March 21, 2012 | 08:16 AMFor years, local youth have been bowling at Lake Geneva Lanes.
This year, finally, those in high school can call themselves Badgers, and their freshly-minted team qualified for state in its inaugural season.
On March 2 and 3 at the Super Bowl in Appleton, Badger took 30th of 37 teams in the state competition and featured two bowlers at the individual meet.
Badger head coach Tom Yanke, who has been involved with Lake Geneva Youth Bowling for 17 years, is thankful to have a Badger High School bowling team.
"After years of working with the administration, we finally got approval," he said. "It's an exciting thing for Badger High School. Not everyone can play football or baseball, but everyone can bowl."
In their first year, the boys and girls squads each had six bowlers. Coaches are all volunteers, and parents help transport the athletes to meets and keep stats.
Yanke works at Lake Geneva Lanes, which is the home court for the Badgers. They play in the nine-team Greater Janesville Area district which includes Janesville Parker, Janesville Craig, Beloit Turner, Beloit Memorial, Clinton, Milton, Delavan and Monroe.
The Badger boys finished the season 9-3 in a three-way tie for first with Parker and Craig. The top three teams from each district advance to state. Badger won its conference semifinal match to tie Parker and Craig.
Teams bowl in a Baker format, where each team member bowls only two frames per game. One bowler will bowl the first and sixth frames, then the next will bowl the second and seventh, etc.
Yanke said the boys team was talented but noted the season wouldn't have been possible without the help of volunteers.
"I've got good bowlers, and none of it would work without the volunteers," Yanke said. "Karen Klabunde helps me out. Terry Guske transported the kids to meets. Another parent was a scorekeeper. Bowling is finally being recognized as a sport instead of a recreational hobby."
Zach Belanus and John Guske each qualified for the March 2 individual state tournament. The top six bowlers from each district qualify for the tournament. John Guske advanced to the quarterfinals and finished 31st overall with a 210 average in six games. Belanus placed 44th thanks to a 213 average in three games.
"Both have been bowling for a long time," Yanke said. "Some people have a natural ability. Both bowl pro-style and have the proper lift and proper release."
At the team state meet, Yanke said his team, which included Tyler Horch, Al Crisman and Adam Wielondek, was a bit awe-struck by the loud atmosphere. In 15 games at state, the boys averaged a 192 as a team. Badger bowled one game per lane, then moved 16 lanes over for the next game.
"I was pretty impressed by the boys," Yanke said. "They were a little intimidated, but they settled in. There were 48 lanes and it was a stadium-style atmosphere. It was louder than a football game because it was indoors. But their focus was unbelievable, and they worked really well together."
A different concept
While the Professional Bowling Association tournaments on television deal with one bowler's score in a series, the strategy with high school bowling is all about team.
In the unique Baker format, which is common in collegiate bowling, more than one bowler accounts for the team score each game. For example, a bowler will bowl the first and fifth frames then switch frames at the start of the next game. In the regular season meets, the team who wins the best of seven games wins the match.
"It's an exciting format," Yanke said. "It's a good team atmosphere. It's not your regular bowling, and it deals with a whole different concept."
Fill percentage stats are kept, which combine a bowler's percentage of strikes with his or her percentage of spares. All five bowlers account for the team's total score per game.
Yanke said the team practices once a week during the season, which runs from November through February. He said most of the team members have been bowling through the city's youth program, some as young as 4 years old with bumper bowling. Yanke said kids can bowl in the youth league until the age of 19.
Yanke had to deal with some adversity this season. Both the boys and girls squads ended up with six athletes after several kids became academically ineligible. The girls started with 15, and the boys began with 10.
He hopes interest can pick up next year.
"Once the word gets out, there will be more interest," Yanke said. "It's an exciting program. I think it's going to do well. Bowling is something you can do with no age restrictions or physical limitations."