Katryn Comeau just might be THE success story of a young sport in Southwest Washington high school athletics.
Now in its sixth season as a sanctioned sport by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, girls bowling welcomes all levels. Just so happens, Comeau, a senior at Prairie, has been all levels during her high school career.
Comeau could not break 100 in her early days, when she joined the bowling team as a freshman just to have fun. It was too fun to stay bad at it, though. She caught the bowling bug and trained as hard in her sport as any committed athlete would in any other sport.
Last season, she finished second in the Class 3A/2A state tournament.
Now she is in the middle of her final high school season, but it will not be her last time on a bowling team. Comeau, the girl who was knocking down 70 pins per game in her first couple of weeks of competition, has earned college money from the sport. Next year, she plans to study culinary arts and bowl for Robert Morris University Illinois, located in the heart of downtown Chicago.
“It definitely isn’t what I expected,” Comeau said, recalling how she was forced to participate in a sport by her parents, Vicki and Paul. “I didn’t expect to go somewhere with it or have as much fun as I did.”
In five years, Southwest Washington has seen several standout performances. The most accomplished high school bowlers grew up with the game, with junior competitions, then joined the high school teams for a different kind of experience.
Comeau, though, is a product of the high school game, where the seed was planted.
“I had played maybe twice a year, not very often,” she said. “My parents told me I had to do a high school sport. An older friend of mine was on the bowling team and she said she had a blast. So I decided I would try bowling. Just kind of out of the blue. Turned out good.”
High school girls bowling is becoming more and more popular in Southwest Washington.
The Columbian’s All-Region bowler of the year last season, Makayla Douglas of Heritage, moved to Vancouver from Oregon just to compete in high school. The sport is not sanctioned by the high school’s governing body in that state. Douglas moved out of the area this school year, reportedly to be closer to another coach as she chases her dream of becoming a professional one day.
Two bowlers from Clark County — Ashli Mortensen of Evergreen in 2009 and Rachel Kreighbaum of Battle Ground in 2007 — have won state championships.
Brandee Lassiter, who graduated from Hudson’s Bay this past spring, is on a bowling scholarship at Campbellsville University in Kentucky.
Several teams in Clark County have dozens of players in their programs. This school year, Vancouver Public Schools is offering girls bowling to its middle school students for the first time.
“The competition is at an all-time high,” said Donn Bash, who has been Prairie’s coach since the program began in 2005 “Being a bowler and being around the game a long time, I knew there were a lot of scholarships. Most are back in the Midwest or the East Coast. I knew eventually there would be scholarships awarded to girls in this program and this region.”
Of course, no one expected Comeau to land one — not at first, anyway.
It only took a few days before she was hooked. Bowling begins in early November, and by the end of that first month of her freshman season, she was getting personal instruction from Ray Wright, known for more than four decades of working in the bowling business in Clark County.
By the end of the high school season, she joined leagues, signed up for tournaments. She kept pushing herself to get better.
Her average climbed to 140 prior to the start of her sophomore season with the Falcons, her first year on varsity. The number just kept getting higher, too.
“Between my sophomore and junior year, I got really serious about it,” said Comeau, who now sports a league average of 188. “I was doing tournaments. I was in four leagues. I was bowling every single day of the week.”
There were stretches when she was rolling 15, 16, 17 games a day.
Last season at state, she helped her team finish third — the first time a Clark County team earned a trophy at state — and she finished second in the individual competition. She had the lead after the fourth of six games and was right there until the end.
“It was so much fun,” she said, adding that the goal for this season is to return to state as a team and excel as an individual again.
This past summer, she visited Chicago and met with the RMUI coach, Dale Lehman. He watched her bowl then asked her to perform a series of drills. He offered her a maximum scholarship allowed by the NAIA school.
“My attitude was so workable, he said,” Comeau explained. “I did not expect that big of a scholarship or any scholarship at all. My mouth dropped when he said full bowling scholarship.”
It was a little hard to believe, more difficult when considering her beginnings in the sport.
Mom and Dad said go out for a sport.
Katryn Comeau picked bowling, and it changed her life.