Mabel Cummins has been the true definition of a student-athlete during her time at Vanderbilt (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez).
Mabel Cummins has been the true definition of a student-athlete during her time on West End (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez).
Lexie Perez

No Spare Time: Mabel Cummins is the definition of a student-athlete

Vanderbilt Bowling’s biggest star is awful at Wii Bowling. She’s excellent at everything else.

Twenty minutes north of Anchorage, Alaska rests the mid-sized suburb of Eagle River. The town itself is younger than Vanderbilt University, and the state it resides in is not all that larger than metropolitan Nashville. Among Eagle River’s most notable attractions are the Eagle River, the annual Bearpaw Festival and a restaurant aptly named Pizza Man.

It is also — despite being 4,028 miles away — the birthplace of one of the most accomplished figures in the history of Vanderbilt Athletics. But you won’t hear Mabel Cummins refer to herself that way.

In fact, in the hour that Cummins sat down to interview with The Hustler, her athletic career occupied a quarter of the time. The rest was spent on her other passion: medicine.

“My goal is to go to medical school and become a doctor,” Cummins told The Hustler.

Between pathology, fetal medicine and women’s health, the senior neuroscience major finds her curiosity sparked by almost every topic related to healthcare.

“The problem is I’m interested in a lot of things,” Cummins said. “Right now, my medical research is for an anesthesiologist, and we do auditory alarms.”

Between bowling and researching, Cummins hasn’t found the time to continue another one of her passions: singing. But her high school chamber choir career hasn’t gone to waste. 

“This lab specifically attracts people with musical experience,” Cummins said of her research. “With the musical background, I understand using harmonics to structure alarm sounds.”

The ability to compete for an elite bowling program and conduct research for an elite medical institution is what led Cummins to Vanderbilt.

“I just knew that the opportunities if I came to Vanderbilt versus [another university] would be endless,” Cummins said. “I can ride my bike to Medical Center East in five minutes and shadow at six in the morning.”

Cummins realized how far bowling could take her once her family relocated to Illinois. The then-middle schooler signed up for an under-20 girls tournament in Cedar Rapids, Iowa helmed by bowling legend Diandra Asbaty. When Cummins finished in the top 10, Asbaty approached her and her father with some words of advice.

“She knew the landscape of college bowling,” Cummins said. “That’s why we trusted her opinion so much.”

At that point, collegiate bowling was still growing in popularity; but, the opportunities were still there.

“She [Asbaty] knew that you could get a scholarship for college bowling,” Cummins said. “She knew it because she did it.”

Through middle and high school, Cummins continued to develop into one of youth bowling’s biggest phenoms. Though taking a non-traditional path that emphasized individual tournaments over team bowling, Cummins still qualified for Junior Team USA in 2018. No doubt her resume was aided by bowling two perfect games in team trials.

By the time she signed with Vanderbilt and head coach John Williamson, she was regarded as the top recruit in the class of 2019. Miraculously, she was still deficient in one area.

“I’m so bad at Wii Bowling it’s unreal,” Cummins confessed to The Hustler. “I think I shot a 90 the last time I did it.”

She attributes her struggles to physics.

“I can’t get the bowling ball to hook the way I want,” Cummins said. “I try to do what I do with a real bowling ball and it’s just devastating.”

After four years in Nashville, the senior still hasn’t had quite enough of the city or the university, though. Next year, she’ll attend Vanderbilt’s Master’s Program in Biomedical Sciences to build up two more years of clinical experience before applying to medical school.

Not only does she take advantage of all that the university offers, Cummins also tries to give back to her campus in the way only a Vanderbilt student would: by being on the Undergraduate Honor Council.

“My first exposure to the Honor Council was sitting in those seats in the [Student Life Center] ballroom watching the president give a speech about academic integrity and the value of the Vanderbilt degree,” Cummins said.

Though it may not with many others, that session resonated deeply with the then-freshman.

“I felt such a calling to the Honor Council and to academic integrity,” Cummins said. “I understand the value of the Vanderbilt degree and why academic integrity contributes so strongly.”

So, she joined the Honor Council as a general body member. Then, a year later, she became a recording secretary. Then, another year later, she became the president. Of course, she’s aware of the perception.

“I like narc,” Cummins said of the organization’s monikers. “That’s a good word.”

Though her term as president has elapsed, Cummins still feels strongly about the organization’s purpose and continues to participate as a regular member. Given that she’s a senior in her second semester, that might be the most impressive part.

“There’s so many people out there that work so hard, honestly and with integrity,” Cummins said. “I’m doing it for them.”

Between the Honor Council, medical research and a full Vanderbilt course load, it’s hard to imagine that Cummins has time for anything else. 

And, yet, she may go down as the greatest bowler in Vanderbilt history.

Six Junior Team USA appearances. A current stint on Team USA. Southland Bowler of the Year and two Southland Tournament MVPs. Three All-Southland teams and two All-American teams — and likely one more of each for this season.

The only accomplishment remaining is a national championship.

“Everything that we do in practice, in workouts and even school is because we’re all collectively working towards the goal of winning a national championship,” Cummins said.

Last year, the Commodores fell just short of the title game, losing to Stephen F. Austin in the national semifinals. The year before, Vanderbilt lost to Nebraska in the national quarterfinals. And, of course, COVID-19 ended the 2020 NCAA Tournament before it even started.

“My freshman year, we had a team that could have won the national championship,” Cummins said. “[Since then], this is the first year that I really feel like we have the team to do so.”

Though an early exit from the Southland Bowling League Tournament left much to be desired, this year’s Vanderbilt squad has been one of the most consistent in program history. The Commodores finished third or higher at every regular season tournament for the first time since the 2008-2009 season.

That success has been in no small part due to Cummins. This season, the senior finished as the top scorer at the Lady Techsters Classic and the Stallings Invitational, placed on the all-tournament team at the Northeast Classic and was part of the lineup that notched a perfect 300 at the Ladyjack Classic

Vanderbilt will renew its championship quest when it ventures to Lansing, Michigan on April 7 as the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA Regionals. Carthage College, No. 6 Youngstown State and No. 8 Maryville University will accompany the Commodores in the double-elimination, mega-match format used to decide a berth to the Final Four.

Regardless of the result in Lansing, Cummins doubts that this will be the end of her time as a bowler. Though — sorry, Commodore fans — that doesn’t mean she’s sticking around for another season.

“My heart really does lie in coaching,” Cummins said of her future. “When I was a young athlete, so much of my development came from coaches and mentors.”

That developmental path led Cummins from Alaska to Illinois to Tennessee and molded her into one of the most accomplished figures in the history of one of bowling’s most dominant programs.  

Whether she’s striking on the lanes, tending to hospital patients or mentoring the next generation of athletes, the future is bright for Mabel Cummins. The only question is where she’ll strike.

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About the Contributors
Jayce Pollard
Jayce Pollard, Non-revenue Sports Specialist
Jayce Pollard (‘25) is a student in the College of Arts and Science majoring in public policy and economics and minoring in data science and Spanish. Outside of writing for The Hustler, you can catch Jayce trying to learn the rules of soccer, hating on the Arkansas Razorbacks and being chronically on Twitter. He can be reached at [email protected]
Lexie Perez
Lexie Perez, Graphics Editor
Lexie Perez (‘26) is from Northern Virginia and is majoring in climate studies and human and organizational development and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys listening to 70s and 80s pop music, doing the daily Wordle and rooting for the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Bengals. She can be reached at [email protected].
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Rod Williamson
1 year ago

Terrific feature. Learned quite a bit more about a person I thought I knew fairly well. Well written.