Sophomore saves Bowling Club

STRIKE: Emilio Garcia, a member of the University of Miami’s Bowling Club, takes part in a game at Bird Bowl, the club’s practice facility.
STRIKE: Emilio Garcia, a member of the University of Miami’s Bowling Club, takes part in a game at Bird Bowl, the club’s practice facility. COURTESY KRISTI MESMER

The Bowling Club was in shambles. The team had no true president, barely any members and Kristi Mesmer could not have been more disappointed. That’s when the freshman, motivated by her passion for the game, got active.

Mesmer, a native of Chicago and now a sophomore at the University of Miami, only started bowling four years ago, at the urging of a hometown friend looking to form a team. By the time Mesmer arrived on campus over a year ago, she was addicted and made it a personal goal to get the club back on to the lanes, earning the title of president along the way.

“When I got here the club had been abandoned,” Mesmer said. “The previous president kind of just left, and no one took over. There was one kid who was still on the team, and I tracked him down. He was actually the president and didn’t know it.”

With help from the remaining member, Nick Prakope, Mesmer reorganized the club and got students bowling again. She promoted the Bowling Club by setting up a booth at Canesfest and posting advertisements in the dorms and at the Wellness Center.

Now in full control, Mesmer proudly proclaims that the team is stronger than ever, meeting twice a week under two categories: competitive and recreational.

Recreational meetings are for anyone looking to have fun and bowl casually, with membership dues of $50. The competitive team, with membership dues of $200, is comprised of five to eight members and competes against schools from around the country in about five to six national tournaments a year, including the Las Vegas Invitational and the Las Vegas Shootout.

The Bowling Club’s rebirth has not been as easy as one might think, however. With a group primarily made up of freshmen, transportation to Bird Bowl – the team’s “practice facility” which is over six miles away from campus – has been an issue. Mesmer has become, for all intents and purposes, a soccer mom, driving players to and from the bowling alley.

“Freshmen can’t have cars on campus, so I have to drive everybody,” Mesmer said. “If I can’t make practice for some reason, nobody can go.”

University of Miami club sports usually don’t get reimbursed for local travel, but Rhonda DuBord, the associate director of Recreational Sports at the University of Miami, has helped Mesmer overcome her situation, allowing her to use funds allocated to the team for gas reimbursement.

“The Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee gives [the Bowling Club] money each year which helps pay for travel,” DuBord said, adding how proud she was of all that Mesmer has been able to accomplish. “She’s taken over the leadership and gotten the club organized, ordering T-shirts, competing in events.”

In addition to the SAFAC funds, which mostly pays for long-distance travel accommodations during tournaments, Mesmer is also able to use membership dues to compensate for local travel expenses.

As for Mesmer, her experience with the Bowling Club has been more time-consuming than she originally imagined. She remains positive and expects other members to take on more responsibilities in the future, possibly allowing her to have more fun in the process.

“Hopefully I won’t have to take on all the work and can just enjoy it more,” she said.