It’s coming down to the final frames, so to speak, and the Dallas High girls bowling team could use a strike and a spare. A strike of financial support and some spare cash so the girls can go to the national tournament.
The US High School Bowling National Championship is June 18-20 at Louisville, Kentucky. Taking five or more girl bowlers there, along with four coaches and a few other adults, figures to cost the Dallas team about $20,000.
The tournament has been around since 2016. Only one other team from Oregon has been able to make it to nationals after qualifying, which the Dallas girls did by finishing second in the state in late February.
“I’m really proud of them,” Starlite Lanes proprietor Darrell Cooper said of the Dallas girls during a fundraiser tournament/raffle held Sunday at the bowling alley. “I don’t want them to miss this experience. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Although bowling is not sanctioned by the Oregon School Activities Association, hundreds of high school bowlers compete annually, typically starting in October.
Six people from one of Dallas’ district rivals, Sprague High, were among those attending Sunday’s fundraiser.
“We love to help out anybody we can,” said Sprague boys coach Tim Berkey, who is also the director of the high school district that includes Salem schools, Dallas, Albany and McMinnville. “It’s Dallas’ first time going to nationals. We’ve got to help them get there.”
The Dallas boys team was good last season, too. The boys finished second to Sprague at the district tournament, then placed 14th out of 21 teams at state.
The Dallas girls won their district tournament and lost at state to Centennial by a mere six points — in a two-frame roll-off.
Dallas team members don’t play much in the way of other sports, but bowling has struck a chord with them.
“I just enjoy watching the pins go down,” said Kaylee Ryan, a Dallas High junior. “I like hitting things with other things. It’s kind of funny to watch.”
In three years, Ryan’s high score has climbed from 100 to 220, and now her brother, eighth-grader Sam Bingham, is on the team and improving as well.
“I started in September and originally hated bowling,” Bingham said. “But I figured I was going to be around it because of my sister. And now here I am, and I have plenty of fun doing it.”
It’s challenging, he added.
“The challenging part is trying to get perfection and then continuing that perfection,” Bingham said. “Bowling is a game about strategy where you have to throw the same thing over and over again, but it’s hard to do that.”
Bingham and Dallas sophomore Wyatt Connolly helped at the fundraiser. Connolly, like Bingham, wasn’t a bowler until September, when he joined a league at Starlite. A couple months later, both were on the high school team, and Connolly now has a high game of 191.
Girls team captains Lydia Phillips and Katrina Dimbat have struck up a friendship and found a common love since taking up the sport.
Phillips will be a senior at Dallas in the fall; Dimbat will be a junior.
Bowling offers them the potential of college scholarships, and both want to continue on a team after high school.
“Hopefully we will compete against each other,” Phillips said.
The girls hope that with the help of some private donations, they can make it to the national tournament this month.
“I really want to go, not just for the bowling but for the social aspect and to see Kentucky, and especially because we’ll grow as a team,” Phillips said.
“I really hope we go, because we have been practicing for a long time, ever since state,” Dimbat said.
Both girls often score around 160, though both have been in the 200s, and Dimbat once rolled a 248.
Bowling has helped bring her balance and new adventures. Dimbat is a self-described “very introverted” writer type who wants to try living in New York and be an author on the subject of “fantasy and different worlds.”
Both girls noted that bowling is as challenging mentally as physically.
“Mentally, I get discouraged by myself really fast, but my aunt (Tracey Kuikahi) and the people around me pull me up,” Dimbat said. “The friends and family watching me motivate me to do better.”
Cooper, who took over Starlite Lanes five years ago, grew up playing every major sport as a kid in Eugene, and boxed for 12 years. He said bowling is “on its way back” in popularity and provides many benefits for young people.
“It gets the kids off the couches,” he said. “They enjoy it. They have fun. They make friends. And then their competitive nature comes out.”
To contribute to the Dallas girls’ goal of getting to the national tournament, contact coach Ray Rogers at 503-851-1612 or at email@example.com.