OSKALOOSA – To cheer or to bowl?
That was a question that could have weighed heavily on the mind of McKinna Haines this year. Both are activities she has excelled at representing Ottumwa High School. Both are activities she wanted to continue to pursue over the next four years on the college level.
Fortunately for Haines, there was William Penn University with two programs that were fine allowing dual participation. On Friday, the only tough decision Haines had to make at the OHS athletic and activities office was which letter to sign first, joining the Statesmen cheer program and becoming the most recent Bulldog bowler to sign with Brandon Brooks, the former Ottumwa High School bowling coach who returned to the school for the second time this week as Statesmen coach to sign a Bulldog bowler after signing Dawson Greene to the men’s team on Tuesday.
“It’s pretty cool signing for two sports. I couldn’t choose between the two, so I’m glad I found a college that will allow to do both,” Haines said. “It was right after last year’s state bowling tournament that both programs started talking to me. I wasn’t really looking at colleges before that. Once I heard William Penn could offer me both, I kind of had it in my mind that was the college for me.”
As part of the cheer program at William Penn, Haines will be participating during Statesmen football and basketball games as well as taking part in the competitive cheer season during the winter. That will make her schedule somewhat hectic with Statesmen women’s bowling taking place during the winter months as well.
“I’ll have to pick between sports sometimes,” Haines said. “We’ll get through it with all the decisions.”
Haines averaged 192.2 pins per game and a 384.3 average for the OHS girls bowling team this past season as a junior. As part of the program, Haines has been part of three straight trips to the state bowling tournament, including state championships won in 2017 and 2018.
During that run, Haines has been able to utilize her skills in cheering to help motivate herself and her teammates on the lanes when Ottumwa has bowled on the biggest stages in the state.
“I’m definitely the cheerleader of the bowling team,” Haines joked. “It also helps me when it comes to making friends. I’m very outgoing because of cheerleading. With bowling, I just kind of mingle in.
“When you’re bowling and the crowd at some of the big tournaments are so loud, I don’t feel as much pressure because of the big crowds I’ve performed in front of through cheerleading. Having that energy from cheerleading also helps me with bowling. I don’t perform very well when I’m feeling down.”
Haines is one of several Ottumwa bowlers that have or will be participating for William Penn’s program. Along with Haines for the women’s team, Greene, Jaxson Coble and Drake Lewis are recent signees from Ottumwa to the Statesmen men’s bowling program.
“I’ve been friends with Dawson since I was a little kid. We started bowling together in fifth grade. Drake and I became friends during my freshman year. Jaxson and I have been friends since we were in fourth grade,” Haines said. “It’s pretty cool that I get to keep bowling with them just like we have for so many years.”