History in the 'house': McCook bowler breaks 800

Friday, January 6, 2017
Jerron Ruzicka already had a great Christmas when he took his dad to the Kansas City Chiefs-Denver Broncos football game, but he made real history at TJ's Family Fun Center just four nights later.

MCCOOK, Neb. -- His favorite duckpin bowling partners in the Philippines might shout "Anak ng!" which translates to "son of a ...(gun)" when they see Jerron Ruzicka later this year.

The buzz could certainly be heard around TJ's Family Fun Center this week.

Ruzicka rolled his second 300 perfect game during men's league on Thursday, Dec. 29 but -- as Jerron said himself -- that's been done 12 times at McCook's bowling "house" now.

"It was a bigger deal the first time in (2005) because it was only second 300 ever here," he said. "And I didn't even bowl a 600 series."

That's why the real excitement started one throw later, when a dreaded 7-10 split came crashing into Ruzicka's magical night like Steve Atwater crushing Christian Okoye many Broncos-Chiefs battles ago.

"I'd never made a 7-10 split before," he said. "And I still haven't."

What Ruzicka did make was six consecutive strikes after that "open" frame.

The roll continued right up to Jerron's 36th and final frame of this historic series.

All his "Family Issues" teammates were watching including many of the other Men's Major 16-17 league bowlers.

Jerron needed not one, not two but three final strikes to achieve what everyone was anticipating:

The first 800 series ever bowled in 60-plus years of TJ's Family Fun Center.

Final-frame misfortunes had struck Ruzicka before when he rolled 299 and 298 games.

"You can't get above 290 unless you are perfect right up to then," he explained to a bowler/sports writer who feels good about breaking 160. "But you can't think about that. You just do what you've practiced over and over since you were eight years old."

His love and focus on the Ruzicka family's favorite sport paid off with two strikes and then the final dramatic throw...

"I knew it was (a strike) as it left my hand," he said. "What was cool was my brother Jay getting it on video. I think he was even more excited than me."

"But it definitely was one of the items on my bowling bucket list," Jerron added about bowling an 800 series. "It shows what bowling is really about. Consistency. Staying consistent and not looking at the scoreboard too much. Don't get down. Heck, the lanes were dry and I didn't even break (500) series the week before."

Ruzicka rolled 29 strikes in the 36 frames with games of 244, 300 and 258 adding up to the 802 now atop TJ's all-time bowling chart.

Nearly every bowler walking through TJ's stopped to congratulate Jerron again Thursday afternoon -- nearly a full week after the historic event. Even an admitted Denver Broncos fan or two.

Ruzicka's an avid Kansas City Chiefs supporter who took his dad to the recent 33-10 win over Denver as a Christmas Day present.

"I'd say it's been a pretty good sports year," he confirmed about Kansas City going 12-4 into the NFL playoffs starting this weekend. "And the Royals (from Kansas City) won the Series last year."

Yet bowling has always been Jerron's No. 1 sport since he picked up the game around age eight.

Nearly every year features Jerron joining dad, mom Kalin, brother Jay, grandpa Kenny, grandma Kathleen and cousins like Kristin for a tournament in Grand Island.

"Bowling's always been a family sport for us," he said. "We make a great team."

Bowling followed Ruzickas from Lexington to Broken Bow to even the Philippines where they spent seven years as missionary workers.

They helped Filipinos learn farming, build homes and do other productive work.

Although there was still time for a little of that duckpin bowling in between.

"It's a different kind of bowling. Everything (balls, pins) is smaller and you get three throws," Jerron explained. "So strikes are pretty rare. It was fun, though. I'm going back there for a 20-year reunion later this year."

Jerron returned to Nebraska and McCook in 2000, where he's been bowling at TJ's Family Fun Center ever since.

"There have been a lot of good bowlers here. I've learned a lot," he said.

"And one of the best things is when someone said it (800 series) couldn't happen to a nicer guy," Jerron added. "That means a lot."

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