While many people burrowed under blankets for more shut-eye, headed to church or bulked up on brunch, two Spokane-area high schools took home state championships Sunday.
They won’t get big parades or much public attention. Television viewers won’t get repeated promises of “film at 11.” The teams landed their trophies not in a gleaming big-ticket sports arena, but at a Spokane Valley bowling alley.
Still, Sunday morning was a special time for the boys’ bowling team from Central Valley High School and the Shadle Park girls’ team.
Between 500 and 600 people sardined themselves Sunday into the Sports Page Lanes on East Sprague to watch 38 teams compete in the final day of the Washington State High School Bowling Championships.
The sound of parents, relatives and friends clapping and cheering rolled out the bowling alley entrance and well into the big parking lot.
Behind the 40 bowling lanes, people stood four to six deep, yelling encouragement between the clatter of dropping pins and the drum-roll sound of balls heading for their duck-bottomed targets.
The thickest crowd sprouted behind the home team, the Central Valley boys, who were wrapping up their first match of the morning with a win behind the near-perfect bowling of Jerry Martin.
Martin, a short, crewcut senior with eyes that telegraph his analysis of each shot, took straight strikes into the 10th frame.
People stood on tables trying to get a peek as the teen kept mowing down pins. One guy even climbed onto a trash can.
They were looking to see something rare enough in pro bowling - the perfect game.
Martin missed it with a shot that curved too much. He settled for a tournament high of 287.
The crowd still whispered about his performance the rest of the morning.
“Jerry rolled a 287,” one man told a woman.
“No. Jerry? A 287?” Martin’s big numbers energized the crowd rooting for CV.
“They’ve got all the support of the hometown,” said Bob Neher, standing on a chair, craning his neck for a better view of his younger brother Rick, a CV junior.
During a break after the first match, CV Coach Dan Green herded his five team members to the far end of the alleys. Don’t get overconfident, he warned. There were still two more matches.
“When we came into the tourney, we came in with high expectations,” said Green. “After the first day, we were happy.”
Green had a right to be. His team led in total pins and had lost only one match.
Adreneline glands kicked into overdrive as CV took on Edmonds Woodway High School, a team that still had a title shot.
Hard-slap high-fives echoed from the area near the scorer’s table. No one sat down.
Team members clustered, just a couple of feet behind the lanes, ready to offer a yell of support.
From behind his players, Coach Green blared encouragement, clapped or leaned closer to offer advice.
The CV bowlers didn’t need it, trouncing Edmonds Woodway.
“It’s almost there,” a grinning Bob Neher said, a camera clutched in his hand. “They’re doing great.”
Spokane’s Patti Dudley, a bowling tournament official, couldn’t help but smile as the CV team waited for the last match, another run at Edmonds Woodway. “I know them all,” she said, nodding at the green-shirted cluster of CV boys. “This is their home alley.”
The finals offered something of a surprise.
Of the eight teams in the running, four were East Side teams: Shadle Park girls, Mead boys, Moses Lake girls and the CV boys.
A former high school bowler himself, CV’s Green said he hoped his team’s effort over the weekend earned some respect for the East Side schools.
In the Seattle area, he said, schools “totally endorse” bowling with many offering it as a letter sport. Here, he said, it remains at club level.
“It’s a big advantage,” he added. “Seattle gets so much publicity.” In fact, this year’s championship was being held outside the Seattle area for only the second time in 33 years.
Moments before winning the final match, members of the three Spokane-area teams huddled and let up a big cheer for Spokane.
Martin was not as torrid in the final match, but his teammates came up with strikes when needed. The knot pulled tighter around the CV bowlers as the last bowler, Corey Thomas, stepped onto the lane, took his run and released the ball.
His teammates - cheering, jumping, hugging and flashing those high-fives again - swarmed him before the pins fell.
It was a strike, in case anyone cared.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color photos
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