The Cabot Panthers bowling team scored high when they gained Spencer Cayden Cook as a teammate.
Cook will graduate this year, but before he goes, he has been named Wendy’s High School Player of the Year in boys bowling for the state of Arkansas.
The award, sponsored by Wendy’s, is open to students playing varsity sports at Arkansas Activities Association member schools.
Cook joined the Cabot High School bowling team in the middle of the season his freshman year. He also played football that year — which is why he was late to start bowling — but he said he knew he had to pick one.
“I picked the one I’m better at,” he said. “I’m glad I did.”
Bowling was not a new activity for Cook, but his freshman year was the first time he had played on an organized team.
“I started bowling in about the seventh grade,” he said. “My friend and I would bowl for fun, but then I just kept moving forward with it.”
While maintaining a 217 bowling average this year, he led Cabot to the Class 7A-6A state bowling championship while averaging a score of 280 in state championship play. He set a state record with an 842 series — with scores of 279, 297 and 266 — and bowled 33 strikes in those three games.
In one of the games, Cook bowled a 297, just missing a perfect score when the last ball he sent down the lane hit only seven of the 10 pins.
“I wanted a 300 so bad,” he said.
Cabot bowling coach Mike Nash said everyone in the bowling alley was watching Cook at the end of that game, and the team’s main competition — Bentonville — seemed to know Cook was a force with which to be reckoned.
“All eyes were on Cayden,” Nash said. “After Cayden’s 297, they went silent.”
Cook said a lot of thought and perception go into being a successful bowler. He said he has worked up from a 12-pound ball to a 15-pound ball because the heavier balls will continue through the pins, hitting more of them with greater force. Cook said the sweet spot to hit is between the one and three pins — the center pin in front and the one back and to the right of it.
The lanes themselves add a degree of difficulty. Different lanes have different oil patterns, Cook and Nash said, and bowlers have to be able to adjust accordingly after a short practice session at a new alley. There is also the basic wear and tear that comes with the alley.
“I wish I was left-handed,” Cook said. “There are so many right-handed bowlers that the lanes get worn down.”
The Cabot bowling team is still young compared to some schools, having just finished its seventh year in competition. In that time, team members have proven their capabilities with their performances at state championships.
“Between last year and this year, I’ve lost, and I’m losing, some really great kids,” Nash said about his seniors and former seniors moving on. “Cayden’s a special kid, not only with scoring but with his attitude.”
Cook has been accepted at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway for the fall and plans to eventually go into the field of insurance or risk management. The school does not have a bowling team for men, but Cook said that will not stop him from playing the sport.
“I’m still going to bowl,” he said. “I’m still working on that 300.”
Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.