JAY/WILTON — During Monday evenings in the winter, Meadow Lanes in Wilton hosts an enthusiastic group of young bowlers.

The Western Maine High School Bowling Club started three years ago after a group of parents were looking for ways to provide a competitive outlet for high schoolers interested in the activity.

“Myself and three other parents had kids that were bowling,” said Coach Ron Ridley. “We looked into it. They (the kids) wanted to do it.”

There are 15 students from Spruce Mountain High School, six students from Mt. Blue High School, and three Mt. Abram High School students that are participating on the team this winter. Several Spruce Mountain participants generously gave up some of their practice time to provide this reporter with their perspectives.

“I’ve done it since I was really young,” said Kendra Peart. “It’s a mental game; you can’t let yourself get down.”

“I’ve bowled all my life,” said Corey Ridley, Ron’s son.

Lucas Preble gave Corey and Ron Ridley credit for helping him become a better bowler.

“From him and his dad, I’ve learned how to bowl two-handed,” he said.

While Preble had played basketball, he grew weary of the sport and found that bowling was an ideal winter activity.

“To me, it’s great because it’s something you can do your whole life,” he said.

Ron agreed, and noted the different generations of bowlers bowling side by side at Meadow Lanes.

“It’s a lifelong sport,” he reflected. “You get people bowling here who are 90 years old. My wife and I run a youth league on Saturday for kids.”

As the numbers have grown, Spruce Mountain has formed its own team. The squad is split into varsity “A” and “B” teams, with the “B” team having younger, less experienced bowlers.

The league that the team competes in has a northern and southern division. Spruce Mountain competes against the likes of Lewiston, Lawrence, Messalonskee, Cony, Kents Hill, Casco Bay (comprised of southern Maine schools), and Waterville.

“It’s not recognized by the MPA (Maine Principal’s Association),” said Ron Ridley. “I wish they would recognize it.”

The team has meets every Thursday at 3:30 p.m. Parents transport the students to the meets. The students have done fundraising to pay for their competition costs, and are doing a bowl-a-thon to pay for their team t-shirts that they’re required to wear in meets, said Ron Ridley.

Meadow Lanes has graciously supported the team. During the season, the students are allowed to practice on their own for $1 per string.

“Meadow Lanes has been very generous,” said Ron Ridley.

Practices are held every Monday during the season, which runs for approximately the same length as the other winter sports seasons. There are optional practices on Tuesdays.

During the practices, the team divides its time between mechanics and strategy. To improve, “You have to hit your marks,” said Ron Ridley. “With older bowlers, you can teach them about different lane conditions.

“It’s not about getting a strike,” he added. “It’s about getting better and having fun.”

During meets, there are 19 games, with the team winning the most games winning the meet. And, it’s not just head to head matchups between individual bowlers that take place. “Baker” games with five bowlers on each team and each bowler bowling twice per game, are also held.

“It’s more individual than other sports, but you have to work together as a team,” said Ron Ridley.

His assistant coaches this season are John Archer and Tony White.

The team roster is as follows: Spruce Mountain High School: Corey Ridley (senior); Kendra Peart (senior); Lucas Preble (senior); Javonta Hill (senior); Mike Brown (senior); Emily Taylor (senior); Anthony Collora (junior); Denton Bilodeau (junior); Kurt Tibbetts (junior); Zach Nichols (junior); Sebastian Lombardi (sophomore); Alex White (sophomore); Tom Young (sophomore); Spencer Brennick (sophomore); Sam Moreau (sophomore); Tyler Tibbetts (freshman) Mt. Blue High School: Patty Brady (junior); Russell France (sophomore); Paul Hinkley (sophomore); Cameron Atherton (sophomore); Sean Neuschwanger (freshman) Mt. Abram High School: Jasmine Smith (junior); Austin Hinkley (sophomore); Austin Ladd (sophomore)

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