Ruby Division gets new leaders

StrikeForceSumSYRACUSE, N.Y. - The Ruby Division leaderboard at the USBC Women's Championships was shaken up again this week with new leaders in team and singles.

Strike Force II, a team featuring bowlers from Alaska, New Jersey and Georgia, vaulted into the top spot with a 2,858 total at the Oncenter Convention Center on Sunday, while Renita Merritt of Conyers, Ga., grabbed the top singles spot with a 681 handicap series.

Striking Ladies of East Kingston, N.H., previously held the led the team event with 2,823, and Arlene Vilhauer of Highmore, S.D., and Patti Kroll of Big Lake, Minn., shared the Ruby Singles lead with 674.

Strike Force II improved every game, posting scores of 813, 866 and 921 for a 2,600 scratch total. An additional 86 pins of handicap per game helped the group to the top of the leaderboard.

Team captain and anchor Mabel Binns was surprised to find out just how successful her team had been on the tournament lanes.

"I knew we did well because 2,600 is pretty good for a team," said Binns, who hails from Anchorage, Alaska. "We thought we'd be among the top teams, but not in first place. We forgot about the handicap."

Binns led the way with a 583 series and was followed by Christina Zackery (567), Linda Nash (524), Barbara Rouzan (462) and Bernetta Henri (462).

"I'm very excited," said Henri, who made the trip north from Willingboro, N.J. "I thought they were kidding when they told me. It's fun to see our name up in lights on the scoreboard. We were on a roll that last game, and everyone was in a groove."

When two Strike Force II members couldn't make it to Syracuse, the team picked up Nash and Zackery as subs to fill in this year. Both Nash and Zackery are from Georgia. Strike Force II's companion team is Anchorage's Strike Force I.

Rouzan, New Jersey native, recruited Henri, a childhood friend, to bowl with Strike Force II at the Women's Championships two years ago.

Henri didn't mind the 272-mile car ride to Syracuse with her husband, David, which was a short distance compared to teammates Rouzan and Binns, who flew 4,247 miles from Anchorage to bowl in this year's event. Both Rouzan and Binns, who bowl at Jewel Lake Bowl, made their eighth tournament appearances.

Merritt had never bowled a 600 scratch series before this weekend, and she picked the perfect time for her first, a 621 set on games of 227, 212 and 182.

The right-hander, who will turn 50 on June 7, received an additional 20 pins of handicap per game for a 681 handicap series.

For Merritt, eclipsing the 600 mark has been a long-standing goal. Her previous best was 581.

"I wanted that 600 series for a long time," said Merritt, who bowls at AMF American Lanes in Conyers. "Winning the Ruby Singles title would be wonderful. I would be high on cloud nine."

A former Detroit resident, Merritt relocated to Georgia in 2005 but reconnects with her Michigan bowling friends annually at the Women's Championships.

She finished this year's trip with 530 in doubles and 469 in team for a 1,620 scratch all-events total, and 1,800 with handicap, which is third in Ruby All-Events. Tina Arend of Pueblo West, Colo., leads with 1,810.

"I enjoyed bowling my 600 even more because the ladies I bowled with are the one's I started out with back in the early 1990s in Detroit," Merritt said. "That's what made it extra special for me."

After starting doubles with a 140 game, Merritt made a minor adjustment that had a positive impact on her performance.

"After that first game, I moved over two boards and got away from the middle because my ball was crossing over too much," she said.

Merritt thought her quest for 600 was in jeopardy during her last game with opens in the third and sixth frames, but her friends helped her get back on track.

"I didn't get nervous until the last game," Merritt said. "I messed up two frames. So the ladies on my pair told me to sit by myself and not talk to anyone to help me refocus, and it worked. Now, I want to be able to do a 700."