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Popularity soars for prep bowling


Vandebilt Catholic's Gavin Theriot competes in the bi-regional round of the state tournament on Monday at Creole Lanes. (Photo by Benjamin Oliver Hicks/Staff)


Tote boards tallied scores, the crowd cheered, and high school bowlers tried to advance to the state championships in the bi-regional Louisiana High School Athletic Association bowling tournament on Monday at Creole Lanes in Houma.

Two boys teams and two girls teams will face off against the winners of the New Orleans-Baton Rouge district in the state finals April 12.

High school bowling is seeing an increase in popularity, especially for girls, due to the number of NCAA and NAIA schools who have added women's bowling teams to comply with Title IX requirements.

"If a girl has a 3.0 grade point average, and a 160 average bowling, she's got a good chance to get a scholarship," tournament director Rick Bourgeois said. "That's the combination schools are looking for."

Bourgeois has been involved with high school bowling in Louisiana since its inception in the early 2000s.

"We teamed up with Jerry Stovall and the Baton Rouge Sports Foundation," said Bourgeois, a former LSU bowler. "We were invited to make a presentation to the LHSAA. We ran a pilot program in Baton Rouge just to iron the kinks out, and went statewide for two years. Then there was a vote of the principals, and bowling became an LHSAA sport."

Morgan City assistant coach and regional director Leo Delaune has seen the rise of bowling firsthand.

"I was coach at Central Catholic eight years ago, and we were the only team in the district," Delaune said. "Houma didn't have a district at that time. We had to travel to Lafayette to bowl in their district. The second year, we picked up Berwick and Morgan City. And in our fourth year, we started working on the Houma district.

First-year Vandebilt coach Steve Theriot, who has been involved with youth bowling for four years, said he is seeing more and more kids come out for bowling.

"Every high school in Terrebonne Parish has a team, and we're hoping to pick up Central Lafourche next year." Theriot said. "We're seeing a lot of interest, especially with girls. A lot of girls are coming out to bowl."

While bowling is a new interest for some, for others it's been a lifetime endeavor, and perhaps longer.

Boys district MVP Tom Dzarnowski of Terrebonne said his first visit to a bowling alley actually predates his birth.

"The first time I was in a bowling alley, I was still inside my mother," said Dzarnowski, who recently bowled his first 700 series in the regionals.

Dzarnowski's mother Roxanne, who was cheering her son on, confirms the story.

"I've been bowling for 31 years," she said, "and I was bowling when I was pregnant."