During countless moments of sadness following the death of their mother, Brenda, nine years ago, Southeast bowlers Hannah and Briana Hull found solace on the lanes.
Bowling became a refuge where they had not only friends, parents of friends, and friends of other relatives — they had family.
“We’d get frustrated or angry, so we’d all go bowling,” said Briana, a freshman. “We’d relax and have fun with it. It just kept us calm. Throughout the years, it’s kept us as a family.
“(Bowling) was what cleared our heads. Sometimes we just needed to leave a split to let the anger out. Get our mind away from losing mom and more to the fact, that we left some pin that we know we couldn’t take care of. It kind of relieved us.”
Briana and Hannah, a senior, will compete in Thursday’s Class 6A regional at West Acres Bowl. They played key roles in Southeast winning the City League tournament Saturday.
There are usually threads in our lives connecting us to others. But bowling, which their father Bill first tried 30-some years ago, has been more of a heavy-duty rope for the family ever since he fell in love with the sport.
He brought his oldest son, Tony, to the alley two days after his birth, and “it’s been follow the leader ever since,” Bill said. “As soon as they could pick up the ball, they could bumper bowl.”
Tony won a 6A team title while at South in 2006, the first state tournament the Kansas State High School Activities Association offered. Tim bowled for three seasons at South.
Hannah, who has a 183 average and will bowl at Baker University, has competed for Southeast all four seasons, and got the chance to bowl with Briana, who skipped eighth grade. Briana has a 151 average.
When the girls compete, count on the whole family eagerly watching.
“I’m normally at all their practices,” said their other brother, Tim. “I’m teaching them, telling them what they’re doing wrong, correcting every little thing I can so they can do their best.”
Bill is in a bowling league with his sons, and he taught his wife, Donna, who he married five years ago, to bowl. They coached a Special Olympics bowling team in Kansas City last December.
They have all developed different approaches.
Bill said Tony is progressive and super competitive, while Tim is calm but throws with power.
“Hannah throws like a guy,” Bill said. “She throws a hard shot. She’s very good. And Briana is more precise. It’s all about doing things in a certain order.”
While Hannah and Briana — along with the rest of the Hulls — are eyeing berths in the 6A tournament, bowling ultimately is about family.
They’re a busy family. For Hannah, there’s school, bowling and work, so time with her dad is limited.
“About all the time we get to spend together is at bowling,” she said. “We can talk about it a lot and we talk about it more now that it’s my senior year. He’s always helping, trying to help me get better.”
Even before Brenda’s death, before bowling brought healing, the sport brought the Hulls together.
It’s been a constant all these years.
“It’s really what holds us together,” Briana said. “It’s the glue of the family.”