New high school bowling conference a strike in Rifle
Larry Stewart started bowling when he was around 10 years old. He took part in Saturday leagues, travel teams and eventually varsity bowling in Indiana.
When he relocated to the Rifle area in 2018, he was shocked to learn that there were no bowling options for local high schoolers. Now, on a late November night, with the sun well past set, he’s surrounded by about a dozen boys and girls at the Fireside Lanes bowling alley in Rifle as a coach and leader of the Colorado River Valley High School Bowling Conference.
“When I moved here I was like, ‘How is there not high school bowling?’” Stewart said. “Struggling with that, I did a lot of research this summer that there was high school bowling, just not in the Colorado River Valley.”
The new conference joins others dotting the front range and Grand Junction in the High School Bowling Foundation, gunning for the state championship crown in February.
The Colorado River Valley conference is based completely out of Fireside, practicing on Mondays and competing internally between its three teams on Wednesdays.
Stewart said the conference drew 20 bowlers in its inaugural season, enough to fill out four teams, but the conference opted for fewer in case some bowlers had to miss competitions. Four girls are participating, according to Stewart. The players, all from Rifle and Coal Ridge high schools plus one from Yampah, range from multi-sport athletes to kids simply looking for a way to spend some weeknights.
“What I like about bowling is you can put any personality, any type of men, women, it doesn’t matter, and they all have a common attraction in bowling,” Stewart said. “Some of these kids are, honestly, probably on the more popular end than others, but they all get along.”
One of the bowlers is Rifle senior Jason Webster, who also plays baseball. Webster, who said he helped start the youth league at Fireside, said there was a push for a high school team last year that was unsuccessful.
Now, Webster is one of the lead bowlers on the established team and a top recruiter for the conference.
“I just started going around once I found out and just started inviting everyone to come,” Webster said. “We had a lot more people show up than I thought would want to. … I never thought it would happen. I just didn’t think that we had enough kids.”
For the higher-level bowlers like Webster, the new league is opening doors. Some colleges do offer scholarships for bowling.
“These kids have opportunities through bowling,” Fireside Lanes owner John Langstaff said, who waived the cost of bowling for conference practices and competitions. “There’s college money and all kinds of things in bowling. So it’s great that it’s growing in this area.”
The conference began competition in November. Each bowler needs to participate in just four of the 10 competitions before February to qualify for state.
With a strong participation in the first season, the hope is for the conference to expand in years going forward and become a staple of the high school sports scene.
“I think realistically if we could double to five or maybe six teams, actually, that would be amazing,” Stewart said. “I think it’s doable.”
Further information about the conference is available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporter Rich Allen can be reached at 970-384-9131 or email@example.com.
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