Defending bowling champion Matt Blake of Akron said he stayed focused throughout this years Edward G. Elias Scholarship tournament, from the first ball to the very last.

I focused from frame to frame, he said. It paid off.

In the third frame of his last game, he hit the No. 2 pin on the left; it bounced off the wall and hit the No. 10 pin, which took out the No. 8 pin.

The 28-year-old pre-med student, who usually averages more than 220 a game, scored a three-game total of 649 and won $1,000 in scholarship money at the University of Akrons third annual Elias bowling tournament on campus Sunday.

I started bowling when I was 18 months old, the senior said. Its the third time Ive entered this tournament. I won $500 last year for first prize and this year the scholarship money doubled.

But money wasnt the only incentive for bowlers at the University of Akron event. Participants said they also bowled because its fun, its free, and they didnt have to write an essay to compete.

Twenty-four students competed for scholarships ranging from $250 to $1,000, with a total of $7,000 at stake. There were two divisions for men and two for women, and since only six women entered the contest, they each went home with money.

If anyone else was here I probably wouldnt have won anything, said 21-year-old Lauren Feller, a senior, who walked away with $250. It was good for me. I did OK. Im not a big-time bowler,

Monica Metts, 19, a sophomore from Salem, won $1,000. She came in second place last year and earned $250.

It turned out great for me, said the pharmacology student. I learned how to bowl when I was 15. My boyfriend taught me. He works at a pro bowling shop in Salem.

Metts said she bowled a perfect game of 300 when she was only 16.

It was quite a surprise. The whole bowling alley stopped to watch me, which made it even worse, she said. But Im looking for another perfect game. I know its coming.

She said the best advice from her boyfriend has been: Dont overthink it; do your game and do what you know.

But she also thinks the key to a good game is to stay positive.

During the tournament, she and 21-year-old Greg Jackson gave each other high-fives after rolling strikes or picking up spares.

Both belong to UAs bowling club. Eight of the clubs 20 members competed Sunday.

Jackson, who won a $250 third-place prize, also high-fived his brother, 19-year-old Gabriel Jackson, for on-the-spot advice that led to a successful throw.

You are inconsistent, Gabriel Jackson had warned his brother. You start here and end up over there. Try to go straight.

I played in the tournament last year, Greg Jackson said. I could have done better, but I didnt have my brother here coaching me then. Hes really good. Hes bowled five or six perfect games.

First-time bowler Frank Collins of Stow said there are no regular bowlers in his circle of family and friends.

My family bowls once a year on New Years Eve, said the 21-year-old UA junior. I dont even know how to bowl, but it sounded like fun so I did it on a whim. I didnt know the competition would be so stiff.

Elias was an Akron native, a UA alumnus and founder of the Professional Bowlers Association. His wife, Peggy, a former Miss Ohio, attended the event.

It was very thrilling, right down to the end when you could feel the intensity of the games. These students are so inspiring, enthusiastic and so grateful, she said. Its a wonderful way to contribute to the legacy of my late husband.

Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or mmiller@thebeaconjournal.com.