Caledonia girls compete in first season of high school bowling

Members of Caledonia's Youth Bowling Team are shown above. They are in front, from left, Leah Keefe, Mickayla Traff and Miranda Knuston. In back, coach Brian Dunbar, Jena Johnson and Cassie Kirchner. Photo by Charlie Warner

By Charlie Warner
Argus News Editor

“I had a couple of girls in the Junior Bowling program, who were taking bowling pretty seriously. I mentioned to them that a high school girls traveling bowling league had started up and wondered if they’d be interested in it,” said Brian Dunbar, co-owner of Starlite Lanes in Caledonia, along with his wife Dawn.

“Jena (Johnson) and Mickayla (Traff) were quite interested and talked three of their friends into forming a team and we just recently completed our first season,” Dunbar continued.

The Caledonia team competed in a Minnesota State High School League-sanctioned conference this past winter, competing against teams from Wabasha-Kellogg, Fillmore Central/Mabel-Canton/Rushford/Peterson, Pine Island, Winona and Rochester.

The season for the six-team conference began in January and the final meet of the year was completed on March 24.

“The girls worked very hard and showed lots of improvement over the season,” Dunbar noted. “We started out slow. None of the girls had ever bowled in a league before. We started with averages in the 80s and by the end of the year, we were up in the 130s and 140s.

“Even though the season is over, the girls are still coming out to practice,” Dunbar said last Friday, as all five of his players were lacing up their shoes for another practice.

“They have been practicing three or four times a week. If they keep that up and continue to improve as they did this past winter, we will be able to run with anyone in our conference.”

While most of the rest of the teams in the conference were school-sanctioned, Caledonia’s was not. The Dunbars provided the alley time and also much of the transportation costs when the girls traveled to other communities to compete.

They hope that the youth bowling program in Caledonia will become a school-sanctioned sport. As Brian pointed out, it’s one of the few sports that is sanctioned by the MSHSL that a person can continue participating long after graduating from high school.

“We’d like to see if there are any students from Spring Grove or Houston who might like to become part of the program. And we’re also planning on starting up a co-ed team in the fall. The program is open for any boy or girl, seventh through 12th grade.

“We’ve had a great time working with the girls,” Brian said. “They call me ‘Grandpa,’ which doesn’t bother me.”

Brian stated that competitive bowling on both the high school and college levels has become very popular. There are even a number of major colleges and universities that offer scholarships for their bowling teams.

“Getting kids interested in bowling at an early age can certainly make a big difference for our business. And bowling is a great recreational sport,” he concluded.

You can contact Charlie Warner at [email protected]