Dream achieved — Columbian boys bowling team goes to state

If one was to look up the definition of culmination it would read as thus: the highest point of something, especially as attained after a long time. When the Columbian boys team arrived in Columbus for the state bowling tournament last weekend it was a culmination of sorts.

For the bowlers, it likely was the culmination of several months of practice, hard work and determination. It was polishing their skills, working together and a perseverance to succeed.

For me personally, it was much, much more.

When some spirited students and like-minded adults broached the possibility of adding bowling to the list of sports available at Columbian, they enlisted me to help the effort. As the bowling columnist for the A-T as well as a substitute teacher at T.C., they thought I could be of assistance. I was glad to support the cause. This, I reasoned, was going to be an easy sell.

Turns out, my reasoning was wrong. Very wrong.

The young people went to a school board meeting and met with failure. The board had made cuts to many extracurricular activities a few years before due to budget woes. No board member wants to deprive kids of opportunities, but they had no choice.

When the students at that time complained about the cuts, at least one board member made them a promise. No new activities would be added until the dropped ones could be reinstated. The prospective bowlers were told “sorry, but we must keep our word.”

I understood even if the would-be bowlers did not.

After requesting a meeting with the superintendent, I was ushered into a meeting room at the administration building. There I outlined the benefits of adding bowling as a sport which included two main arguments. First, I suggested, the cost of adding bowling would be low compared to most other sports. Secondly, bowling would likely attract students who were not your prototypical athlete. One did not have to run fast, throw hard or jump high to bowl. More students could be given a chance at the benefits of athletic participation.

The superintendent listened quietly and when I finished he agreed wholeheartedly. The problem he had with the proposal was not that he didn’t think bowling would be a good idea. He then pointed out to me that he had sat in that very room a few years back and told several staff members that their services would no longer be required.

Yes, the same budget cuts that cost students some extracurricular chances, cost some people their livelihoods. He could not, in good conscience, recommend to the board the addition of bowling when he had been forced to let go valuable employees no matter how little it would cost.

Again, I understood. And again, the prospective bowlers probably didn’t.

The die was cast. Until new administrators came in and new board members filled seats, bowling was going to have to wait. Eventually those things came to pass and Columbian began a bowling program that saw its beginning as a club sport.

Some four years ago bowling became a full-fledged sport and the dream of going to state was officially alive.

So when the boys team made it to state last weekend, I couldn’t help but think of all the people who made it possible. Coach Kory Walton alluded to it when Columbian garnered that elusive state berth. He said so many people needed to be thanked for the accomplishment. He knows how difficult it was to even get the sport started.

I’d like to think many of the following people had smiles on their faces upon hearing of the achievement. Tyson Shope from Heritage Lanes spent many hours with student-bowlers helping them with equipment, their game and anything else they needed.

Bowlers like Brandon Risser, Alex Wagner and Kris Wilson excelled on the lanes. They certainly piqued the interest of younger students. David Jones coached the Tornadoes for several years before heading to Muskingum College to coach the bowling team led by his son Will, another former Columbian kegler.

There are more, but you get the idea. The trip to Columbus last weekend was the culmination of a lot of work by a lot of people, all of whom are smiling today. I’m betting that includes the people who initially said no to bowling.

With the dream finally being achieved, I was not going to miss the excitement. I made my way to Wayne Webb’s Columbus Lanes, but proving to be a novice, I didn’t get there soon enough. There was no parking spot to be had at the facility, so I parked next to the school buses at a nearby church.

Upon entering the facility, I heard the buzz of anticipation that permeates the air at any state tournament. I also noticed the place was packed. All of the bleachers brought in for the event were filled as were most of the stepladders behind the bleachers. That left me standing trying to peer between spectators and the bowlers themselves to catch the action. The only saving grace was that the scoring monitors showed the bowlers efforts, though delayed and somewhat anticlimactic.

Owen Thomsic threw the very first ball (at least I didn’t hear another before his ball hit the lanes) of the tournament. Tommy Peer began his first game with a four-bagger and ended the same way for a solid 222 effort.

All Spencer George did was shoot a 659 series — ninth best on the day — to earn second team All-Ohio honors. Columbian finished 14th on the day as the competition proved stout. But no one can take away that incredible feeling associated with being in the state tournament.

So I would like to congratulate coach Kory Walton, assistant coach Casey Weidner and the bowlers: seniors Spencer George, Keygan Yonts and Davyd McCray, juniors Tommy Peer, Owen Thomsic and Cameron Koerper, as well as freshmen Zavier Sherman and Michael Ross.

Thanks to many who came before you and to your own efforts and determination you can now say you are the only Columbian bowling team to make it to state. Hopefully in the near future another T.C. bowling team will duplicate your feat and you will have to change a word in your story as you tell about your experience for years to come.

If that happens you will forever be known as the FIRST team to go to state and that’s just plain awesome!

Al Stephenson is a columnist for The Advertiser-Tribune.

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