Great Bend High School senior-to-be Eric Ruiz and his father, John, bowled their way to a free trip to Jupiter, Fla.
The duo combined to finish second at the state finals of the Bowling Proprietors Association of America’s International Family Tournament in Derby to qualify for the national tournament in the Sunshine State.
The father-son team finished eighth in the national tourney, which ran from July 26-29.
“It was great,” Eric said. “The experience was amazing. My dad and I had never flown before. We loved it. We’d never seen the Atlantic Ocean either. It was a dream come true.
“The rest of the family got to come, too, so it was like a family vacation.”
A vacation that was half paid for by the BPAA. By qualifying for the national tournament, Team Ruiz earned three free nights in Florida, which included three free meals per day, discounted air fare and free transportation to and from the bowling alley.
While there, Ruiz got to meet professional bowlers Norm Duke and Stephanie Nation.
The team got to practice for a day to prepare for the tournament, something that Eric said was important.
“It was very humid when we got there,” Eric said. “I think it was like 85 percent humidity. We had to make some equipment changes to make up for it.
“We had to add powder and change our shoes. The slide was off, so we couldn’t release the ball when we wanted to.”
In the first round of the competition, Eric bowled 225, 221, 200, 213, 236 and 245. His father rolled 170, 181, 191, 173, 243 and 179.
Out of 35 teams, the duo finished seventh overall in the first round to advance to the second.
The second round was Baker’s format, meaning that Eric would bowl one frame and his father the next. Combined, they bowled eight games, finishing with scores of 206, 191, 204, 225, 138, 163, 160 and 206.
The father-son combo finished eighth in the round of eight teams and missed the second cut, which took the top four teams.
“We figured out the changes as we went, and we did pretty good,” Eric said. “It was great seeing so many good kids from all over the place. I think I won $1,100 in scholarship money, so it was pretty nice.”
Eric, who was named as the Western Athletic Conference Most Valuable Players as a sophomore after the conference tournament, said he wants a chance to bowl in college. Classmate Dakota Conaway took the MVP title from him during their junior campaign.
“I am trying to keep bowling,” Eric said. “Hopefully, I can bowl at either Newman or Tabor. Hopefully, Dakota can get into the same school. We’d like to keep bowling together.”