The University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s athletics department threw its support behind bowling as a team sport for women in the 1990s, a decision that has struck dividends in the early 21st century.
From the time the NCAA elevated bowling from club competition to a championship sport in 2003-04, UMES has been among the dominant competitors at the collegiate level.
Twice in the first eight years that the national tournament was held, UMES won team championship trophies, including the 2011 crown. Over that same span, the university was one of only three colleges to have a squad qualify for every tournament.
Lady Hawk bowlers have been a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference powerhouse during that same period as well, claiming five championship titles. (MEAC was a pioneer in the 1990s promoting bowling as a club sport sanctioned by the NCAA.)
UMES’ national title during the 2007-08 season was a first for a women’s team representing a historically black institution. It also made Sharon Brummell the first African-American, and first woman, to coach a championship bowling team.
UMES and Brummell made history again in the spring of 2011, when the Lady Hawks won another NCAA title – the second in four years. The following week, the team prevailed at the United States Bowling Congress Collegiate Championships, a tournament that existed long before the NCAAs. All women’s collegiate teams – from club, to junior college, to NAIA and NCAA – can compete in that event. No other college has won both tournaments in the same year.
2011 dual national champs (l-to-r): Paula Vilas, Anggie Ramirez, Martha Perez, Megan Buja, T'nia Falbo, Kristina Frahm and Maria Rodriguez
Brummell recruits internationally and has coached players from Colombia, Mexico, Canada and the Dominican Republic. Twenty UMES bowlers have earned All-America honors, including Maria Rodriguez, the 2011 National Player of the Year. Rodriguez was a four-time All-America selection, as was teammate Kristina Frahm, the first two UMES athletes to achieve the honor all four years.
Frahm became the university’s first athlete to win the NCAA "Elite 88" Award, given to the player with the highest GPA in his or her sport and participating in a national championship. She also is the first in school history to be named an Academic All-American.
Brummell, meanwhile, has two National Coach-of-the-Year honors and five MEAC Coach-of-the-Year awards on her résumé.
Bowling may not be as visible as basketball or football, but UMES has made its mark in the sport at the collegiate level, a point of pride for the entire university community.
-- STAN BRADLEY