Staff writer Jeff Huth says ... Bowling
I've yet to meet an adult who hasn't bowled at least once. And I'm guessing most kids have given it a whirl by the time they reach high school. It's a part of Americana.
Sadly, it's not a part of our area prep landscape. According to information on the IHSA's website, no school in our area offers a boys' or girls' bowling team.
The closest schools with teams are Big 12 Conference members Bloomington, Decatur Eisenhower and Decatur MacArthur. Each is represented on the IHSA's rundown of girls' squads.
Examine the list closer and you'll find that central Illinois is pretty much a prep bowling wasteland. The overwhelming bulk of schools offering the sport are in Chicagoland. It's also popular with schools in southern Illinois and St. Louis' Metro East area. The Rockford area has a decent-sized representation. And then there's a smaller pocket in the general vicinity of LaSalle-Peru.
According to IHSA records, the sport has steadily grown in popularity. The first IHSA state series for girls was in 1989. Since 1996 – with one exception – the number of schools with girls' teams has grown every year to a current total of 221. The first boys' state series dates to 2003. Those ranks have increased each year since, to a current total of 184 schools.
Why bowling? You don't need to be 6-foot-2 and a chiseled 190 pounds to be good at it. It offers an option for modestly athletic students. It's a lifetime activity, something you can continue to enjoy well after receiving a high school diploma. And I have to believe area bowling lanes would welcome the business and, more important, the opportunity to hook students on the sport for years to come.
Besides, it's cheaper than equestrian.