By Jon Gagnon
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — At the age of nine, Ashley Fries received a phone call that helped her find her passion.
“My friend called me one day and asked if I wanted to join her bowling league," she said. "I said I would do it."
Now, eight years later, Fries is a senior at Kenmore West and has the second-highest bowling average (207.23) in the Niagara Frontier League.
“I like the sport. I never get upset and say that I hate bowling,” she said. “My respect for the sport really made me like it.”
Fries' success has been a direct result of the respect she pays to the sport and the seriousness and dedication she has displayed since becoming a member of the Blue Devils.
Out on the lanes Fries is fearless and always seems to be locked in. She, her former coach Scott Barker and her father, Richard Fries, all attribute her success to her ability to remain calm and focused every frame.
“What really drives her and what makes her successful is that she is cool, calm, and collected every single time she throws that ball,” Richard Fries said.
Richard Fries doesn’t know where she gets it from, as he is the complete opposite, someone who is often caught yelling at the TV during games.
He is in attendance and every single Ken West match and he said he wouldn't miss one for the world.
“I love that he goes to every match,” Fries said. “He’s so supportive and it makes me better knowing that he is so supportive of what I do.”
Every sport requires a mixture of mental and physical skill. Though it appears Fries has conquered the mental aspect of the game, there is still obviously a need for physical ability.
That’s where Barker helped her develop.
“I was throwing a straight ball up until ninth grade and one day he taught me how to throw a hook. I think I picked it up in one practice,” she said. “Since then he’s just been trying to help and give really good tips and advice to help me get better.”
Barker began coaching Fries when she started bowling for the school team in ninth grade. Since that time, she has increased her average by at least 15 pins in every season.
“She grew a lot from 2009 to this year,” Barker said. “I think she is one of the most gifted bowlers I’ve ever seen.”
Fries won a Section VI title last season, earned a gold medal at states for bowling the high game (242) and won the Section VI Sportsmanship Award. Regrettably, Barker was unable to return as a coach this season, but Fries has continued to thrive in his absence.
This year, she holds the record in the NFL for high-series, bowling a 737, and her high-game of 269 is tied for fourth.
With the season coming to a close, Fries hopes that her experience last year will help her this season in sectionals.
“I’ll go in knowing that I can do it and I’ll try very hard (to win sectionals),” she said.
Contact the Tonawanda News sports department at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.