T.J. Eagle of St. Francis bowls at Imperial Lanes as members of Clay s team watch. In Ohio, 153 schools have boys bowling teams and 146 have girls teams.
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High-level high school bowling has existed in the Toledo area for nearly 75 years and local prep bowlers may finally be getting the opportunity to prove that they actually are the best in the state.
Bowling is the fastest-growing high school sport in Ohio and it looks as though it will be officially sanctioned by the Ohio High School Athletic Association in the 2006-07 school year. That means male and female bowlers will at long last get the opportunity to represent their high schools and compete for sectional, district and state titles.
Hank Zaborniak, an OHSAA assistant commissioner, said his association will not recognize a sport until 150 schools around the state sponsor that sport. In the latest count last month, 153 schools said they sponsored bowling as a varsity sport for boys and 146 sponsor girls bowling.
When you participate with the name of your school on your shirt, it adds a level of importance, excitement and recognition among your community, Zaborniak said. OHSAA is saying to these kids that what they are doing is important to their school and their community.
It s pretty special to play for your high school.
Bowling Green freshman Shaun Crusa said he is looking forward to competing for a state title.
Anita Sharpe practices at Al-Mar Lanes. The Bowling Green senior earned All-Northern Lakes League second-team honors last season in a league which mostly has male bowlers.
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I think it should be recognized more because it s physical and you use your mind a lot, Crusa said. It s not just rolling a ball down the lane.
Clay junior Chad Koles said some students at his school don t even know the Eagles have a bowling team.
I think it will become a lot more popular, he said. It would be recognized more. It would be pretty intense and exciting to compete for a state title.
Greg Coulles is the commissioner of Ohio High School Bowling, an organization that has spearheaded the effort to get bowling sanctioned. Coulles said 300 schools have picked up the sport over the last five years, but many are club teams.
Toledo has a great, great high school bowling history, he said. It s one of the finest in the United States. There are a lot of great bowlers in Toledo and they deserve statewide recognition.
Fifteen states currently recognize bowling as a varsity sport, including Michigan. Most schools in northwest Ohio still consider bowling to be a club sport. But others, including St. Francis, Whitmer, Notre Dame, Maumee and Perrysburg, sponsor it as a varsity sport and award letters.
Zaborniak said the earliest bowling could reasonably be expected to become an OHSAA sport would be in the 2006-07 school year.
Zaborniak, who has been with the OHSAA since 1989, said bowling would be the first new sport sanctioned since he has been with the association.
It is not yet clear whether it would be a winter or spring sport, although Zaborniak said he assumes the season will take place in the winter. He also said it wasn t determined whether bowling would be adopted as a team-only sport or a team and individual sport, such as cross country.
I think it would be great to actually win a state championship in bowling, said Rossford junior Dustin Bowser. It would give bowling more credibility.
But many among the high school bowling community also see a large downside to the sanctioning of the sport because schools would have to abide by OHSAA rules. The biggest sticking point is the rule that allows athletes to only compete for their school during the high school season. That would mean young bowlers would no longer be able to compete in travel leagues, junior leagues and scholarship tournaments during the high school season.
Cliff McBride, who has been director of the Toledo Metro High School League for 30 years, said most of the teams are not school-sponsored and are considered club teams. He said the Metro League, which was founded in 1932, is thought to be the longest-running league in the country.
Twenty-one schools compete in a 28-week season from September until April. The league would have to abide by OHSAA rules and shorten or modify its season if the schools wish to be sanctioned.
School boards, athletic directors and principals will decide if bowling should become sanctioned by the OHSAA at their individual schools.
Northview and Southview are not part of Northern Lakes League bowling while Eastwood and Lake have joined the league.
Bill Wammes, who has been the commissioner of NLL bowling for 10 years, said every team in the league considers it a varsity sport except Eastwood.
Clay coach Ron Koles said the OHSAA restrictions may prevent some kids from bowling for their school, but he thinks the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
We will be competing at a state level just like the football or basketball playoffs. The kids will be able to travel to other areas and see different lane conditions and different bowlers. It will be more intense, said Koles, whose Eagles compete in the Metro League.
Zaborniak said it would be very difficult to have a completely different set of rules for bowling. I would not bet that bowling would be treated differently than every other sport, he said.
But all that is secondary to Bowling Green senior Anita Sharpe, who made the All-NLL second team in the primarily male conference this year. Sharpe said she is excited that her sister Gloria, who is in the seventh grade, may get a chance to compete for a state title.
As a bowler you want to know what your status is with others in the state, she said.
Contact Mark Monroe at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6110.
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