OLATHE, Kan. -- Jubilation knows no gender at one metro high school.
Male and female athletes are celebrating on the bowling lanes together at Olathe East High School. For the first time in school history, the Hawks boys and girls teams are Sunflower League Champions, having beaten the league's other 12 teams at last week's conference finals. They're our latest FOX4 HyVee Team of the Week.
"The teams come together. For two months, it's a pretty doggone close family," Chuck Thibodeau, Olathe East coach for 11 years, said.
Thibodeau, who said the girls bowlers have worked tirelessly to equal the boys performance on the lanes, glowed with happiness when discussing the thrill of seeing bowlers rise from hobby sports players to high school level competitors. He said the youth leagues at bowling centers, such as Olathe Lanes East, have fed his program with quality athletes.
"Some of them learn a little technique. Then, we get a hold of them, and we simply try to hone those techniques. We take what they've got and try to make them better bowlers," Thibodeau said.
Some of those bowlers, including senior Sydney Miller, have turned strikes into scholarships. Miller said will attend college next year as a college athlete, and these formative years at Olathe East have helped her reach that goal. Miller, who owns a high school average score near 190, said she dreams of getting even better and joining the Ladies Pro Bowlers Association Tour someday.
"The he last three years, we've all gone to state, the boys and girls team," Miller said. "It takes a lot of work and a lot of mental strength. I've had to grow my mental game, for sure."
"Seeing everyone around me work. It's not that we just won, and seeing the girls team down at the same time. it's kinda nice to have everyone have lifted spirits," Trison Lundberg, an OEHS junior, said.
Bowling has been a big deal at Olathe East for years. The Hawk boys won the state title back in 2011, and the girls are on a roll too. If this year's bowling teams can place in the top three at this week's regionals, they'll bowl for Sunflower State gold again. The sweetest part, for these bowlers is rolling together as one strong squad.
The Hawks will chase KSHSAA regional championships on Tuesday. If they advance, they'll bowl again at the state championships in Wichita on March first.