While most fixated on the state volleyball finals and the opening weekend of the football playoffs Saturday, another and even more anticipated season for the next new culture in Ohio High School sports.
Minster, OH – It’s safe to say that no one noticed. Not a few, mind you…but no one.
In the shadows of Saturday’s state volleyball finals, with New Bremen and Fort Loramie playing for the Division IV title at the Nutter Center; and with area high school football in the midst of the its playoff opening weekend…no one noticed the opening weekend of WOHSBC (Western Ohio High School Bowling Conference) bowling at Community Lanes in Minster. No one noticed, that is, excepts girls like Coldwater’s Allison Fox, Fort Loramie’s Elena Bulcher…and Versailles’ Lindsey Cheadle.
And no one noticed last week when it was announced the MAC Conference had voted to adopt team bowling as an official sport for the 2020-21 school year…by a vote of 7-3. One can only question as to why anyone voted ‘no’. A concession, perhaps, that there is no so blind as those who will not see – that the benefits far exceed the any perceived negatives.
And many will overlook the fact of the new look of generations-old Community Lane, which changed hands from long-time owner Joe Baumer last spring…to a group headed by Versailles businessman Doug Davidson. And while Community has been open for business for weeks after a summer-long period of renovation and updates, Saturday amounted to another, more significant ‘opening day’ in Davidson’s eyes.
“After taking over in April, after all the work we’ve put in, and all the support we’ve gotten from people in the community, this is a dream come true,” said Davidson. “This is one of the reasons why we did it – to continue the growth of youth bowling. I know that bowling goes pretty deep with a lot of families, in my heart as well, and when you see these kids out to compete it makes all the work worthwhile.”
Allison Fox didn’t make it to Coldwater’s Friday night football game in Archbold. Nothing personal, you see, but football never entered her mind, even in the football-crazy culture of her community and with all those state title trophies on display in the trophy case. She’s 5 foot nothing in size, with no hope of ever playing volleyball or basketball, so long ago Allison decided that if she wanted to play a sport – if she wanted to experience of thrill of competition in Coldwater – bowling at Pla-Mor Lanes, just off route 118, was going to be her ticket.
“I love bowling,” she said Saturday. “I’ve been waiting all summer for today to get here – the whole off-season. I’ve been doing it for a long time, I’m pretty good at it, and my average is about 170-175.”
Ask her if bowling gets the same respect at Coldwater that football and the other sports do and she answers without hesitation.
“No,” says Fox. “Every time there’s a football game it’s in the announcements. Any time bowling does something…there are no pep rallies for bowling.”
She’s a junior at Coldwater, and if you ask her about her interests outside of school, it’s obvious that her sport fills a vital niche.
“I bowled over the summer, but not as much as I should have,” she smiled, no different than the football player who admits…I could have lifted more, ran more, and conditioned more.
But she did attend the August PBA tournament at Pla-Mor, got to meet some of the PBA professionals, and says that of those she met hall-of-famer Norm Duke was her favorite.
At Versailles Lindsey Cheadle is taller than Allison Fox, smiles a lot, but like Fox, bowls at about a 175 average. She, too, had waited all summer for the opportunity to get back into competitive mode.
“I’ve been waiting all year for this,” she smiled. “I’ve always bowled with my friends, I’ve always loved it, and I played softball my freshman year, but I didn’t like it as much as I like bowling. It’s fun. I never really thought about playing basketball or volleyball, and a lot of people at our school say that bowling really isn’t a sport – that it doesn’t take much to bowl. But they just don’t know. It’s about a lot more than taking a ball and chucking it down the lane.”
“Lindsay is one our best and she’s worked her way up from her freshman year,” says Versailles coach Tyler Phlipot. “Last year she missed being All-State honorable mention by eight or nine pins, and she’s put the time in over the summer and that hard work is paying off right now.
Like many other kids, bowling has provided her competitive niche…the same one that many are finding at a rapid rate.
“It’s one of our fast-growing activities,” says OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass. “This is a whole new culture of athletes that don’t project in football and basketball. But bowling fills that void for them. We’re very proud to have it among our list of sanctioned sports.”
“It fits Lindsey’s personality,” adds Phlipot. “I know she’s really busy in other things, but athletically she’s not a runner or a person who’s going to excel in shooting a basketball. She’s picked up on this quickly, and since her freshman year she’s put in the time…and here she is.”
Cheadle started her season with a 178 in her first game, right on average. But one lane over Fort Loramie’s Elena Bulcher started the 2019-20 season with a eye-opening 248. Like Fox and Cheadle, Bulcher has bowled since childhood, bowled as an individual at the state meet last spring, and quietly admitted that she didn’t make it to Friday’s state semi-final in volleyball, where the Redskins beat Newark Catholic to advance to Saturday’s state championship round.
But along with Allison Fox, Lindsay Cheadle, and a host of others this winter, Elena Bulcher will make a name for herself this winter in a sport that most, including the media, simply overlooks. And for that reason, opening day Saturday might have meant more to them than the upcoming opening night for basketball. They, along with others, have been waiting for a long time.
A long, long time!