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Mendota senior Cody Phalen decided to bowl in seventh grade with a group of his friends. The group stuck together, pushed each other and helped Phalen develop into the 2013-14 NewsTribune Boys Bowler of the Year. “I think it really helped us excel as a team because people always wanted to beat each other,” Phalen said. NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
In high school, every sport is labeled as a team sport.
Even the athletic events based primarily on individual play lump the participants together into a team.
This is exactly how and why Mendota senior Cody Phalen got into bowling.
“A lot of friends at the time — sixth or seventh grade — were doing it,” Phalen said. “I didn’t really do it in sixth grade but I heard a lot of my friends talking about it. In seventh grade, I told my parents, ‘Hey, I want to get into bowling, a lot of my friends are doing it.’”
Phalen, Michael Rosalez, Jon Rosalez, Brody Pohl and Eric Masini then joined a Saturday league together at the Mendota Elks Lodge.
They found out how much fun the sport was — especially being able to play it together — and continued to hit the lanes.
Phalen, who also plays golf and tennis, found out he liked being part of a sport where both team and individual is important.
“They are a lot more individual and I kind of like that part of it,” Phalen said. “You have a team, but I feel like you play for yourself more than you do the team. You have a team there to back you up all the time and even if you lose, it doesn’t really matter because you have the team there.
“I like the individuality that you can bowl, golf and play tennis whenever you want. You don’t have to have the whole team there to do it.”
Inevitably, as the group of friends continued to play, they began to improve and decided they wanted to continue bowling in high school.
“When Cody came in as a freshman, he was part of a good group of current seniors that came in together, had a bowling background and were solid bowlers,” Mendota coach Tim Dessing said. “Your eyes always light up a little bit when you have a good left hander coming in, but Cody continued to work hard and improve himself everyday at practice. His work ethics were outstanding and he just continued to improve, improve and improve.”
Fast forward four years and Phalen bowled a masterful senior campaign.
He was a state qualifier for the second consecutive season, had the second-highest average in the area at 212.9, bowled a 290 high game, medaled at the Dixon Regional with his six-game score of 1,361 and won the Cavalier Classic.
For his accomplishments, Phalen is the 2013-14 NewsTribune Boys Bowler of the Year.
Phalen said improving his bowling game to the level he has had a lot to do with his teammates since it sometimes felt like the Trojans were bowling each other — not the opponent.
“There is always competition — you couldn’t avoid it really,” Phalen said. “There is always, ‘I’m going to beat you’ or ‘I’m going to do this and that.’ There weren’t bets, but people saying what they were going to do to challenge each other. I think it really helped us excel as a team because people always wanted to beat each other.
“The higher (score) one person bowled, the other person wanted to try to beat that.”
Another factor in Phalen’s successful season was an unsuccessful feeling at the end of his junior season.
Phalen thought he was advancing to the second day of the state competition when they announced he was moving on.
He found out there was a scoring mistake, and after correction, Phalen was dropped to one place out of advancement.
“I think this year a big motivational thing for him was that he had set a goal for himself to get back down there,” Dessing said. “We talked about it before, just because you get down there when you’re an underclassman, it doesn’t mean you’re going to make it when you’re an upperclassman. It’s still a tough road. He stayed really focused and he didn’t let that get to him.”
The three-sport athlete plans on attending Judson University in Elgin to play golf. He said he talked to the athletic director about playing bowling for them, but it might not come to fruition.
Even if he’s not playing in college, he said him and his friends have already made plans to play together whether it’s on a tournament team or just for fun.
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @NT_LaChance.
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