Amongst the deafening cheers at Coopers Sport Bowl, in a bowling alley packed like sardines, a group of girls sporting purple and white uniforms already knew they made school history — they just aimed to set the new standard while having fun.
The Seymour girls bowling team finished in eighth place, with a combined score of 2,412, in their first Indiana High School Bowling state appearance.
“I think we did great, personally,” Owls coach Shannon Kelly said. “Looking back through the numbers, everybody held to their average. The first time to do something like (state), that’s all you can expect of them. I was hoping one or two of them would step up and had a great day, but we didn’t have that just a usual performance from our team — but that’s good enough.”
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Second-seeded Lake Central came away with the state crown following a 350-317 victory against Northrop in the stepladder finals.
“(We) actually thought they were a little closer to fourth than they were, but the last game wasn’t one of their best,” Kelly said. “They were a little disappointed and down because one game really messed them up at the end. I think they were OK with (the result) but would have liked to been a little higher up.”
The Owls faced some of the most storied high school bowling teams in the state at the meet.
“I would say that probably two-thirds of the teams had been to state in the past couple of years,” Kelly said. “They all had a little better idea of what to expect, I think that was a really big thing. It was top of the line competition. Several of those teams, several of those girls knew they had girls going to college for bowling.”
Earlier in the morning, sophomore Hannah Kaufman also finished with a fourth-place finish in the singles portion of the tournament.
Kaufman, the youngest Owls bowler to compete individually at state in school history, bowled consistently throughout the day.
Following a score of 551, Kaufman fell to Terre Haute South’s Kianna Sweat 167-177 in the quarterfinals of the stepladder.
“This is the second girl we had go to state individually,” Kelly said. “I think she was really concentrated. She didn’t have any spectacular games, but she picked up the spares that she needed to. I think she had a couple of good breaks, and that kind of paved the way.”
The Owls will graduate four seniors this season: Angela Pelfrey, Jess Hoevener, Kearstin Ruddick and Trista Phillips.
“All together, we have six girls we’re losing for one reason or another,” Kelly said. “When you lose that many at once it’s going to be a jolt to the program. We’ve got a plan, and I think we’ll be able to come back from it.”
In the off-season, the Owls bowling program aims to develop its middle school team, which starts its season in the upcoming week.
“We’ll have some kind of a program or league that we will work with over the summer with the (varsity) team,” Kelly said. “My next step is right away with the middle school program. They go up, and they bowl all the way until the end of May. We jump right into that, and hopefully we will have some eighth-grade girls that will make a little happier for next year, too.”
Bowling, which isn’t an IHSAA sanctioned sport, requires a handful of volunteers to put together a successful program.
“I’m really thankful for all the people that help,” Kelly said. “We’re an all volunteer group and all the bowlers that come out and help me coach. I’m mostly the organizer and like to work with the JV kids. The other more experienced bowlers work with the varsity. We would also like to give a shout-out to the boys and girls club who always give us their bleachers for our meets and supported us.”