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BOWLING: Meet Trenton's 'first family' of bowling (PHOTO)

After nearly a decade the Christopher clan is still making its mark

Felicia Christopher (left) is in her senior year on Trenton High School's varsity bowling team. Coming before her in the program were father Todd, sister Theresa and brother Philip. Photo by Dave Gorgon

As a varsity bowler at Trenton High School, Felicia Christopher is often asked about her sister Theresa, who was a state champion and earned a four-year bowling scholarship to the University of Central Missouri.

Now in her senior year, Felicia wants this to be her best bowling season yet. She fell just 16 pins shy of qualifying for the state tournament in her junior year and said it will be “disappointing” if she doesn’t qualify for the state finals this year.

Felicia is the fourth member of the Christopher family to participate in the Trenton High School program. Her father Todd coached the girls program for five years, starting in Theresa’s freshman year of 2003-04. He was coaching when Theresa won the state title in 2005, her sophomore season. Brother Philip bowled four years in the high school program. Younger brother Nicholas, now 11, already looks forward to the day he can bowl at Trenton High.

Members of the “bowling family” got their start in the youth program run by Karen Hagen at Flat Rock Lanes. While Todd operated Classic Auto Wash in Allen Park, wife Fran would transport the children to the bowling center on Saturdays and watch them bowl “all day” from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

When Theresa showed signs of special bowling skill, Todd enrolled her in highly-rated camps across the country. She worked one on one and in group settings with gold-certified coaches, including the coach of Team USA.

“When Theresa started, you could tell she had something,” Todd said. “You could see she had the talent. And she doesn’t like to lose.”

By the time she reached high school, Theresa had competed in many USBC tournaments and took the Trojans girls team to high levels. As a freshman, she qualified for the state tournament. She was Division 2 state champion as a sophomore. As a junior, she missed the cut at the regional tournament by just two pins. But as a senior, she bowled a perfect 300 game on Lane 21 in the regional at Parkway Lanes and returned to the state tourney.

Theresa earned all-state recognition three of her four years. Her high average was 208.

Winning a state title was “pretty cool,” she said.

Of course, it was just the beginning. Theresa sent tapes of her bowling to colleges that had bowling teams – not as many as you might think – and found interest at University of Central Missouri, which awarded her a full scholarship for her bowling skill.

For the next four years, she practiced five days a week (3½ hours a day), went through conditioning and traveled across the country to compete against other college teams such as Nebraska-Lincoln, Vanderbilt and the University of Maryland Eastern Shores – arriving back at school as late as 1 a.m. – all while taking a full load of 16 credits.

Theresa averaged 194 over her four collegiate years, bowled with her team in the NCAA tournament and made many friends and lasting memories along the way.

She also was on the Dean’s List, graduated with honors and earned bachelor’s and masters degrees in speech language pathology. Now 24 years old, Theresa is a speech language pathologist at Encore! Rehabilitation Services in Southgate.

Philip, who is three years younger, admits his sister “set the bar high” by the time he was bowling in high school. He also went to camps.

“Bowling is just something we were all good at,” he said. “We would drive hours to get coaching. That’s how our Saturdays were spent – how our weekends were spent. I liked it. I was able to get video taped, play it back, watch what I was doing and get one-on-one coaching. It helped my game a lot.”

Philip bowled four years in high school and is working toward a bachelor’s degree in technology management at Eastern Michigan University. He bowled in men’s leagues until two years ago and now lives on campus.

Felicia also started bowling as a youngster and watched as her sister and brother had success along the way, including at the high school level.

She said she is more focused than ever as team captain in her senior season.

“This is my last time to do it,” she said. “I want to go out with a bang.”



Last Updated: 1/3/2014 1:35:29 PM EST

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