into it, and thought it was real fun. So I joined a league up here.”Pace returned to the Western Slope in 2003 hungry to compete. What he found was a rather lax youth scene and no high school programs.”I was told up here that they have competitive bowlers but not a league for competitive bowlers,” he recalled. “I met up with some of the kids who were competitive. Some beat me. Some didn’t.”Recently, Pace learned of the Denver-based Mile-Hi Tour. He managed to persuade the higher-ups to let him join the tour late after missing its start.
It’s all been uphill from there.Pace has showcased a rapid learning curve, going from a finish in the 20s to sixth place and then first place. In the process, he qualified for the July 7-13 Junior Gold Championships in Buffalo, N.Y. “It’s really tough,” Pace said of the Mile-Hi Tour. “There are a lot of kids in Denver. Bowling’s more just for fun on weekends here.”Anyone who knows Pace knows his competitive fire burns bright.”Nick takes it very competitively,” said Rifle senior Isaac Taylor, who bowls alongside Pace at Burning Mountain and on the Mile-Hi Tour. “When we get down there at these bowling tournaments, if you don’t get a strike or a spare, you’re already behind. It’s about being perfect.”Pace needs help getting to Buffalo, and is launching a fundraising effort to do so. Thus far, his efforts have centered primarily around hitting up friends and family for support, but he hopes to work with Burning Mountain Bowl to organize an event or two. Maybe a lock-in or bowl-a-thon.Though his aspirations have for the most part been warmly received, not everyone is sure what to think when Pace makes his pitch for support.”They think it’s a good thing that I can do that,” he said. “A lot of people kind of look at me funny. Then I say they have bowling at colleges and they don’t believe me. Then I show them the paperwork, and they think it’s pretty cool.”
Success has earned Pace looks from top-notch college bowling programs like Wichita State University, and the precocious bowler even had an invite to join a professional tour. He opted against going pro, hoping first to hook on with a college program and pursue a degree in physical therapy.”He didn’t want to ruin his scholarships,” Nick’s mother, LaDonna, said. “Once you go pro, you can’t bowl at college.”Weighing the offer, its advantages and disadvantages, wore on the youngster. “It was really hard,” recalled Pace, who received the invite from pro bowler Pete Weber while at a PBA event in Denver. “We were down there for a day from 10:30 in the morning to 5:30 at night. He had talked to me at noon and until 5 I sat there and thought about. I decided I really wanted to focus on school.”With an injury-riddled recent past, Pace has seen time with many a physical therapist. “I’ve been through PT a lot, and I just like helping people,” said Pace, whose injuries have run the gamut from knee issues to a back injury suffered while rock climbing.Pace wants to take care of his general studies at Colorado Mountain College before going to a bigger university – if not Wichita then maybe North Dakota or Colorado University – when he turns 21, the age until which he can bowl in youth leagues.
Pace and his mother, LaDonna, would like to see local high schools adopt bowling into their athletic curriculums. Right now, bowling is not a CHSAA-sanctioned sport, meaning any progress made would be done at the club level.They’ve spoken with Rifle Athletic Director Rick Schmitz, who they said seemed open to their cause.”He seemed pretty enthusiastic about it,” Pace said. “He said right now it can be set up as a club instead of a team. There are a lot of kids out there that don’t like the full-contact, more-competitive sports. Bowling is more relaxed and laid-back of a sport.”Pace’s peers have been receptive, too.”I’ve talked to some Glenwood kids, some Grand Junction students,” he said of his push to get a local club started. “I know Grand Junction has some clubs and Denver has some clubs. I’m going to try to get a (sample) petition from them and get 300 or 400 students (around here) to sign it.”The perks of bowling at the high-school level are plentiful. Pace would like to see a scholarship team formed – many bowling scholarships are available – and tournaments involving local clubs. His high school days may be numbered, but Pace wants to get the wheels turning in the push to make bowling a club sport and perhaps some day return to coach.
Those interested in helping Pace fund his trip to Buffalo can contact him at email@example.com or by phone at 984-2539.
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