While bowling still may be years from sanctioning by the North Dakota High School Activities Association, it seems to be gaining popularity, at least in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
At a recent match last Saturday at Stars and Strikes in West Fargo, the Packers hosted several area teams, and saw quite the turnout.
"The place was packed," West Fargo coach Paul Hirchert said. "The parents all follow this sport pretty well, and they support their kids. I'm very impressed."
In only its fourth year, the West Fargo bowling team has rolled through the ranks and now is considered one of the top teams in the state.
"We're doing really well," Hirchert said. "Us and Fargo South are basically the powerhouses this year."
West Fargo will be finishing the season at the state tournament on Nov. 20, at Sunset Lanes in Moorhead, Hirchert said. After that, it's all over for another year.
Because bowling isn't sanctioned by either West Fargo High School nor the NDHSAA, graduating seniors cannot letter in the sport. Instead, they'll have to leave merely with memories.
Sanctioning is "still in limbo," said Nadine Swee, the bowling coach for Fargo North and the Executive Director for the North Dakota Bowling Proprietors Association. "When we pushed (for sanctioning) before, we got a lot of push back. We're at the point now where we can use the (school) name, which is good, but I want some more success before we try again."
Vicki Clark, whose son, Matt, bowls for West Fargo, thinks there's plenty of support to start sanctioning bowling sooner than later.
"It doesn't really matter if (the school district) gives any money," she said. "The parents are willing to pay.
"If the activities program doesn't want to pay, then don't. Just sanction it so the kids have something to take home."
Right now, students wanting to participate with a bowling team must pay $75 dollars for the season, a steal according to Swee.
"They basically get all the practice for free and the (bowling alleys) donate the time and matches. For each kid to only pay that is a really good deal," she said.
Swee said that Williston is the only high school in the state that has sanctioned bowling, and it's working out for them. But for the sport to go state-wide, there still are some hurdles to maneuver.
Since most high schools do not have in-house bowling alleys, teams are forced to use local establishments. Many bowling alleys serve alcohol, a red flag according to the NDHSAA.
But Swee said that problem isn't as prevalent anymore.
"With bars being so closed off even with the smoking, it's almost a non issue," she said.
If trends continue, however, bowling could see some growth during the next few years.
"In the industry, bowling is getting popular in pop culture," Swee said. "You see it more and more, so we're hoping it will start to catch on."
Whatever the case, parents and students alike would like to see some recognition for their efforts on the lanes. If nothing else, sportsmanship alone proves the positive aspects of the sport.
"It's fun because all of these parents from the other schools get along well and cheer for the other teams," Vicki Clark said. "It's amazing. You see the other (sports) teams and they're so competitive...and these are too, but they cheer each other on.
"It's great to watch."