First-year Black Hills girls bowling coach Nikki Winkley threw out a hypothetical question to her team: what does a bowler look like?
“They all answered Alex,” said Winkley, referring to senior Alex Putzier. “I wasn’t really trying to take the conversation in that direction, but they all answered Alex. That’s how much they think of her.”
Winkley replaces Matt Bell, who led the Wolves to multiple league titles and a trio of academic state crowns during his tenure. But Black Hills should not miss a beat in the transition as Putzier is one of the area’s best prep bowlers.
“She could easily bowl at the collegiate level,” Winkley said of Putzier. “She’s that talented.”
Putzier’s athletic skill set doesn’t stop with bowling. She participated in the state swimming meet this season in the 200-meter individual medley and the 100-meter backstroke events.
“It is an odd combination,” said Putzier about being a bowler and a swimmer, “but they actually counter each other really well. Bowling is more mental, while swimming is physical. The focus I’ve learned with bowling has helped make me a better swimmer, and the strength I have from swimming has carried over
In just four matches this season – all victories for the Wolves – Putzier has already bowled three 200 games, once in a victory over Capital on Dec. 13 and twice on Dec. 16 in a win against Shelton.
“I switched balls at the start of the year and that’s really been the difference,” said Putzier, who rolled a career-high 235 last year and currently averages in the 180s. “Individually and team-wise the goals are to get back to state. We had the entire team make state my sophomore year. It would be great to accomplish that again.”
The Wolves will look to secure their fifth consecutive state berth this season. But a state title is just one of two goals for the team.
“We want a state title and an academic state title,” Winkley said. “They’re such a bright group. They excel on the lanes and in the classroom.”
And Putzier leads by example in both categories.
“She’s like another coach out there,” Winkley said about Putzier, who has taken on a full Advanced Placement course load throughout high school. “She’s always willing to help everyone out. The entire team really looks up to her.”