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On Jan. 8, four York County high schools will begin to compete in bowling as a club sport. They are Red Lion, Dallastown, Central York and Spring Grove. The season will run through the end of February.

"This is one of the biggest things to happen to York County bowling in a long time," said Mike Zelger, co-proprietor of Lion Bowl in Red Lion. "We had a strong response from the superintendents,  athletic directors and students. We are excited to start the season."

"Students are the future of bowling," said Andy Brenneman of Bowlers Supply, who helped organize the effort. "I'm glad to see our students get the opportunity to compete. Schools in Lancaster, Harrisburg and Reading already have strong PIAA bowling programs."

The York-Adams Interscholastic Club Bowling League schedule calls for each school to bowl the other three schools three times. Lion Bowl is the home center for Red Lion and Dallastown, while Colony Park Lanes North is the home center for Central and Spring Grove.

The York County Bowling Proprietors Association is supporting the high school teams through a series of fundraisers. There is no cost to the students or the schools to participate in the league.

After several unsuccessful attempts to establish bowling as a club sport in the county, the future looks bright. Zelger expects three or four more high schools to field bowling teams next season.

"Bowling is one of the fastest-growing high school sports in the country," he said. "It gives kids another opportunity to get involved. Bowling attracts many students who have never played a high school sport. It doesn't matter what your body type is, you can bowl and be successful."

The Kick Off Classic, a singles event open to all high school bowlers, was held last week at Lion Bowl and Colony Park Lanes North. A Baker-style tournament is scheduled for midway through the season.

"Many people don't realize that junior bowlers can earn lots of scholarship money by competing in bowling tournaments," Brenneman said. "Some high school students have earned full or partial bowling scholarships to colleges."

York Tech and Kennard-Dale already have bowling teams, but they compete in the Lancaster/Lebanon League as a PIAA sport. Zelger said the eventual goal is to have bowling as a PIAA sport in York County.

Reach Barry Sparks at sports@yorkdispatch.com.

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