By CRISTINA JANNEY
The Hays USD 489 school board approved the addition of bowling and unified bowling at Hays High School during its meeting Monday night.
The unified bowling season partners a student with an intellectual disability with a regular education student. That season is separate from the regular bowling season and will begin in the fall.
"It helps get rid of preconceptions," said Lance Krannawitter, HHS activities director, "and have students with non-intellectual disabilities build relationships with those who do and become more aware of what those groups of people go through and what their challenges are every day in life."
The Kansas State High School Athletics Association has sanctioned unified bowling and created its own championship.
The unified bowling athletes will likely participate in four tournaments.
Intellectually disabled athletes must meet all KSHSAA requirements for participation. However, intellectually disabled students can compete up to age 21 as long as they are still high school students.
The regular bowling season will be during the winter.
Krannawitter said he hopes the new sport will encourage more students to participate in activities.
According to KSHSAA, more than 70 percent of students who bowl are not involved in other school activities.
"It increases involvement," Krannawitter said. "Research has shown higher grades and test scores. It offers athletes a safe, clean environment but without having to do a contact sport or a high-skill intensive sport.
"It's a lifetime sport. Once they learn it, they can go as long as they want."
More students will be able to compete for varsity letters and for scholarships, Krannawitter said. He said he is estimating the sport will draw 40 to 60 students.
Kansas has 94 other bowling teams in the state. There are 29 schools in 5A. Hays is the only school in the WAC league that does not have bowling.
Adding bowling will allow HHS to collect points toward the WAC All Sports Champ Cup.
The Hays team would compete at Centennial Lanes for home meets.
HHS plans to hire two coaches for the team. Students will be responsible for their own equipment. They can use their own equipment or rent equipment from the hosting facility, Krannawitter said.
During home meets at Centennial Lanes, the business will provide concessions, officials and staff. It will keep the funds from admissions and concessions.
The students will have uniforms that they will be able to keep, similar to tennis and golf. The team will likely fundraise to pay for those uniforms.
The estimated annual cost for unified and regular season bowling will be $13,000.