Moto-vated: For Endsley, drive to excel doesn’t end with bowling

Heritage’s Brittney Endsley is ranked among the nation’s top amateur motocross racers.

Heritage’s Brittney Endsley is ranked among the nation’s top amateur motocross racers.

Heritage senior Brittney Endsley, left, cuts up with teammates Marissa Holt, middle, and Kara Crowe at the state bowling tournament two weeks ago. Endsley won the Division I individual title, becoming the first state champion in Heritage history

Heritage senior Brittney Endsley, left, cuts up with teammates Marissa Holt, middle, and Kara Crowe at the state bowling tournament two weeks ago. Endsley won the Division I individual title, becoming the first state champion in Heritage history

The Heritage High School girls’ bowling team delivered a record-breaking season this winter, finishing with a 16-1 record and a semifinal showing at the TSSAA state tournament. Front row, left to right, are Mikaela Hallmon, Chelsee Roberts, Kaitlyn Compton, Lilly Tucker and Jackie Walton. Back row, left to right, are Lindsey Strickland, Marissa Holt, state champion Brittney Endsley, Lady Mountaineer coach Mark Rowland, Jessica McGinley and Kara Crowe.

The Heritage High School girls’ bowling team delivered a record-breaking season this winter, finishing with a 16-1 record and a semifinal showing at the TSSAA state tournament. Front row, left to right, are Mikaela Hallmon, Chelsee Roberts, Kaitlyn Compton, Lilly Tucker and Jackie Walton. Back row, left to right, are Lindsey Strickland, Marissa Holt, state champion Brittney Endsley, Lady Mountaineer coach Mark Rowland, Jessica McGinley and Kara Crowe.

State champion Brittney Endsley, right, and third-place finishes Kara Crowe break the tension between games.

State champion Brittney Endsley, right, and third-place finishes Kara Crowe break the tension between games.

Endsley listens to instructions prior to a race.

Endsley listens to instructions prior to a race.

Champion motocrosser Brittney Endsley grabs some big air on a jump.

Champion motocrosser Brittney Endsley grabs some big air on a jump.

It’s called a superman.

Aim a motorcycle at a dirt-ramp jump. Gas it. When you leave the ramp, let go of the handlebars and grab hold of the seat as the bike goes sailing by beneath you.

You’ve gotta be kidding.

“But I landed it,” Brittney Endsley blogs. “It was so cool. Everyone thought I did it on purpose, and they were like, ‘That was sweet.’”

The X-Games highlight jump hadn’t been Endsley’s intention. The Heritage High School senior was working out at a local motocross track, attempting “a no-footer,” she said, when her Yamaha 250 two-stroke forced her to improvise.

On another such occasion, things didn’t end nearly as well, giving rise to one of the great comeback stories Blount County high schools sports has seen in some time.

Endsley made Heritage history at the TSSAA state bowling tournament late last month in Smyrna. Knocking off the state’s top-ranked bowling in her first match, Endsley never slowed in wining the Division I individual title, becoming the first state champion Heritage has ever known in any sport.

Taught the game by her grandmother, Ursula, Endsley has been bowling for much of her life. She’s been riding and racing motorcycles for a great deal longer.

Mike Endsley, Brittney’s father, is an avid motocross racer. He introduced each of his three children - Brandon, Brenna and Brittney - to the sport, but only Brittney took a liking to it.

“All three of my kids had a dirt bike at one time,” Mike said. “She’s the only one that stuck with it.”

Las Vegas, where the Endsleys lived the first few years of Brittney’s life, afforded endless opportunities to “hop on the bike and take off all day long,” Mike said.

“I started riding with my buddy,” he said, “and his boy started riding a little bit.”

Brittney was about the same age. At 5, she soloed for the first time. At 7, she entered her first race.

Brittney won a lot, and she won fast. She was soon racing, and beating, many of the boys. She was becoming an established name on the amateur circuit long before the Endsleys moved the Maryville. As a high school freshmen, she won six races and finished 14th in the Loretta Lynn Nationals, the annual gathering in Hurricane Mills among the country’s most prestigious for amateurs.

Endsley’s bowling career was taking off at the same time. Ursula had taught Mike and each of her grandchildren well. Brenna and Brittney were soon regulars at nearby Crest Lanes in Maryville when the family moved to Blount County.

“My mom has had me bowling since I was little kid,” Mike said. “It’s just one of those family things that keeps us all together.”

Brittney finished third at the state bowling tournament as a Heritage sophomore, returning to motocross that spring. In August that fall, she landed badly on a jump, broke the ninth vertebrae in her back and was carried from the track on a stretcher.

“They told me it wouldn’t grow back all the way, but it grew back good enough,” Endsley said, “so I’m not complaining.”

Heritage coach Mark Rowland was in his first season with the Lady Mountaineers last year. He knew little of the Endsleys, plankowners in the Heritage program. He’d never met Brittney. When she showed up for bowling tryouts that fall in a brace, Roland was understandably concerned.

“Kid walks in with a spinal brace and says, ‘I’m here to bowl,” Rowland said. “I said, ‘Uh-uh.’”

After Endsley rolled back-to-back 200 games - in a back brace - Rowland said he pleaded with Brittney and Ursula, who’d accompanied her granddaughter to the tryouts, to secure a doctor’s release for competition as soon as possible.

Endsley spent three months in the brace, continuing to bowl all while. Rather than hinder his daughter’s game, Mike said, it enhanced it.

“She said, ‘I see what you’re saying about my posture, dad,’” he said.

Not quite at full strength, Brittney would finish 16th at that year’s state tournament. Last January, she was back on her motorcycle.

“She let the bike run for 10 minutes for the first time after the wreck,” Mike said. “She took off and looked like she’d never missed a day.”

Endsley ripped up the record books during last month’s historic title run. Her 1,168 pins for the tournament established a new state record, Endsley’s total beating the old mark into second place by 98 pins. Her 852 pins and high-game 213 in the opening round rank fifth best all time.

“We managed nerves. We managed excitement,” Rowland said. “Every time she got a strike, (it was) wipe the ball off; take a deep breath; roll the ball.’”

The Lady Mountaineer history maker compiled an 86-9 record the last two seasons, with five of the losses coming in state tournament play. This summer, Endsley flirted with a perfect game rolling a 299, a stubborn No. 5 pin on the final bowl preventing the ace.

Along with newcomer Kara Crowe, a co-op bowler from Alcoa High who finished third in the individual tournament, Endsley helped the Lady Mountaineers reach the semifinal round of the team competition, Heritage ending the year 16-1 as a group.

“I’m just really proud of the way they kept pushing and kept practicing,” Endsley said. “It was really a team.”

TSSAA sanctioned 131 high school bowling teams this season, encompassing 1,224 players. It all makes for a very, very loud state tournament for those who qualify. The noise factor was an obstacle for the team in and of itself, Endsley said.

“That was unbelievable,” she said, “in all capital letters. I felt like I was in Neyland Stadium.”

Mike said Brittney kept him updated after every game at state.

“I was stoked,” he said.

When Brittney rolled a 117 during her six-game championship run, Mike said he got a little worried.

“I figured it would blow her up,” he said, “but she came right back.”

The state title was all but assured by Endsley’s sixth and final game, but she doggedly refused to celebrate until the last ball was thrown.

“I knew I had a really good chance to win, but I never really thought about it,” she said. “The last ball I had to throw, I knew I had it, but I didn’t really realize it.”

Just how much Endsley stayed within the moment, taking it frame by frame, is best reflected in a brief conversation they had afterward, Rowland said.

“I said, ‘You know that in 30 plus years, you’re the only one,’” he said. “She said, ‘The only what?’”

Told she’d just become Heritage’s first state champion, Rowland said Endsley’s response was: “That’s really cool.”

Then, “They all came back (to the team hotel) and took a nap,” Rowland said.

While an unusual combination at first glance, motocross and bowling have never been in competition with each other, Endsley said. When the bowling season ends in late winter, she’s back on her bike. She’d like to race professionally one day. She wants that top step on the podium at the Loretta Lynn nationals.

Mike Endsley has little doubt his daughter will get there. She’s pretty good at anything she takes up, he said, “except for snowboarding.”

“She went up to Gatlinburg a couple of weeks ago,” Mike said, “and it took her an hour to get down the mountain once.”

Check back in a little while.

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Comments » 1

mx54mom writes:

For anyone that doesn't know Brittney...you are missing out! She is an amazing, motivated teenager who is going to go far in this world! I am proud to be able to say I know her.

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