GORCHES: Lake Central adds to its bowling dynasty
February 10, 2014 10:46PM
Updated: February 11, 2014 2:05AM
Pop quiz: Northwest Indiana’s most successful high school athletic program — boys and girls combined — over the last 12 years will be competing at the state finals Saturday with a chance to add to a trophy case not located at the high school itself. Who is it?
The last part probably gives it away since there are several region schools that don’t recognize or even care about their bowling teams, all because some athletic directors and principals look through sanction-colored glasses instead of focusing on the interests of the kids.
The 15th Indiana High School Bowling state finals will take place Saturday at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis, and there will be five region squads representing three schools in the team event — four of the teams are making a return trip downstate after being there last year, and the fifth is trying to repeat the success of its 2005 state title.
Oh, back to that quiz question … the answer is Lake Central, which has its boys and girls teams in the finals again after coming so close to a clean sweep last season.
Highland’s boys and girls are also back in the finals, while the Portage boys return for the first time since winning the title nine years ago.
The LC boys won the title with a dramatic finish, while the LC girls lost to Boone Grove in the final frame. The Indians are what you might call a high school bowling factory with three girls state titles since 2003 and the boys are in their fourth straight state final. That’s a record for a local squad.
And both teams are well represented in the singles portion of the state tourney, too.
Kelly Belzeski and Jessica Sellers will try to bring home the region’s second straight girls individual state title (Merrillville’s Carly Larson won NWI’s first singles title last year), while Andy Schmied will be trying to carry over momentum from shooting his first career 300 game in last Saturday’s Fort Wayne Semistate.
“I was fired up — I was feeling it,” said Schmied, who is happier to be back as a team with a different group of guys. “I’m glad to be able to defend our title. We have a great mix, a great bunch of guys.”
Schmied’s dad, Gregg, has been the coach of the LC boys for several years and has seen lots of turnover on the roster, especially from last year’s champs. But good chemistry has made the transition seamless with the Indians peaking at the right time once again.
“The younger bowlers who were on the team last year have had a taste of success and they want to feel it again,” the elder Schmied said.
The LC girls had a more difficult trip back to the finals — not due to anything concrete, but more about the expectations after falling one mark short one year ago.
There was very little turnover to the girls roster with Belzeski, Sellers, Caroline Dienes, Samantha Watson and Laura LeVander back with a couple of additions.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Lake Central keeps producing state contenders. It is the largest school in Northwest Indiana and one of the top 10 in enrollment in the state.
What is surprising is that the school’s administration actually acknowledges the bowlers this year instead of treating them like outcasts.
The trophies won over the years are still not inside the school and the kids still can’t get bowling letters for their school jackets at the same place as other LC sports, but there is some progress. The principal and the assistant principals have congratulated some of the team members and one of the teachers actually showed up for a postseason meet.
It’s about time.
In recent years, the dance team, cheerleaders and debate team have gotten more recognition at the school on U.S. 41 than the bowlers, and it’s wrong.
It will take a lot more mending to make up for years of ignoring, and it would be nice to let the bowlers get letters at the same place as other athletes, but some progress is better than none.
If either team brings home another title this weekend, I hope they finally get proper recognition on Monday morning.