For Big Foot senior Meghan Dykstra, bowling has always been in her life. With parents and extended family all being fans of the sport, from when she was young, it was only a matter of time before she got into the sport.
Luckily, when she started bowling in a league at Clinton Lanes at age seven, she ended up enjoying it.
“I’ve been surrounded by bowlers since I was born. I was going to do it; I didn’t really have a choice. But I love doing it anyway,” Dykstra said.
Dykstra kept bowling as she grew older, and when she got to high school and heard friends at Clinton High School were trying out for their school’s bowling team, she knew she wanted to join Big Foot’s team.
The only problem: Big Foot did not have a bowling team.
She thought about trying to get a team started as a freshman, but she put off the daunting task until later. After doing the same in her sophomore year, the end of her junior year was nearing, and she realized her time to bowl at Big Foot was running out.
Around that same time, Dykstra earned an internship with the Geneva Lake West Chamber of Commerce. When she began sitting in on local municipal meetings and poring over financial documents, she learned more of the ins and outs of how she might be able to finally get her Big Foot bowling team started.
“I learned more in-depth how the school board works, and how to propose things, and so I wrote up a proposal,” Dykstra said.
After spending a couple months polishing her proposal, she reached out to Principal Mike Hinske and Superintendent Doug Parker to get the ball rolling. At the same time, Dykstra reached out to her A-P Government teacher Stacie Sheppard and asked if she would serve as a faculty adviser and coach.
“I’m not a big bowler, but I bowl with my daughter on a youth-adult league,” Sheppard said.
However, Sheppard was not the one who spearheaded the project by any stretch.
Referring to Dykstra, the teacher said: “She went to the school board and the administration and got the entire thing set up, basically, all on her own. She did the cost estimates and created a budget for the club; she was the one that went out and found the coaches. So that was all Megan Dykstra. She did every part of getting the club started.”
Now that the school was interested in the project, Dykstra needed to find peers to fill out the team. She knew that Konor Gerhardt and Jacob Curtis would be interested, because the three students all bowl together in Clinton. And she had suspicions that a couple of other people might as well.
What she did not expect was the explosion of interest when she held her first meeting.
“After it passed and we got the team going, we had, like, 40 people show up to one meeting. It was crazy. I didn’t even know who half the kids were,” Dykstra said.
While the final number that joined the team was lower than 40, it was still much higher than Dykstra and Sheppard dreamed of.
“We had 20 bowlers sign up for the team, and we had three different teams between the 20 of them. We had the boys varsity, girls varsity and then a boys JV team,” Sheppard said. “We were hoping to be able to get the six that was required for us to fulfill a team.”
With both a boys and a girls team, Big Foot’s participation was higher than many other schools in the area, which only have boys teams.
That ended up being a gift and a curse for the Chiefs. On one hand, the girls team’s record in wins and losses was not great, because they were facing off against boys teams. But on the other hand, with a lack of girls teams in the area, it allowed Big Foot’s girls to earn a spot at the state meet in Green Bay.
On March 1, the team traveled up to the Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley, where they competed among the state’s best bowlers in a jam-packed schedule. The Chiefs may not have won a state title, but they had their best scores of the season while having a fun experience anyway.
“We hadn’t bowled that good our entire season, and that was super eye-opening to us. We beat ourselves, and we were super proud of that. It was a really fun experience, and I think everybody had a great time doing it,” Dykstra said.
As one of the first schools in the area to have a girls bowling team, Big Foot could be the first in a wave, now that other girls have seen that the Chiefs have a team.
“I think that some of the other schools that didn’t have girls teams — but had girls that bowled on a boys team — might be able to get some more girls to come out in the coming years. At Clinton, they had girls bowling on the boys team, but didn’t have enough girls that came out. So maybe if there’s some competition it will draw out more of the girls at other schools,” Sheppard said.
With 18 of last year’s 20 bowlers being juniors or younger, the Chiefs team will have robust participation numbers next season, even if the new club’s popularity does not spread in the off-season.
However, the club will need to go on without the founder, Dykstra, who will graduate in May. Even after she is gone, her contribution to Big Foot will stay around, and maybe she will get a chance to come back someday.
“It’s super-heartwarming. I’m sad that I’m leaving and I didn’t start it sooner, but I’m really happy that I started it,” Dykstra said. “I could always come back and help Stacie coach.”