Kenai Central High School junior Trent Askin releases the ball while bowling on the Kenai Peninsula Scholastic Bowling League last Friday. This is the group's second year.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Tasha Waterbury was living in the state of Washington, competing on a middle-school bowling team and just about ready to join a high school varsity bowling team as one of the school's top two bowlers when there was a change in plans.
Waterbury was moving back to Alaska, where she had been raised.
"It was really frustrating because I was really looking forward to being on a varsity team," said Waterbury, now a sophomore at Soldotna High School. "I wanted to go and compete against a bunch of other bowlers and see how I compared. When I found out I was moving back here, and I knew they didn't have high school bowling, it was kind of devastating."
SoHi's Shalynda Daigle and Kenai's Cara Conte congratulate each other for a good game during a practice last Friday at Alaskalanes.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Waterbury's mother, Kathy, jumped into action. Kathy talked to Ken Liedes, the owner of Alaskalanes in Kenai, about having high school bowling and Liedes said he was all for it. Thus, the Kenai Peninsula Scholastic Bowling League was formed last year. The league had 12 bowlers in its first year. This year, the league currently has 10.
Kathy Waterbury, the secretary for the KPSBL, said the goal of the league is to keep growing with an eye on aligning with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and getting varsity approval. Liedes, the president of the KPSBL, said another goal is to one day have a state tournament sanctioned by the Alaska Schools Activities Association.
Currently, eight high schools in Anchorage are the only teams sanctioned by ASAA. Liedes said that two other school districts would have to offer bowling before there would be a state tournament. Like the Anchorage schools, the season of the KPSBL starts in October and ends in February.
"It'd be nice to have a tournament where we could actually have a chance to win a state championship, like the football team was able to do," Tasha Waterbury said.
Kathy Waterbury said that at least five bowlers will be needed from each school before the KPSBL attempts to align with the school district. This season, Soldotna has five (Waterbury, Shalynda Daigle, Nick Tesch, Beth Phillips and Jonathon Knight), but Kenai Central has three (Cara Conte, Michael McBride and Trent Askin) and Skyview (Ashley Sarver) and Cook Inlet Academy (Kyle Kjeldson) have one apiece. Last season, Nikiski and Kenai Alternative had bowlers, but this season there are no bowlers from those schools.
Kjeldson is the only senior in the league, which also includes three juniors, three sophomores and three freshmen.
There are a number of factors the KPSBL is counting on for growth. For starters, bowling is one of the fastest growing high school sports nationally. According to the United States Bowling Congress, there are over 45,000 bowlers on high school varsity teams a number that has doubled since 2001. The sport also is growing at the college level, where more than 180 NCAA schools offer club teams, according to brunswick.com. The Web site also said 29 Division I and 15 Division II schools are now offering varsity bowling programs with scholarships.
Sarver, a junior at Skyview, said a college scholarship is one of the things that made the KPSBL attractive.
"I was excited because it meant more bowling," she said. "I really want to get into a bowling scholarship for college, so the more bowling, the better."
Earning a college scholarship from a school isn't the only way bowlers can earn money for college. Last season, the KPSBL had an end-of-year scholarship tournament where students competed for a total of $1,200 in scholarships.
This season, thanks to a fundraiser at Alaskalanes on Nov. 10 that raised $3,400, Kathy Waterbury said the end-of-the-year tourney will give out at least $3,400.
"One of the main things about bowling is you can build up thousands in scholarships," said Kjeldson, a senior at Cook Inlet Academy. "I don't think people realize the scholarship opportunities that are available in bowling."
In addition to high school bowling, bowlers also have the opportunity to earn scholarships through youth bowling tournaments. Kathy Waterbury said one reason the KPSBL came together so quickly is due to the Peninsula Strikers youth league, which is held on Saturdays at Alaskalanes from September through March. The league is for ages 5 to 21, so the KPSBL simply contacted the high school bowlers in the league. According to the United States Bowling Congress, $33,000 in scholarships is available to youth bowlers in Alaska each year.
Kathy Waterbury said the Nov. 10 fundraiser, which had seven six-member teams at the tune of $500 per team or $84 per person, showed the three elements that are fueling bowling's success.
First, the high school bowlers got to the lanes at 9 a.m. on Nov. 10 and did not leave until 12:30 a.m. on Nov. 11. The bowlers wore tie-dyed shirts and helped out the team members all evening. Waterbury said each team was surveyed at the end of the night, and each team indicated a desire to come back next year.
"I think the success is based on the kids and their dedication to the sport of bowling," Kathy Waterbury said.
Waterbury also said the community is very generous when it comes to helping out kids, no matter what the sport. Finally, since bowling is a lifetime sport, Waterbury said high school bowling can fall back on an adult bowling community that is still active in the sport.
"Everything in the bowling community is about the kids," said Liedes, who is an unpaid volunteer just like all the other adults involved in the KPSBL. "It's about scholarship money for the kids."
Another element that could fuel growth is exposure. Waterbury said many are just learning about the KPSBL. This year, Waterbury said Soldotna High School allowed flyers to be put up about the league, and Soldotna also accepts items on the league for its morning news, Web site and yearbook.
"We just have to make a name for ourselves," said Ken Kjeldson, who along with Liedes has coached the team the past two years.
The instruction of Liedes and Kjeldson also makes the KPSBL attractive for bowlers. The Peninsula Strikers allows just five minutes for practice each Saturday. The KPSBL has competition from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. each Friday, but also has practice from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
"We are taught how to do splits and spares, and how to work with people on the team," said Askin, a Kenai Central junior who has been bowling for six years. "On Saturday, we just have a five-minute lesson."
Ken Kjeldson said he enjoys the extended teaching time on Wednesdays.
"It's a lot easier," he said. "It's a lot more one-on-one with the bowlers because the numbers are smaller and we have a lot more time with them."
Kyle Kjeldson said the biggest challenge the KPSBL faces is the number of sports already available to those in high school. He said many bowlers come up through the youth league, but then play other sports once they reach high school. Kjeldson said hopefully the new opportunity of the KPSBL can keep more in bowling.
"People think bowling is a wimpy sport, but there's a lot more to it than most people realize," he said. "There's different oil patterns, stances and ways of holding your hand. There's so much involved and that's one of the reasons I like it so much."
The league just finished its third week on Friday and Kathy Waterbury said students still can join. The cost is $75.
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