The storied event celebrated its 96th edition by welcoming a new event, the USBC Mixed, to the championship lanes. A total of 24 Women's Championships teams and three Mixed teams helped usher in the new era in tournament history.
The Mixed features four-player mixed teams (two men and two women), mixed doubles (one man and one woman) and open singles competition, giving bowlers the chance to enjoy the experience of competing on the national stage in a friendly and fun environment.
Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority President and CEO Chris Baum, Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, USBC Executive Director Chad Murphy and USBC Board member and Professional Women's Bowling Association spokesperson Kelly Kulick took center stage to welcome the first of more than 16,000 bowlers to The Biggest Little City in the World.
The 2015 Women's Championships marks the event's 10th trip to Reno and seventh visit to the newly renovated NBS.
A new tradition at the Women's Championships also kicked off Friday as honorary grand marshals were selected to help lead out the opening squad and Mass Ball Shot. Grand marshals will be picked for every team squad in 2015 and will don special vests as they make their way to the lanes.
Strike Force of Milledgeville, Georgia, earned the distinction of being the first grand marshals in tournament history. The team featured Judy Harville, Patty Molock, Laura Bryan and Marian Griffis.
"It made being here more memorable," said Harville, who is bowling in her fourth Women's Championships. "It was awesome, and we were all so excited."
This year's Bowl for the Cure® Fabulous Four essay contest winners also were on hand as they completed their journey by participating in the opening squad. The four winners threw out the ceremonial first balls of the tournament and then competed as a team.
On the lanes, Should O Beens of Newport News, Virginia, set the pace in Ruby Team with games of 682, 620 and 664 for a 1,966 total. Bobbie Deese led the way with a 544 series and was joined by Kristen Saunders (525), Karen Saunders (461) and Frances Langejans (436).
"This was our first time bowling the opening squad, and it was nice," said Deese, who made her 34th Women's Championships appearance. "We came all the way from Virginia to have fun first, and if we happen to bowl well, it's a plus."
Grant Gonzado traveled from Las Vegas to bowl on the opening squad of The Mixed.
"It seemed more laid back," Gonzado said of the new tournament. "I'm used to bowling in a packed house, so it was not as stressful but we bowled with fun people."
The Mixed features a divisional structure that mimics the Women's Championships - four divisions for team and six for doubles and singles - so it is inviting for bowlers of all skill levels and could serve as a good steppingstone to bigger events, like the Women's Championships and USBC Open Championships.
Both the Women's Championships and The Mixed will run until June 30.
The first doubles and singles bowlers of the year at the Women's Championships will hit the lanes at the NBS on Saturday, beginning at noon local time (3 p.m. EDT). Doubles and singles for The Mixed will be held at the Showcase Lanes on the Stadium's ground floor.
For more information on the Women's Championships, visit BOWL.com/WomensChamp.
Go to BOWL.com/FabulousFour to learn more about the winners, including their stories.
Visit us on Facebook at the official USBC Open/Women's Championships page.