Rayna Smith is strong, but her arms do not look muscular. And yet, the Bordentown High junior went from throwing a 12-pound bowling ball to a 14-pounder and has gained more stamina while still throwing the ball between 12 and 13 miles per hour (11 MPH is considered fast in high school).
So what gives here?
Did she lift?
Did she develop a new delivery?
Did she bowl a whole lot more?
So how does one maintain an above average delivery speed and more stamina with a heavier ball without gaining any strength?
“I don’t know,” Smith said with a laugh. “My mom (Cyndi) always tells me I have freakishly strong arms for a small person.”
Well whatever it is, coach Ron Jones is glad to have it going on for his Scotties team, which won eight of its first 12 games this season. Smith has made an impressive leap. After going from a 112 average as a freshman to 113 last year, she had rocketed to 145 midway through this season.
“She has taken a very good step up,” Jones said during a recent home match at Hamilton Lanes. “I always told her ‘Hey, you’re close to being right there,’ and now she really is just about right there. She picks up on the competition. That’s one of the things we noticed in the past couple weeks. She’ll see good competition and say ‘I can do better than that.’ She’s beginning to assert herself as a bowler.”
Not only does she lead the team in average by a fairly wide margin, but Smith has assumed command.
“She’s taken over the girls’ team,” Jones said. “It was nice she picked it up. We go to her now and ask ‘How do you want the lineup set?’ and she sets the lineup the way she wants it. She knows what the girls can do.”
What is truly impressive is that Smith is only in her third year of organized bowling. Despite that, she figured it would be her year to step up.
“I think I kind of push myself more,” Smith said. “I feel like now I’m more motivated and I know I have to be a role model for everyone else that’s coming in. We have a lot of new people, a lot of freshmen, I think I have to push them and show them myself, give them a good example.”
She has done just that, rising from a level of occasional bowling-for-fun to competing in high school and in the Hamilton Elks Monday Night League. Since Cyndi and her father, Bob, were both bowlers Smith would hit the lanes with them during elementary and middle school.
“It was kind of just for fun, it wasn’t technique or anything,” Smith said. “When I got to high school, I saw a lot of my friends were doing it and I wasn’t really involved in any other sport. I felt like I should give it a go. It’s something I enjoy doing so why not. I loved it right away.”
It took Smith little time to prove she belonged, as she finished third on the Scotties in total pins with 2,042 as a freshman. She actually rolled a 413 set in her first high school match, and had a high game of 151 three times that season.
Last year, Smith finished fourth in total pins with 1,799 with a high set of 422 and high game of 158. But toward the end of the season she made a key move and switched to the heavier ball. Smith turned to her dad and coach, Jamie Muir of Morrisville, Pennsylvania, for help on how to control it.
“The new ball helped a lot,” she said. “It has more pin action. With my 12-pound ball my dad was saying it wasn’t getting enough pin action. If you have a heavier ball, the more pins you can knock down. The lighter it is, it just bounces off the pins; it won’t knock them down.
“I got help when I got my new ball, and that really helped me a lot. That really pushed me. I had no idea. I used to throw a back-up ball and now I look at myself and I think ‘I don’t think I could even throw that anymore.’”
Smith came out firing this season, rolling a season-high 522 set and 205 game in the second match of the season. She also has games of 188, 171 (twice), two over 160 and five more over 150.
Jones feels that the ball is only part of her success.
“She’s not a very big girl but she’s now beginning to get some stamina,” the coach said. “Last year you could guarantee in the third game she would tire out. Toward the end of last year her stamina began to grow more, we could see it. This year her last game has been her best game in four of her matches so far.
“Everyone says ‘But she’s not strong.’ I say ‘It’s not strength, it’s stamina.’ The body says ‘OK I still have more to go.’ Whether it’s the same amount of strength or one or two percent less, it’s still stamina.”
The coach said the only issue he has seen in Smith this year is an occasional lapse in concentration.
“She’ll go along at strike, strike, strike, leave a 10 pin and then miss the 10 pin by a mile because she wasn’t thinking about making the 10, she was thinking about how she missed it,” Jones said. “But that’s just youth. Every one of these kids will do that.”
The Scotties are also getting nice contributions this year from seniors Kylia Verwey and Jamie Nasatka, junior Haley Russell and sophomores Sophie McAteer and Maggie Berton. Helping those girls win is Smith’s main mission in the winter, as she will only bowl in the Monday league while the season is going on.
“I’ve thought about other leagues,” she said. “But now I’m focused on the school team and I don’t want to tire myself out. This is more important than anything.”
And while the team comes first, Smith is obviously enthused over her individual progress.
“It’s great,” she said. “I didn’t ever think it would be this drastic. I knew next year it would probably be better but I didn’t think it would jump up so much this year. I hope next year it gets even higher.”
Judging by her three-year track record, there is no reason to think it won’t.