It's that time of the year - the snow is starting to stick to the ground, the smell of roast turkey is in the air. And it's time to start the high school bowling season.
Three Marquette County programs will field both boys and girls teams this season, and in the area, L'Anse is expected to field teams, too.
Tryouts were held about two weeks ago at area schools for competition in the Upper Peninsula High School Bowling Conference that begins in Iron Mountain on Dec. 3.
Above, Marquette Senior High School sophomore Hannah Crampton delivers the ball at Superior Lanes during bowling practice on Thursday afternoon. (Journal photo by Steve Brownlee)
Teams travel to different centers each Saturday with Superior Lanes in Marquette hosting the next meet on Dec. 10, tentatively scheduled for 10 a.m. with a possible second shift going around 1 p.m.
With time off for the Christmas holidays, the regular season runs through the end of January, with U.P. team and singles tournaments in February.
The Michigan High School Athletic Association generally runs its regionals and state finals at the end of February and beginning of March, again with competition in both team and singles.
Area bowlers, most recently from the Ishpeming-Negaunee co-op program, have had good success in state tournaments. And the Iron Mountain boys won a state Division 3 team title just a few years ago.
Coach Steve Windahl of Ishpeming-Negaunee says he has eight boys and up to 10 girls out, so one boys and one girls team will compete. Windahl reports that all eight of his boys were on last year's team, including his sons Jordan and Tyler, while four on the girls team are returning.
I got a report from Country Lanes general manager Clay Sandberg that Westwood looks like it will have enough bowlers for full boys and girls teams this season. Barry Rae coaches those teams and the Patriots join the Hematites-Miners practicing at the Ishpeming center several afternoons a week.
Marquette head coach Hope Virch reports there will be two Redmen boys teams and one Redette girls team in the UPBC this year, joining Escanaba and Iron Mountain as schools that will field multiple boys and/or girls teams for 2011-12.
Virch has 12 boys and five girls out and a total of eight returnees from last year.
She said the conference will also include teams from Gladstone and Norway.
We can feel rightly proud of the U.P. conference, which pioneered high school bowling in Michigan back in the mid-1990s. Areas in the Lower Peninsula started programs a year after the U.P. got going, with the MHSAA sanctioning bowling as a high school sport just a few years after that.
These teams have generally fostered a wider participation in high school sports, with one of its neat features being that teams don't cut anybody who tries out.
Of course, the bowlers still have to compete for the chance to participate in meets, but as we bowlers know, there's no special advantage in bowling for being extra big, strong or tall. Learn the technique that works best for you, and you can go a long way in this sport.
Now to step off my soapbox, let's recognize this week's Mining Journal Bowlers of the Week.
Jeremy Forbes was definitely deserving for the men, as this 135-average bowler nearly hit 600 with a 598 in the Wednesday Trio at Country Lanes on games of 250, 168 and 180. His first game alone was 115 pins over average.
Next came Rick Garrow in the Friday 800 Mixed at Superior Lanes at plus-161. The 200-average Garrow bombed 761 on games of 247, 278 and 236 in just his fourth week this season.
Denise Gurnack claimed the women's prize with a plus-98 effort in the Wednesday Industrial at Superior.
The 162-average Gurnack hit 584 on games of 160, 178 and 246.
Close behind was Darcy Burton in the Tuesday Night Mixed at Superior with plus-95 as the 128-average bowler hit 479, including a 178 high game.
I'll be taking next week off while I visit family downstate for Thanksgiving, but I'll get in two weeks worth of BOWs when I get back on Dec. 6.