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Martinez: Hazel Dell Lanes steps up for high school bowling

High school sports

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published:
2 Photos
High school bowlers occupy every lane at Hazel Dell Lanes on Monday as the prep girls bowling season opened.
High school bowlers occupy every lane at Hazel Dell Lanes on Monday as the prep girls bowling season opened. (Tim Martinez/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Hazel Dell is now the happening place for high school bowling.

On Monday, the opening day of matches for the high school girls bowling season, Hazel Dell Lanes was packed with all 24 lanes in use with three different high school matches — Mark Morris vs. Ridgefield, Hudson’s Bay vs. Fort Vancouver, Battle Ground vs. Skyview.

And Columbia River was using the last four lanes for a practice.

“That was pretty wild, wasn’t it?” Fort Vancouver coach Julie Pagel said. “It was also great to see.”

For years, Allen’s Crosley Lanes was the hotbed for prep bowling, with all four Vancouver Public School teams using it for practices and matches. It was also the site for the 4A and 3A district tournaments every January.

But with Crosley Lanes facing closure with a pending sale to a developer, it was time for the prep teams to find a new home.

“We actually asked to move to Hazel Dell Lanes two seasons ago,” Skyview coach Eric Silvey said. “Crosley has been under the threat of being sold a couple of times over the past few years, so the owners really weren’t putting a lot into the maintenance. Here at Hazel Dell, they have a well-maintained facility. In our match (Monday), we didn’t have a mechanical issue on any of our lanes, which was kind of a regular thing at Crosley. So we were able to finish our match 20 minutes sooner than if we were at Crosley.”

Skyview remained at Crosley through last school year. But this summer, with Crosley’s sale moving more toward a reality, Vancouver Public Schools made the decision to move all of its teams to Hazel Dell.

Silvey said Hazel Dell Lanes has been very welcoming to the prep teams, seeing it as a way to promote bowling. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some give-and-take.

For one thing, Hazel Dell Lanes is smaller — 24 lanes compared to Crosley’s 42.

“At Crosley, we would get six lanes for practices, sometimes even eight,” Pagel said. “Here (at Hazel Dell), we get five, so it’s a bit of squeeze.”

And because of scheduling conflicts, Hazel Dell Lanes is not available to high school teams on Thursday.

“We tried to schedule some of our away matches for Thursday,” Pagel said. “But still, there are four Thursdays between the start of the season and the end of January when we won’t have a match or practice on Thursday.”

Pagel said she is planning some team events on those days, including one in which she will teach her players how to score a bowling match.

“A lot of them don’t know because the computer scores it for them,” Pagel said. “But it’s important to know how it is scored and to learn things like how your first ball after a spare is really important.”

Silvey said the 4A and 3A Greater St. Helens League teams schedule matches on Monday and Wednesday.

“So we’ll have a match Monday, practice Tuesday, match Wednesday, nothing on Thursday, and practice on Friday,” Silvey said. “It’s not ideal, but we can make it work. When we get closer to district and state, we’ll need to figure something out, because we’re going to want that Thursday practice.”

Both Pagel and Silvey are worried about what the loss of Crosley Lanes is going to mean to the bowling community as a whole.

“Bowling is really big here in Vancouver, so that’s a real loss,” Pagel said. “We kept hoping someone would buy Crosley and keep it operating. But that never happened.”

High school bowling is not new at Hazel Dell Lanes. Ridgefield has called Hazel Dell home since starting its high school bowling program four years ago. Camas and the Evergreen Public Schools teams bowled there last spring when Big Al’s was not available to them because of COVID restrictions.

Camas, Union, Evergreen, Heritage and Mountain View have returned to Big Al’s. Battle Ground and Prairie call Tiger Bowl in Battle Ground home.

And now with Crosley closing, Skyview, Fort, Bay and River have joined Ridgefield at Hazel Dell Lanes.

“Hazel Dell Lanes really stepped up, and the kids couldn’t be happier,” Silvey said. “They say the lanes here are better. I think a lane is a lane, but they tell me I’m crazy.”

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