Autumn Frechette was still smiling a day after her record performance. Steve Harrison photo.
Story and video by JOHN ANDERSON, photos by STEVE HARRISON
Saturday was a great day for Arkport freshman Autumn Frechette.
She was bowling with 65 other junior bowlers at Maple City Bowl in Hornell in her youth league and had a friend visiting to watch.
They talked, ate food and she excused herself to bowl. She had no idea she rolled eight straight strikes.
Her first game was a 278. She was told she had a chance at a 700 series. To bowl three games totaling 600 is a great day for a male or female bowlers. Despite two open frames, she also bowled a 225 and 257. When she was done, she had set a new Hornell house record for women with a 760 series.
And Autumn is only 14-years-old.
In 1940, Jeanne Meecham had the record for Maple City Bowl which was broken in on Wednesday, Feb, 18 1987 when Eileen Carris tossed a 300 on her way to a 721 series. Then in 2018, Mary Saunders of Whitesville, who had bowled in Wellsville for years, broke the Hornell record with a 727 series.
On Sunday, as the Hornell Sun was setting up video cameras and and photo shoot with Autumn and her coaches and family, Saunders walked in to bowl in her Sunday night league. By chance, the two record-holders met. They shared some laughs and stories and posed for photos.
“I think it’s awesome that you shot a 700 … it took me years,” Saunders told Autumn. “I saw it was broken Saturday when I got on Facebook and saw her picture.”
Saunders then laughed and said, “I think it’s awesome and it gives me something to shoot at!”
Autumn started bowling at age 7 when parents brought her to the youth leagues in Hornell. William Frechette has bowled in a Wednesday night adult league and now bowls in adult-junior leagues with his daughter. Her mom, Nancy Smallwood, also loved bowling and it’s become a family event. Her brother, Braeden Brewster, works at the bowling alley as well.
“My dad was a bowler and my mom also got me into it. There were some points I was going to quit, but then I loved it, it’s a great sport,” she said.
Autumn also developed another friendship with Steve and Sharon Crandall, the owners of the pro shop just inside the front doors of Maple City Bowl. They bought the X Zone Pro Shop in October of 2009. Through the youth bowling federations, they became licensed and certified youth coaches. Like Little League, everything they do with the youth program is volunteer work. They coach, take kids to tournaments and run the leagues. They were at the bowling alley when Frechette broke the record.
“It’s easier when there is less pressure on you. When I got to eight strikes in a row, I decided to get more serious,” Autumn said. “I was just having fun and having a good day. My friend kept telling me I would get 700 and to get serious, but I had fun and just tried my best.”
After the third game, she was walking around and Sharon Crandall said, “I think you got the new record!”
“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. I just know I bowled well,” Autumn added.
Autumn is almost 6-foot tall. In addition to bowling, she plays volleyball and softball at Arkport and played a year of basketball. She likes to write in her spare time and said she enjoys English class and other subjects as well. She snowmobiles and rides dirt bikes.
She said drinking one bottle of water per game helps her. She uses several different balls depending on the pattern of the lane and bowls with a 14-pound Storm bowling ball.
“About four years ago, I was doing better when the Crandall’s started coaching me, I went to camps and tournaments,” Autumn said. “The tournament are more competitive and serious. But it’s still fun. I like to have fun, if you are not having fun, it’s not enjoyable.”
Sharon Crandall remembers the beginning of greatness.
“She was 7 or 8 when she started and when she was 10, she bowled her first 200 on lanes 1 and 2. I said, ‘You keep throwing like that, you will have your first 600 series.’ She went to the Pepsi Challenge the next day and shot a 600,” Sharon said. “Autumn is just a natural, takes direction and is the best person to represent the sport for sure. She doesn’t know how good she is.”
Steve said, “Win or lose, she is always smiling. She is always congratulating people, she has a great spirit and that’s what we love about her, she’s such a nice kid.”
Steve and Autumn won the New York State Junior-Adult Tournament in 2019.
“We just went up and had fun and we won it by a long shot. And she was only 11 at the time,” he said. “Sharon teaches them the basics and the fundamentals. We can get a bowler to the point of being a professional and if we can’t take them any further, we know people who can.”
The Crandall’s set Autumn up with Mike Shady, a Team USA Bowling coach from Erie, Pa.
“He is part of Inside Bowling and coaches some of the best bowlers in the world, so I sent Autumn to him for an hour lesson,” said Steve Crandall. “He said she was something special. When she was 12, he said I could put her on a college team right now and she could be a starter. He called me last night. It was amazing. She can go as far as she wants to go. There is so much out there for girls college scholarship money.”
Because Autumn enjoys the sport, her friends and the time at the lanes, she would grab a ball and go. That’s when her father knew it was time to go to the X Zone Pro Shop and upgrade her equipment with the help of the Crandall’s.
“She used to bowl with a back-up ball and we wanted to get her to switch,” William Frechette said. “The first couple throws after she switched were right there beautiful and came in there nice, so we knew at a young age she had a natural ability to do it.
“It’s pretty crazy. She has always shown a ton of potential and has a ton of athletic ability in all of the sports she tries,” her dad continued. “This is something she’s always excelled at. If she puts her mind to it, we know she can do what she want to. She has practiced a lot lately and put in extra time so she is seeing the results of her hard work.”
Nancy Smallwood knew this was a good fit for her daughter when she saw her approach to failure. Tom Brady, who just retired as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL, was famous for throwing the ball away on a second down, knowing there was another play. Autumn has the same philosophy.
“About four years ago when she was doing Pepsi’s, it came easy. She is relaxed at this, there is no pressure and she doesn’t worry about anything and has fun,” Nancy said. “She is relaxed at these events. Some people get upset and throw things. She says, ‘Mom, I have the next frame.,’ then goes out, bowls well and has fun. And now she has the record, she doesn’t understand all the fuss.”
On Sunday, a lot of families were bowling during the day. When the leagues started, more families came in. That included Mary Saunders with her husband, Dave. Their daughter, Danielle bowled with them and was knocking down strikes and spares as well, with a 235 game and a 592 series.
Autumn is inspiring a new generation and Steve and Sharon Crandall are seeing a growth in youth bowling which should bring the adult leagues back to their former glory.
Steve, who has bowled for 49 years, said the Hornell Bowling Association has 350 bowlers in the adult leagues.
“We have some fun leagues and we are trying to expand our leagues. It’s not as serious as it was, it’s a lot more fun,” he said. “But we have a great Friday night league, a great Tuesday night league and a phenomenal Elk’s league on Wednesday’s.”
Sharon Crandall and Jerry Partridge have run the junior bowling program for 10 years.
“We’ve grown quite a bit,” Sharon said. “We had about 13 to 20 bowlers and we’re at 65 strong right now, so we are growing.
“People are more out for their enjoyment rather than cut-throat bowling. We have our serious bowlers and our competitive bowlers, but they fit in with the fun crowd as well. It’s really coming back to family and fun,” she added.
In the pro shop, it feels like a coffee shop, as friends and visitors come in and talk bowling and look around.
“If a person wants to come get their ball, we’ve been customers before. so we are there to help them. We are not high-pressure sales. Whether it’s a new ball or a used ball, we are just trying to get you the best equipment for your game.
The Crandall’s will take a customer out to the lane, watch them and make recommendations.
“Everyone has their own style. We need to work within their budget and roll with them before they shop,” Sharon said. Steve added, “We want them to enjoy the game and if they are in a league, help them elevate their game.”
In the case of Autumn Frechette, that means an 800 series in her future.