Sometimes, you just get on a roll. And, when these faculty members in the chemistry department got started with Campus Recreation Services’ faculty/staff bowling league back in 2012, they just couldn’t be stopped.
“We called ourselves the Atom Smashers, and we just had fun,” says Jason Overby, associate professor in the College of Charleston’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, recalling that the department actually had two teams on the Campus Recreation Services (CRS) league one year: the Atom Smashers and the Smashers of Atoms. “None of us were very good bowlers at all, but we didn’t want to stop when the season ended.”
So Overby and his colleagues bought their own personal bowling shoes and got fitted for their own personal bowling balls – and the rest is history.
“I went from not knowing that people had their own personal bowling balls to getting one fit for myself – and now I’m on my fifth ball and my third pair of shoes,” laughs Overby, explaining that the team joined the U.S. Bowling Congress (USBC) league that plays on Tuesday nights at the Charleston Rifle Club, where it’s been playing ever since. “That first time we played them, we took one look and we thought they’d kill us! They were pros!”
It wasn’t long before their USBC team – now called Holy City Rollers – were old pros, too. Their first year in the league, they made the playoffs (aka roll-offs). Then, their second year, they made roll-offs again – this time with the highest average in the league. And last year, not only did the Holy City Rollers end the season with the second-most points of any team, but – in August – they also won the Big Lebowski Bash by over 600 pins.
Now sponsored by Holy City Brewing (co-owned by geology alum Chris Brown ’05), the Holy City Rollers is made up of Overby, Rick Heldrich, Richard Lavrich and Andy Gelasco from the chemistry department; Mike Katuna, professor emeritus of geology; Mike Rhode, spouse of Kate Mullaugh in the chemistry department; and Clint Hall, a friend they met their first year in the CRS league.
“The Tuesday-night league bowling has introduced us to a lot of folks we’d most likely never meet elsewhere: lawyers, judges, truck drivers, salesmen, web designers, cooks, folks with careers from all over the map – some of whom are graduates from the College,” says Heldrich, adding that the camaraderie doesn’t interfere with the competition: “With handicaps, it is not about being as good at bowling as the other team so much as it is trying to be better each week than our averages.”
And they’ve picked up a few pointers on how to do that along the way.
“I learned very quickly that the single best thing you can do is get a ball that’s a good fit,” says Overby. “That is the single best thing you can do to improve your game.”
That, and hydrate: “I’m surprised at the importance of having to drink plenty of fluids for such a seemingly passive sport,” notes Lavrich.
Another lesson: If you want to up the ante, grab a deck of cards and incorporate a little bowling poker.
“We all throw in $5 to up the challenge a little bit,” says Overby. “It gives us a little more incentive – plus there’s some strategy involved, too.”
But mostly it’s just fun. That’s why they meet once a week for 33 weeks of the year – to spend time with their colleagues, laughing and letting loose outside of work.
“It is always a fun night, but it is more fun on the few nights when we all seem to bowl well,” says Heldrich.
Overby agrees: “Bowling is fun, but it can also be the most frustrating thing. Some nights you have it, and some nights you don’t.”
But when they do, watch out: When these guys get on a roll, they have real chemistry!
The Holy City Rollers pictured above, l–r: Clint Hall, Rick Heldrich, Jason Overby, Andy Gelasco and Richard Lavrich.