The Washington High School Bowling team is out to make history. For the first time in program history, the team will travel to Indianapolis Saturday to participate in the state finals at Woodland Bowl.
It’s been a long road for the Hatchet bowlers to make it to the capital city. The team of five won the Blue Chip Conference as well as its sectional where the boys earned a bid to the regional where they declared the runner ups. Last weekend, the team earned its first state berth by finishing fifth at the southern semistate.
“There were 209 teams that started out in Indiana High School Bowling,” said first year Coach Rick Mattingly. “There were two semistate competitions held last weekend. In each semistate, 14 teams competed and we finished fifth. The top six teams advanced.”
While the team finished fifth, Mattingly stressed that the bowlers were only 10 pins behind the semistate runner ups, Evansville Reitz. “It was close,” said Mattingly. “When I looked at the scores from both competitions, only four teams had scores higher than ours.”
Similar to many of the other championship tournaments they’ve competed in, the state contest will take place on a synthetic floor unlike what the team practices on at Laurel Lanes. So that the team had adequate practice on the surface, Mattingly’s team headed to Vincennes University to practice Wednesday evening.
“The kids say it bowls smoother,” said Mattingly. “The VU lanes are similar to what they bowled on in Bloomington.”
The state championship format will allow team members Justice Latham, Jon Harner, Zack Scheid, Wes Richardson, and Chase Ragens each a chance to bowl one complete game before the Baker games start. In the Baker games, each team member bowls a frame.
To help prepare for the weekend, the team has spent additional hours practicing. “Last weekend, they had a lot of outside pins they missed,” said Mattingly. “So we’ve been working on knocking down just the outside ones and they’ve all bowled quite a few games.”
Typically, the team spend about three hours each week working on their game but since their recent successes, the hours have been at least doubled.
“This is a totally new experience for us,” said assistant coach Brandon Fitzpatrick. “Semistate was a big eye-opener for us. Every pin counts but if they keep it focused and pick up those spares, I think they’ll be just fine.”
Members of the team don’t seem to be rattled by their recent success and are looking forward to the experience. “The top two teams from the match competition will bowl in a roll-off match that’ll be taped and televised,” said Mattingly.
And for each of the team members, the opportunity to compete at state means something a little different.
Zach Scheid, a sophomore, said he is looking forward to being able to compete with the best competition in the state. “I’m proud to be part of the first WHS team to go to state,” said Scheid. “I’ve got a few jitters right now but after that first ball rolls, I’ll be good.”
For junior Jon Harner, it’s about the chance to win the championship. “I’m pretty sure if we bowl well, we could win. We just need to keep our head in the game.”
Wes Richardson, a junior, echoed Harner. “Whoever bowls best that day will win. The best team last weekend may not win this weekend. Bowling is 90 percent luck. The champion can be anyone on Saturday,” Richardson said.
Sophomore Justice Latham said he is looking for the chance for everyone on the team to bowl well.
Senior Chase Ragens, who competed in the individual portion of the semistate contest last weekend, will be competing in his last high school contest. “I hope we can win it all,” he said.
Ragens has also set a goal for himself — he wants to bowl above 230 each game and recently bowled a 290.
“We’ve had a five-person team all year,” Mattingly said. “A lot of coaches are standing behind the kids telling them where to move and what to do. I haven’t had to do a lot of coaching. I just remind them of the little things. They all know what to do and they all help each other out. They’re a well-rounded team and have been a great group to coach.”
The state team competition will begin at 2 p.m. Admission to the event is $7 for adults and $5 for students.