LEXINGTON, Ky. - Thursday is a historic day for high school sports in Kentucky. For the first time ever, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association is hosting a state championship for bowling. Over the next two days students from across the state will compete at the Executive Strike and Spare in Louisville.
“It’s a big game of eye-hand-foot coordination. You wanna walk and swing the ball at the same time, come to the line in a repetitive motion while keeping your balance,” says Scott County Coach Tom Doyle.
Doyle helped form a club team at Scott County seven years ago. His’s two daughters are on the bowling team and he volunteered to coach alongside another parent. High school bowling is pretty well established in some part s of the state, but now that it’s sanctioned by the KHSAA, around 80 schools have teams.
“When it was a club sport it was run by the Bowling Proprietors Association, which is bowling owners that own bowling centers, and they knew the game of bowling. The KHSAA, a lot of them are learning the sport and the intricacies of it. And then the extra paperwork involved with it being a KHSAA sport has made it just a little more difficult to operate.”
One of the top players on the Scott County team is 17-year-old Kasey Dunn. The senior captain placed 2nd in last week’s regional tournament and will continue bowling in college on a scholarship from Northern Kentucky University. She says when you’re trying to throw a strike and all eyes are on you, the pressure in bowling can be just as intense as batting in the ninth inning of a baseball game or shooting free throws in basketball.
“I like the competition. It gets to you sometimes but I mean it’s so much fun. Nothing else like it.”
One of the challenges in getting more schools to start bowling teams is accessibility. Because the bowling alley in Georgetown recently shut down, Scott County practices at the Joyland Bowling Alley in north Lexington.
Although songs like "Party Rock" and "Teach Me How to Dougie" are playing in the background, senior Brandon Hatton says the game is serious.
"People are always just like ‘Bowling? You bowl?' You think bowling, you think people coming out on a Friday night."
Brandon gave up baseball so he could spend more time knocking down pins. As more schools decide to offer bowling, players hope respect of the game will grow as well.
"You gotta change balls at certain times, or you know the lane carries down or dries. And it’s a lot of math in your head. We gotta know what we’re doing before we even throw the ball," says Brandon.
Scott County Coach Tom Doyle feels confident that his players will have a strong showing at the state tournament. Team champions will be crowned Thursday and players will compete for individual titles on Friday.
The Cardinals hope to take home some hardware, something that can sit proudly in the trophy case not at a bowling alley, but at the high school.
Update: The Scott Co. boys team won the state championship after defeating Fern Creek 3 games to 1. Pleasure Ridge Park (Louisville) defeated Lexington's Bryan Station High School to win the girls' team bowling championship.