BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Bethune-Cookman University is gaining national attention in a sport that’s isn’t football, basketball, baseball or softball.
The Lady Wildcats (38-30) bowling team is ranked 19th in the National Ten Pen Coaches’ Association poll. They entered the season ranked No. 17.
“It is a plus. Our peers think that we are a quality opponent. It’s also tough because everyone plays their best against us. It’s great for our program and it’s a great recruiting tool,” said Tony O’Neal, B-CU’s head bowling coach.
“We are ranked but it’s not a title. We want a ring at the end of the year, but it’s a step in the right direction,” stated senior Staci Hilliard.
In 2004-05, the Wildcats finished the season fourth in the nation but there were no polls.
“It’s our first time being ranked because we only had polls for the past three to four years,” confirmed O’Neal.
The Wildcats finished No. 17, going 6-8 at the Kutztown University Invitational, which featured some of the nation’s top programs last week in Reading, Pa.
B-CU placed third a week earlier in the Frederick Underwood Invitational in Laurel, Md., a week earlier.
“We are progressing well, a little slower but we are a young team laden with freshman and sophomores. We are still young and learning. We are taking steps in the right direction,” responded O’Neal.
Young and talented
Bethune-Cookman has a team that is young but has plenty of talent.
“There is a lot of talent on this team. All of our players are accomplished high school and national players who are learning how to do it as a team. We have a lot of potential and a great work ethic,” said O’Neal.
Hilliard gets the nod as the team’s star player.
“I just love to bowl and that helps me be successful, which helps the team succeed,” remarked Hilliard.
“She is a phenomenal player. She is our team leader. She is All-Conference and All-MEAC Tournament. Staci has also made All Tournament teams five times this seasons,” said O’Neal.
Atlantic High alumnus Rachel Moore is a local product who has stood out and senior Ypretycia Crumley is the dependable team captain.
“It’s always interesting being the local player. I have friends and family that are here and I want to represent the city well,” commented Moore.
“Rachel is coming along well. She represents her hometown well. Ypretycia is our first four-year letterman and our Baker specialist,” added O’Neal.
The Wildcats also have rising stars in sophomores Natalee Armstrong and Felicia Baker.
“Natalee is a pure athlete who is very tough while Felicia is quiet but a great athlete and competitor,” commented O’Neal.
O’Neal is excited about newcomers sophomore Rebecca Gomez from Costa Rica along with freshmen Ebonie Farrell and Alyx Richards.
“Rebecca is a great addition and brings a lot of experience. Ebonie and Alyx both have a great work ethic and are learning the college game,” said O’Neal.
Chasing a title under the radar
The Wildcats success is going basically unnoticed on a Black college campus where football and basket- ball tend to get all the attention.
“We understand the dynamics of athletics. We don’t see it as a swipe to our sport. It’s just part of America but those true to the athletic field know how important it is to have teams in the nation elite,” responded O’Neal.
Hilliard added, “It’s ironic but for the most part we chuckle. It gives us more motivation to win. If we win a title, everyone will know us.”
Winning a national title is the goal but B-CU must first get through the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, which features several good teams, including two-time national champion, the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore.
“The completion in the MEAC is very tough. We have five teams ranked in the top 20 nationally each year. It gets harder because teams become familiar with you. Before we can play for a national title we have to win the MEAC. It’s very difficult getting an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament,” expressed O’Neal.
“The competition is fierce. We feel that no one can beat us and that we only beat ourselves. We are working hard towards doing the thing we need to do out there,” added Moore.
Men’s hoops: B-CU splits home games
Ricky Johnson’s free throw with 2.1 seconds remaining lifted Bethune-Cookman to a 58-57 win over the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore on Monday.
Adrien Coleman had 17 points to lead the Wildcats while teammates Johnson added 11 points and Alex Smith six points with 10 rebounds and five blocks.
Two days earlier, B-CU suffered a 68-52 loss to Delaware State University.
In that game, Coleman and Paul Scotland each scored 13 points while Johnson added 11 for the ‘Cats.
Women’s hoops: Lady Wildcats split, too
The Lady Wildcats (9-10, 4-3) held off Maryland-Eastern Shore 55-44 on Monday.
Terrenisha Hollis had 11 points with 11 rebounds and two blocks to lead B-CU. Chastity Taylor and Jasmine Evans each added 10 for the Wildcats.
Two days earlier, the Lady Wildcats suffered a heartbreaking 62-57 defeat in overtime at the hands of Delaware State.
Hollis led the Wildcats with a career-high 22 points and 10 rebounds with two blocks while Taylor added 18 points.
Track and field: Wildcats men win meet
Bethune-Cookman’s men’s track and field team won the Jimmy Carnes Invitational Indoor Track and Field event in Gainesville this past week.
The Wildcats program won a total of six gold medals at the event.
For the men’s side, Garrett Ellis (50.05) won the 400m dash, Josh Perkins (21.95) took the 200m dash and Keron Stoute (4,007 points) was first in the heptathlon for B-CU.
On the women’s side, Rayanna Johnson (3,240 points) won the pentathlon while Tristie Johnson (24.54) took the 200m dash for the Wildcats. The Ladies finished fifth in the team standings.
Up next for B-CU is the New Balance Invitational in Brooklyn, New York Feb. 1-2.