From club to competition: all 16 high schools now have bowling teams
Senior Kristofer Fields fully admits that he joined the Boca Ciega High boys bowling team to hang with his friends.
But once he started to practice over the summer, he began to appreciate the competitive aspect as well.
“This is definitely weird for someone who has only been bowling a few months,” Fields said of the District’s first regular season match at Sunrise Lanes in St. Petersburg. All 30 lanes were packed with varsity and junior varsity programs from all 16 high schools, a first for Pinellas County Schools.
“My favorite part about bowling for sport is it’s not a defensive sport,” Fields continued. “How you perform is never based on how the other teams perform against you. It’s all personal best and you are constantly improving.”
According to Al Bennett, the district’s athletic director, nine schools had officially sanctioned bowling teams last year. But before that, the teams were considered club-level. Last year, both the girls’ and boys’ teams from Pinellas Park High School won districts and competed in states, and Madison Colston was the individual state champion. The Northeast High girls were district runners-up and also competed in states.
“After last year, the schools that didn’t have teams pushed to have them because there was so much excitement about it,” Bennett said. “It’s awesome. When we started this, I did not expect it to get this big this fast.”
Thomas Sims, a freshman on the varsity boys team at Northeast High, has been bowling most of his life. He was thrilled to learn his high school had a competitive team. He and sophomore teammate Ty Kearney, who has been bowling since he was eight, exchanged high-fives several times over the course of the two-hour match. The match consisted of one traditional 10-frame game, followed by three Baker games, where each of the five bowlers on the team bowls a single frame.
“Now that all the high schools have a bowling team, we can potentially get better bowlers,” said Sims, whose average score is 194. “The more competition you have, the more fun games can be.”
"It's all-around a fun sport," Kearney added. "It's a fun atmosphere - just hanging with friends and bowling."
William White, the Athletic Director and bowling coach at Northeast, said although the school has had a club team for years, the competitive aspect feels different this year. As he glanced around Sunrise Lanes, noting close to 150 bowlers on site, his smile said it all.
“It’s kind of a niche sport. Those who are into it are REALLY into it,” said White, who won the Nickolas Grasso Leadership Award at the district-wide Athletics Award banquet last spring. “They just love and thrive in this environment and we’re just glad we can provide it for them.”
High School Bowling Photos