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High Schools strike up a new game

Club bowling starting to take off among local students
By: Brett Ransford, Press Tribune Correspondent
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Local students are striking up new competition. At Strikes Family Entertainment Center in Rocklin, more than 70 students are taking part in the fast-growing high school club bowling program. A highly competitive sport east of the Rocky Mountains, high school bowling has not reached that level in California. That is all changing thanks to the helping hands of local business owners and administrators. It began with 30 students last fall and has undergone an eight-week growth spurt, reaching 18 teams of four students each. In June of last year, Jim Falls of Strikes met with the Roseville High School District Superintendent Tony Monetti along with several assistant principals in hopes of starting a program. Director of Pupil Personnel Services, Steve Williams, took a leadership role. “We discussed the purposes of such a league and the benefits that would be afforded to students,” Falls said. “It’s open to all ages and levels of ability. It is inexpensive and it provides these students an opportunity to participate in team sports.” Teams from Adelante were the original participants, and they have been joined by teams from Roseville, Oakmont, Woodcreek, Antelope and most recently Del Oro. The league season lasts seven weeks, and costs $42 per student. “These are groups of kids from all over the area, all makes, all sizes and the one common elements is that they’re all having fun,” Williams said. “Because I work with the students it came to me to reach out to the schools, but the schools have really done all of the work.” “Most of those involved are teachers or counselors,” said Roseville High assistant principal Nancy Veilleux. “I come from the Midwest and a lot of the states actually have it in the schools. CIF hasn’t quite recognized bowling yet, but I keep working on it.” Some of the kids participating are special needs students and bowling is the only sport that has been made available for them. According to Falls, parents and friends come to watch and cheer. He said last year the best team was from Adelante and the kids received the recognition they deserve. Tech Assistant Jeff Mesenbrink has been with the team since the beginning. “This is the first time Adelante has been allowed to compete in any other team or district-wide school event,” said Mesenbrink. “Our students were just raring to go. Last year they started out not really knowing how to bowl and ended up winning.” The MVP of that team was Marcus Espinoza. Like anyone else involved said of the league Marcus summed it up perfectly in a few words. “It’s a bunch of kids having fun. We’re all sort of the outcasts of our schools and out of the mainstream,” Espinoza said. “The basketball team is for all the jocks. This team is less competitive, but I’m sure it’s a lot more fun.” According to Falls, most of the kids have improved their averages by at least 20 points since starting the program. He said the league has the ability to accommodate disabled students as well if they chose to participate. “Obviously, the kids are enjoying it,” Falls said. “It would take a lot of work to get bowling to a lettered sport level, however, if other districts had a Steve Williams working with the program, I believe it would be possible.” Falls works with the program Unity Through Sports. He said if aligned with the USBC the program can provide more scholarships for students participating in bowling than those playing football, basketball and baseball and soccer combined. Others who have participated receive scholarship funds that are presented to them upon graduation from high school. “The difficult thing is getting the information out to parents,” Falls said. “Bowling is a sport. It does not compete or take athletes away from other sports. It is year round and it is far less expensive than other sports offered in the high schools. It provides a great source for scholarship funds.” Falls is looking to accommodate a junior program with elementary and middle school participation. If the program really takes off like the high school program has, he hopes other proprietors will approach the school district where they reside and try to establish a youth program.