Back in the days when our girls' gym class would troop down the State Street a couple of blocks to the Plaza Alleys (above the Plaza Tavern on Henry Street) to go bowling, it never occured to me that bowling might become an official WIAA (Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletics Association) sport. After all, how many schools had a bowling alley right in their neighborhood?
But times have changed. Yesterday, Dennis Semrau reported in The Capital Times on the efforts of some Madison high school students to make bowling a WIAA sponsored sport, joining 18 other states that already have interscholastic bowling teams for boys and girls. The students have been unsuccessful thus far. Already facing budget cuts that may force the elimination of extracurricular activities, school officials aren't eager to consider a new sport.
Semrau quotes WIAA executive director Doug Chickering's challenge to the students: "As a staff, as a board, we're ready to begin that kind of sponsorship if the schools ask for it. Bowling is in your hands."
But wait! There's an interesting coda to this story -- a Central connection. While searching for some links, I discovered that, in 1930, history was made in the Plaza bowling alley. On February 12, 1930 Jennie Hoverson Kelleher became the first women to bowl 300 in sanctioned competition. According to a 2002 Doug Moe column about this historic first, Kelleher's daughter, Beverly Kelleher Fortune, graduated from Madison Central High School in 1951. Moe's column may have been prompted by a 2002 Wisconsin Public Television "Wisconsin Stories" episode titled "Let's Go Bowl!" which featured a segment about Kelleher's accomplishment. You can watch that segment on your computer if you have RealPlayer (which can be downloaded from the WPT site).
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