Bowling in the area began as a high school sport in 2013, but two teams have already separated themselves from the rest.
The Apollo and Daviess County bowling squads have combined for nine state tournament appearances since the sport’s inception in local high schools.
The success was immediate for some of the teams.
Apollo head coach Kerrie Gatton said her team was fortunate to do well from the beginning — the boys’ team earned two appearances to the state tournament in the first two years.
“We were lucky that when the teams started in high school, Apollo happened to have a lot of kids that were bowling in youth leagues since they were little kids,” Gatton said. “It was a great start, because we didn’t have to start fresh.”
For other squads, namely the boys’ team for Daviess County and the girls’ team for Apollo, the success came after years of practice and coaching.
DC head coach Byron Johnson said his boys’ team took its lumps early on.
“It took the boys a few years to get there because they were younger,” Johnson said. “They’ve really matured in the last three years.”
After sticking together for more than five years, they have found a formula for success. They finished top four in state over the last two years, and Johnson believes his team has a great chance to make it a three-peat.
“I think we have a really good chance to repeat as regional champs on the boys’ side,” Johnson said. “I’ve still got all the same boys from last year’s squad on this team.”
The girls’ team for Apollo has taken a similar road to success over time. The team was created in 2015, and they struggled to finish the season with a 3-8 record.
The slow start didn’t deter Gatton or her bowlers in the slightest.
“In the second year, we turned it around and went 8-3,” Gatton said. “Now we’ve been to state three years in a row, and I expect them to go again.”
Both coaches credited their athletes as the reasons for both raising the level of play and helping heighten the interest in bowling.
“Our kids are key to our teams’ success,” Gatton said. “They’re our best recruiters. My coaching staff isn’t in the school, but the kids talk about their team all the time during school.”
Said Johnson: “Our boys are really talented and really dedicated. They’re bowling non-stop, and their work ethic is really strong.”
Gatton — whose team has a record number of 26 athletes on this year’s roster — doesn’t think that growth will stop anytime soon.
“I definitely see this sport continuing to grow in the region,” she said. “The kids are highly invested in this, and Apollo and DC both have a lot of middle school bowlers on the team. The sport is not going away. These kids love it.”