TERRE HAUTE —
Kianna Sweatt, a sophomore at Terre Haute South Vigo with an impressive bowling average of about 180, didn’t disguise the look of disappointment on her face as she left one pin standing in the first half of an early frame Sunday afternoon.
Sweatt was one of about 300 kids participating in the Indiana United States Bowling Congress championships in Terre Haute over the weekend.
She was not having the best day so far, she explained, sitting down after easily picking up her spare. But, being just a sophomore in high school, Sweatt has plenty of state tournaments in her future, she said.
The Terre Haute Bowling Center on Springhill Drive and Vigo Bowl at 91⁄2 and Poplar streets were packed over the weekend with kids of all ages from across Indiana competing in the state USBC tournament. Terre Haute is one of about 10 Hoosier cities that rotate the honor of hosting the event each year.
This is Terre Haute’s turn, and Vigo Bowl and the Terre Haute Bowling Center will be busy with youthful competitors each weekend through May 4 – with the exception of Easter – for the annual tournament.
“These kids love it,” said Rich Sirola, an active volunteer and coach in Indiana bowling. Sirola is in Terre Haute as an event manager, but will be back as one of the coaches of a team from Brownsburg in April.
Each weekend a different slew of kids and teams are visiting the city through the rest of the tournament, filling hotels, ordering pizzas and enjoying pool parties, he said.
Even most of the kids from Brownsburg, just an hour east of Terre Haute, will be staying in hotel rooms, he said.
Corky Koch, a veteran bowler and a leader with the Indy U.S. Bowling Congress, is managing the tournament. Sitting in a large, black director’s-style chair holding a portable microphone for announcements, Koch keeps the tournament on schedule and operating like a well-oiled bowling lane.
“We had a 2-year-old in the first round,” Koch answers when asked the age range of kids taking part in the tournament. The oldest are about 19, he said.
Ten-year-old Noah Noble, who bowls with his teammates in Princeton, was taking part in the tournament this weekend. He, his sister, Liberti, and mom and dad, like many participants, are staying in a Terre haute hotel this weekend.
“Good,” answered a serious-looking Noah when asked how he’s bowling. His goal is to break 200, he said. So far, however, his best game was 175, but there were several games yet on tap Sunday.
“He’s been bowling since he was three,” said Jennifer Noble, Noah’s mom, standing next to Matt, her husband, who is a long-time avid bowler. Liberti, 14, took up the sport at age 4.
“I like to be with all the people from our lanes,” Liberti said, waving in the direction of her fellow Princeton bowlers, about 65 in all. As for the state tournaments, “they’re a lot of fun,” she said.
Her best game of the weekend so far: A 195 on Saturday, Liberti said.
The biggest youth team in the state is traditionally from Elkhart, Koch said. That team will likely bring more than 1,000 kids to Terre Haute later in the tournament.
Saturday and Sunday, kids were in Terre Haute from South Bend, Bloomington, Martinsville and many other Hoosier cities, said Tharon Geckeler, owner of Vigo Bowl. Geckeler has been involved in youth bowling since the 1970s, she said.
“Youth bowling is something that really gets parents involved,” Geckeler said, adding that the sport also provides thousands of scholarships.
The Terre Haute Bowling Center is hosting four-person team events for the tournament while Vigo Bowl is hosting singles and doubles competition.
There will be about 200 kids from Terre Haute participating in the tournament, said Phil Cooper, manager of the Terre Haute Bowling Center and a local youth bowling leader.
“It’s like a mini-vacation,” Cooper said, noting the positive boost to the local economy the tournament provides.
Kids, their families and coaches really enjoy getting away for the annual event, he said. “They are looking to have some fun.”
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or email@example.com.