One of the top bowling teams in the nation doesn’t have a center in its own county.
Seymour High School’s boys bowling team cleared every hurdle in its way during the 2018-19 season, and just recently wrapped up a historic run a month after the final bell of the school year.
The Owls competed in the U.S. High School Bowling National Championship for the first time in program history, at Expo Bowl in Indianapolis, June 22-24.
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The three-day competition had both team and singles events, and featured 48 boys teams and 348 boys bowlers. Bowlers representing 21 states, coming from as far away as Hawaii and Alaska, made the trip to the Hoosier state. Fourteen of the teams in the field were reigning state champions.
The Owls qualified for the event by placing 10th at the Indiana High School State Bowling Championship back in February at Championship Lanes in Anderson.
“Around mid-May I got an email from people that run the (national) tournament, and because of our finish at state, we were eligible to be a part of this,” Owls head coach Shannon Kelly said. “Since it was in Indianapolis, we had to do it. We reached out to the school and they approved it for us. We practiced like crazy the past month to get ready for it.”
The team portion of the nationals was held June 22 while the singles “survivor” rounds went June 23-24.
The format of the events consisted of a qualifying round, leading into the “survivor” elimination rounds. The “survivor” elimination format was designed to provide maximum opportunity for more bowlers to advance further during each day’s competition.
In the team competition, the Owls finished 41st overall with a score of 3,161 pins. Indiana state champs Ben Davis were 15th and while fellow Hoosiers Wapahani placed eighth. Smyrna (Tennessee) defeated Centerville (Ohio) 635-593 in the championship match for the title.
“We shared a lane, during the team event, with a team from Las Vegas,” coach Kelly said. “They were the Nevada State Champions, and one of their boys was an individual champ. In the singles event, we bowled with a team from Jonesboro, Arkansas.”
Going into the event, Andre Sides, a recent SHS graduate, had his goal set.
“It was really interesting, we were able to make new friends from other states. The goal was to have fun, and that’s what we did,” Sides said. “If we bowled a bad frame, we just went into the next one and tried to do better. We tried to stay calm the best as we could. We placed well….not last.”
In the singles, Trace Cooper-Benson was 91st to lead the Owls. Cooper-Benson survived the first round of cuts, making the top-130 of 346.
The Owls’ Trevor Lawson was 203rd, Sides finished 258th, and Luke Lanam was 298th. Kenny Kelly and Colton Hayes, who both bowled in the team event, did not bowl singles.
“They had teams from over 4,000 miles away from Hawaii and Alaska,” Lanam said. “It was really cool to be able to bowl right next to them. It was crazy how good some of those people were. It was a really good experience.”
Kelly said the tournament wasn’t anything like he’d experienced before.
“It was exciting with all the people around the country,” he said. “I’ve never bowled in an environment like that before.”
Kelly said this year’s team was the tightest he has seen in 10 years of coaching.
“We had the best chemistry than maybe any other team we’ve had so far,” coach Kelly said. “They have known each other for so long, and have bowled together for about 10 years. It’s cool to be able to go that far with your buddies.”
Owls assistant coach Ed Sides said that the tournament had a fun environment.
“Everyone was having a good time and relaxed, but with all of the families and equipment there it felt compressed,” he said. “There were families flying in for this, so the atmosphere was really good. The kid were laughing and having fun. It was a really positive experience, and it was great to see so many bowlers in one place. The sport is not dying, it’s very well alive.”
Coach Sides said that a handful of teams not represented at nationals were not allowed to travel for the tournament due to school policies regarding traveling with a team outside of the state outside of the school year.
This past season, the Owls’ boys won the program’s first sectional trophy by beating Columbus in a roll-off 420-307 at Columbus Bowling Center. At the regional at Rose City Bowl in New Castle, the Owls took the final semistate qualifying spot by placing fourth.
In the team’s first semistate competition, the Owls claimed a wildcard spot with a score of 2,119 at Bowl 40 Lanes in Richmond.
SHS then went to state for the first time.
The national tournament, started up in 2016, was put on by the U.S. High School Bowling Foundation.
This past winter, the Owls’ home was at Scottsburg Bowling Lanes. The Owls haven’t had a bowling center in their hometown since Kingpins Bowl closed in July 2016.
The Owls practiced one to two times per week during the season while many bigger programs had daily access.
Kelly said that he’s proud of the kids accomplishments this season despite the limited resources.
“The main goal was to just go in and have fun. Especially for the younger boys on our team,” coach Kelly said. “They were in an atmosphere where some of the kids were bringing up to 12 balls with them. The level these kids were able to bowl at was impressive.”
Next year’s tournament will be held in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Owls intend to qualify for that tournament.