Lanehart keeps on rolling

Bowling: Belatedly taking up the game of tenpins, an Ellicott City man finds senior success down the lanes.

Howard At Play

March 02, 2003|By Lowell E. Sunderland | Lowell E. Sunderland,SUN STAFF

H. Edwin Lanehart remembers exactly when, after decades of bowling the old Baltimore way, meaning duckpins, he fell in love with the more universal game of tenpins. It was the third game of the first evening - in 1977 - that he tried rolling the larger, heavier ball to knock down those taller, broader pins.

The Pro Bowlers Tour was a hot view on television then and, besides, Lanehart's wife, Jackie, had been bowling tenpins for years. So the bowler who learned the small-ball version of the game growing up in Baltimore's Pigtown neighborhood capitulated.

"We rolled three games, and I don't remember what I did in the first two," said Lanehart, 68, a longtime Ellicott City resident and retired Baltimore County physical education teacher who for 13 years has been highly active in Maryland's Senior Olympics movement. "It felt odd, but I kept at it, and in the third game I bowled a 225. I was hooked."

Look at Ed Lanehart's medals and trophies and you might assume that putting up a score just 75 pins under perfect on that first try - using an unfamiliar "house" ball - would indicate a late-blooming prodigy in the sport.

But that wasn't exactly the way it unfolded, said Louis Bender, 78, a neighbor of the Laneharts who remembers those days and can keep Lanehart honest.

"He was really a mediocre bowler when he started out," said Bender, who has been bowling regularly since he was 13. "But Ed is one of those guys who wants to be perfect at everything he does. He even set up a video camera at Normandy Lanes to tape himself while he practiced. Now, he's a terrific bowler, closer to being professional than anything else."

Lanehart, who as another avocation performs 100 or more singing gigs a year at senior-citizen and nursing homes, has won money bowling. The best pot, he said, was about $5,300 several years ago in an age-group tournament he, his wife and frequent men's doubles partner Wayne Hough of Mount Airy compete in almost every year in Las Vegas.

But mostly, medals, ribbons and trophies document achievements resulting from rolling in two leagues a week, plus two or three days of practicing, mostly at Brunswick Normandy Lanes in Ellicott City.

Those awards include, with his wife, a 1999 national mixed-doubles championship in Senior Olympics, a 1997 second place, and a 1993 third place. For league doubles competition, though, he said he and she have different partners "because she claims I'm way too serious."

Lanehart has medals (for first, second or third place) at the state level in singles, doubles and mixed doubles in all but two of the 13 years he has been a Senior Olympian in the sport; he got ribbons the other years.

It also means having won six "Triple Crowns" awarded annually by the Greater Baltimore Bowling Association for scoring the season-high series of three games, the season-high game and the season-high average in a league.

His tenpin memories include two perfect 300 games, four 299 games and "three or four" 298s. He said he has rolled many three-game series totaling more than 700, but he's still trying for an 800 series, which is difficult.

His average score for one game has been as high as 210, but these days the average hangs in the 190s. The decrease unexpectedly swings conversation with the former Mr. Maryland - he was seriously into bodybuilding as a young man, he said, and still lifts weights regularly - to prostate cancer.

Lanehart has coped with the disease since 2000. Treatment, he said, sapped his strength and stamina - and bowling average. But it also has made him an advocate for men older than 50 to get annual checkups that include Prostate Specific Antigen testing. His diagnosis came from a series of PSA tests that revealed danger undetected by traditional manual checkups.

"There are no symptoms, you know. It's a time bomb of a disease," he said, hoping to hear later this year, as his second anniversary of treatment passes, that he has recovered. "I'm feeling 100 percent better now. I can do more, and my bowling is slowly coming back."

On Tuesday, Lanehart had been expecting to be host at Normandy Lanes to the third annual winter Senior Olympics bowling competition. But that, along with other winter events, was canceled Thursday because of low signups stemming, presumably, from the weather.

Lanehart is one of 25 statewide commissioners for Senior Olympics and chairs special events for the movement, which encourages an active lifestyle and sports participation for individuals older than 55.

"Ed's involved at every level of Senior Olympics and has been for a long time," said Phil Adams, a Towson University staff member who is state games director. "He's a cheerleader, an old phys-ed major who personally lives what he taught. And that's why he's so respected."

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