There are four new Polk County high school programs that have added bowling in 2022.Lake Gibson, Lakeland girls, Bartow and George Jenkins have been added to the list of Polk County teams now with bowling programs. Lake Wales has had its program for several years.“We added it really late, and some of the teams got off and running with bowling,” Polk County Athletic Director Dan Talbot said. “We’re just basically excited to provide an opportunity to those student-athletes that were interested in bowling, and obviously we look to grow it even more next year.”
But first these new Polk County programs must go through the process. Per the FHSAA rules, new programs have to be independent for two years before joining any districts.Because these programs are independent, the bowling teams can’t compete for any district or state championships. And there is a reason the Florida high school sports ruling body enacted such a rule.“When you add a new sport, you really don’t know the true details of it as far as participation levels,” Talbot explained. “You know when you commit to a state series and you have to drop the team, you get fined, so the independent allows us to grow and build the sport and get us in a situation so when we are added to a district in two years, then we’re ready.
“We have a good core of kids. It’s basically a traditional sport like any other sport that we offer at all the high schools. And it gives us an opportunity to get it up and running.”Just like any other sport, though, bowling is at the mercy of those who are interested in the sport, much like golf and swimming.Polk County has shown interest, which was the first step in bringing additional programs to the county. Another step was to secure a place to play, which right now is at Orange Bowl Lanes in North Lakeland.By next year, Talbott said the goal is to move the student-athletes over to Cypress Lanes in Winter Haven, on the east side of the county.
Additionally, Talbott said it was the right time for bowling because other sports have been added to the mix as well, including boys’ volleyball in the spring and beach volleyball.Below are the current states of some Polk County bowling teams.George Jenkins hits the pinsOnce the time was right for the sport to be added as an independent, the Eagles had a quick turnaround to put the team together, get uniforms and create a schedule.With the season well underway since September, the team in general has made strides in bettering its overall scores.
When you consider that many of the students didn’t know each other before our programs started, and now to see them laughing and competing against each other, is enjoyable to see in the few short weeks we’ve been togetherMatt Townley, Eagles coach
The girls team is led by Bri Ross, Alyssa Currey and Meghan Kerns, the only senior. Ross is currently averaging a 131 with a high game of 163, while Currey is averaging a 128, with her high game being a 195.On the boys side are Max Craig and JoJo Wolchko. Craig is averaging a 213, with a season-high 276. Wolchko is at a 177 on a day-to-day basis, with a 212 being his high.
“I think it’s great giving these students the opportunity to use their skills and interests to represent our schools in competition,” Townley said. “The experienced bowlers are helping the younger bowlers and they all are getting better as they gel as a team.”Bartow takes heedBartow’s interest in bowling was there from the get-go.Student-athletes were then recruited thanks to announcements and an informational meeting.Then, Kimberly Crandall became the coach due to no other person stepping up for the job. It also helped that Crandall’s daughter, Annabelle, is on the girls team. Other competitors are Manderley Barthel, Hannah Causby and Kayshaunna Wesley.
The team, which is an all-girls team, is led by Selenia Shoffner. Bowling is in Schoffner’s DNA, as her older sister bowls for Webber University. She also has a leadership characteristic, encouraging to other bowlers.“We are excited to encourage and expose these young ladies to a new sport,” Fine said. “…Everything is a learning experience and exposure to a sport they are starting to really embrace.“We look forward to each week to bowl and cheer each other on. …We are definitely encouraged that this will be a sport that is sure to catch on by next season. Coaches and players are excited for this season and can’t wait to see what next year presents.”Upcoming ScheduleAll teams will next play October 8 at AMF Lakeland Lanes. On October 12, the teams will play at Cypress Lanes.