Courtney Coppinger’s and Morgan Henry’s inaugural girls’ bowling practice couldn’t have been more contrasting.
Coppinger, a senior who’d been lobbying for a high school bowling program since she was a freshman, brought her custom ball, seasoned form and years of experience to downtown Bellingham’s 20th Century Bowling.
Accompanying Henry was little expectation and enough courage to try something she’d done no more than three or four times.
Henry’s family laughed when she first told them she was going to bowl, and her first few practices were nothing to brag about.
“I was using a 10-pound ball, because my hands would only fit in a 10-pound ball, and it was weightless,” Henry said in a phone interview. “I was throwing like a rainbow, arcing, almost like a jump shot. I came close to hitting the ceiling.”
Coppinger was quite the contrary, leading by example with her skill, she offered the team an experienced bowler the rest of the girls could glean information from.
“Helping the girls on my team,” said Coppinger in a phone interview when asked how her experience has helped, “and that happened with Morgan, showing them how I started off and teaching them to bowl the way that I knew I could.”
But while both Squalicum’s Coppinger and Sehome’s Henry started their season’s at different places, the duo finds themselves heading to the same spot for this weekend’s Bowling State Championships Friday-Saturday, Feb. 6-7, at Narrows Plaza Bowl in University Place.
The pair qualified by placing high enough during last week’s district tournament. The winning team and the next two best individuals advanced. Three of the top five bowlers were from Everett, which advanced as a team, and Coppinger and Henry finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Coppinger has established herself as Squalicum’s and Sehome’s top bowler, scoring an average of 168 per game with a season-high 207. Henry is averaging 128 and has a season-high 162, a distant memory from the 88 she bowled in one of her season’s first games.
Before this year Henry spent winters playing basketball in preparation for softball, her favorite sport, in the spring. She’s played softball her whole life but after recently committing to play in college, she didn’t want to risk injury by playing basketball her senior year. When she saw an ad for Sehome’s new high school bowling team she quickly decided to join.
Sehome and Squalicum coach Erin Furda credited Henry’s competitive background for her ability to improve at a game she had rarely ever played.
“Morgan has a lot of athletic experience,” Furda said in a phone interview. “She is highly competitive. Anything she does she throws herself into completely. She was nominated by Sehome team captain and really pushed herself and had that expectation.”
With the help of Furda and local coach Carl Nichols, Henry has gone from bowling novice to a state tournament competitor.
Coppinger’s bowling, meanwhile, has continued to ascend. Before bowling for Squalicum she competed on multiple teams, including a travel team, and she’s carried over her game into this season.
“I’m kind of ready for whatever it’s got and whoever is there,” Coppinger said of the state tournament. “You have the chance to win and be on the scoreboard, but in the end I want to have fun.”
The common thread possessed by Coppinger and Henry Furda said is the duo’s competitive nature — Henry’s gained through softball and Coppinger’s from playing in competitive bowling growing up. That personality trait has helped them thrive.
“Morgan came in and Courtney, just that athletic experience is so valuable, and in a match it gets really intense,” Furda said. “Some people don’t think about bowling as a real sport, but there’s bystanders and another team and it gets really intense. Even at practice, you have to perform under pressure. Both Morgan and Courtney are people that like that pressure and play really well.”
They’ll get the chance to showcase their poise this weekend on prep girls’ bowling’s biggest stage.