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First year program opens new doors for West Central students.

by Matt Levins/The Hawk Eye (courtesy of The Hawk Eye)

BIGGSVILLE - The fit seemed to be just perfect. Someone just needed to put the two pieces together.

West Central High School is located on Highway 34 East, just a few short miles west of Biggsville. A quarter mile to the west is Ray's Country Fun Lanes bowling center.

It took Sue Rothzen and a little imagination to put two and two together.

Rothzen's idea was simple - start a high school bowling team at West Central to open up doors to the future for the students.

With a lot of hard work behind the scenes, the cooperation of Ray's Country Fun Lanes proprietor John Ray and Rick Brockett, and with the backing of the West Central school board and administration, Rothzen's idea came to fruition this year.

West Central is one of nearly 200 schools in the state of Illinois to offer bowling as a winter sport for both boys and girls. The turnout for the first-year program has been tremendous - the Heat have 17 boys and eight girls on their team this year.

"This has been a dream of mine for quite a while," Rothzen said. "My son Brandon bowled for Western Illinois University for a number of years. I noticed there were a lot of college coaches at the meets and they were looking at high school programs. There are opportunities galore out there, especially for girls. West Central had no choices for winter sports other than basketball. So the kids either had to play basketball or do nothing in the winter. It was an ideal situation to get a bowling program started."

Rothzen approached the school board and administration with her idea. She was met with enthusiasm by a group of people willing to give their students opportunities to broaden their horizons and open doors to the future which otherwise would have remained closed.

"The program added a unique opportunity for our students," school board president Lonnie Brent said. "We saw it as an opportunity to involve our students in something they can enjoy after high school and college. It is our hope that the program will take off. So far it is working well for us."

"We are excited to be able to offer this opportunity for our students. We are thrilled with the numbers," said West Central superintendent Ralph Grimm. We are appreciative of all the work Sue has done. Her hard work and dedication has gotten us to this point. This is a great opportunity for the kids."

The program has also brought together students from the former Union and Southern high schools. It has allowed them to form a special bond that probably would not have been afforded them otherwise.

"We are so excited. We needed a new program at our school. There wasn't much for us to do otherwise," said Alicia Phillips, a member of the girls team. "We've really gelled a lot. We've had a lot of fun. We are really growing close together. It's given us an opportunity to get to know each other and become closer."

"I really want my future to be in bowling," said Rothzen's daughter Kayla. "We've had a lot of fun. We've got to meet a lot of people from other schools and become good friends with them. It's brought us closer together and we've gotten to know each other better."

The bowling program has also opened new doors for the school's foreign exchange students. Three foreign exchange students are on the team. Two of them were introduced to the sport at West Central.

"We have some bowling alleys where I am from, but I didn't know how to bowl properly," said Damon Ackland, foreign exchange student from New Zealand. "Sue and the other players have helped me out a lot. I thought I would give it a go and see what it was like. It's been lots of fun."

"I had never bowled before. It's not a very popular sport back home," said Claudio Lauchli, a foreign exchange student from Switzerland. "It's been a good experience."

Now that her dream has become a reality, Rothzen's next goal is to keep the program moving forward. And keep opening doors to the future.

"I see it continuing to grow," Rothzen said. "The support has been fantastic. Every home meet this place is full of parents. This is a sport anybody can do once they realize what the program is all about."