NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Minutes before last month’s season-opening Allstate Sugar Bowl Tournament, Vanderbilt’s two freshmen were battling a common feeling – nerves.
“That would be an understatement,” Amelia Kiefer said.
Her classmate, Mabel Cummins, also admitted she, “was really nervous,” as she was warming up for her first collegiate tournament.
Experiencing the jitters in a new setting is predictable, but those confessions from the two midwest products might still be surprising given their deep bowling resumes. Cummins, from Elburn, Ill., has been one of the nation’s brightest junior stars and Kiefer, a native of Jasper, Ind., was an Indiana all-stater and a dominant force in her own right.
“Especially in my first game, my arm was shaking,” Kiefer said after a recent practice session. “Being up there with the team behind me and not wanting to mess up – ideally that’s not how to handle the situation but that was the case.”
For Cummins, a Junior Team USA member who did not bowl on a high school team, it was the tournament noise in Louisiana that rattled her.
”There was this cacophony of sounds,” the 17-year old engineering major said. “I had never bowled where there were so many teams, each with chants and cheers, yelling and celebrating. And it was also new to have a team behind me so when I returned from a shot they were there to offer encouragement.”
While Cummins was in the rotation all three days of the season’s first tournament, Kiefer got in briefly during Oct. 18’s play and then started in Oct. 19’s match with top-10 squad Maryland-Eastern Shore. For the tournament’s title match against Sam Houston on Oct. 20, Cummins and Kiefer were 1-2 in the rotation that Vanderbilt head coach John Williamson announced moments before the match began.
“I was not expecting to be in the lineup,” Kiefer said, “but after (Oct. 19) I felt ready. I was not freaking out.”
Both bowlers hope to learn from the experience.
“I hope I learned to better handle the zoning in – the focus,” Cummins said “It is most important to stay in the moment during the long day. We can’t control the other teams but we must learn to control ourselves.”
Kiefer added: “I learned that I need to take a step back and breathe a little more. It doesn’t matter how long I stand up there and wait, I need to be physically relaxing and not just taking the time to relax. That will come as I build more confidence in myself.”
Cummins said the mere act of standing from about 10 hours (college bowlers don’t sit between shots or games) can be exhausting.
“I’m getting a new pair of insoles,” she said.
Both bowlers are working on fundamentals during the three-week break between the Sugar Bowl and their next event. One thing they both appreciate is the high-tech equipment in Vanderbilt’s bowling center.
“I really like being able to put up specific pins to work on spares,” said Kiefer, one of the team’s better spare shooters. “I practiced spares a lot at home but they were on a full rack. This technology makes for a more realistic look.”
Both are enjoying the adjustment to college life.
“I love it here,” Cummins said. “It’s a lot of work and I’m using my time management skills to their fullest. I really enjoy being on a team that gets along so well. We have team dinners most nights and it’s good to have nine built-in friends who care about you and make college life a bit easier.”
Top-rated Vanderbilt will next be in action Nov. 15-17 at Stephen F. Austin’s Ladyjack Hammer Classic which will be held in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Getting to Know Kiefer and Cummins
Amelia (Mel) Kiefer
- Hobby: Target shooting with her brother.
- Movie: Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. Growing up I watched this over and over.
- Actor: Ian Somerhalder.
- Book: Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult.
- Subject: Is recess still an acceptable answer?
- Sport other than bowling: Dallas Cowboys football.
- If given the chance I like to talk about: My hometown and family.
- Family members: Joe and Adrienne Kiefer, brother Nolan.
- First person to take me bowling: My uncle Jacob.
- I relax by: Laying on the rug and watching any Marvel movie or taking a nap.
- My idea of fun includes: Taking the Jeep out with a goal of finding new roads or getting lost on the backroads back home.
- Bucket list vacation: Dubai.
- Pro Bowler: Kyle Troup. He has the wild jerseys and pants and you can’t forget the fro.
- Teacher: Lisa Kincer in second and third grades. She made me feel as though I could accomplish anything if I worked for it and cared about who we were as people.
- Unusual skill: Driving a manual transmission.
- People would be surprised that I: Have never been to a Chipotle.
- I admire: My brother Nolan.
- Hobby: Singing.
- Movie: Sixth Sense.
- Book: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie.
- Subject: Math.
- Pro Bowler: Norm Duke.
- Sport other than bowling: Golf.
- Family: Parents Ray and Kim.
- If given the chance, I like to talk about: My dog Gizmo,
- First person to take me bowling: My dad on Sunday nights before he went to work.
- I relax by: Reading a book, organizing and cleaning, listening to 80’s rock.
- My idea of a fun day includes: Going to a museum or somewhere outside.
- Bucket list vacation: South Island, New Zealand.
- Career goal: Forensic pathologist.
- Favorite teacher: My high school calculus teacher, he made math fun.
- People would be surprised that I: I was born in Alaska and my parents used to race sled dogs (huskies).