Centennial High School/Concordia Academy is the new Minnesota prep bowling champion after an intense eight hours of competition at this month's state tournament in Alexandria.

Although many of the games were close, in the end, Centennial/Concordia was undefeated, beating 23 other teams with a calm and collected approach.

Coach Theresa Schroeder said the team seemed unfazed by the stiff competition. Under similar circumstances, "I've seen teams put themselves under too much stress and miss easy scores," she said.

Bowling may not be a contact sport (don't tell the pins), but after bowlers roll a heavy ball for hours, "It's very tiring and taxing. It's a true sport," Schroeder said.

It's also a team sport, with the five players on each squad accounting for two frames of scoring each.

And Centennial/Concordia works together as a team, Schroeder said. "Not one single player on here feels that they're the best," she said. "They truly have melded together."

Ryan Dion, a senior on the squad who grew up playing in local junior leagues, said part of the fun is the technical challenge of "reading the lane."

At the state tournament, he said, it took a while to get used to the lanes, which vary depending on how much oil is coating the surface.

"You have to throw it just right to hit the mark and drive it through the pins," he said.

To deal with the heavily oiled lanes at the Garden City lanes in Alexandria, he chose a 15-pound blue-and-green-swirled ball that has the name, "Too fast."

"I like that I can get it to hook in any oil conditions," he said. "It's turned out to be a really good ball."

Don't sweat the bad frames

The tournament got tiring at times, and to deal with it, Dion said he tried to keep moving and stay loose. "You have to focus on having fun and hanging out with your friends."

Teammate Andrew Perrine, a junior, said, "It's all about the mentality, not letting a bad frame get into your head."

The overall victory didn't hit the team until well after the games wrapped up. "It was one of the greatest feelings I've had in high school. It was awesome," Perrine said.

Prep bowling in Minnesota

Unlike other sports under the jurisdiction of the Minnesota State High School League, the bowling program is run by the Bowling Proprietors Association of Minnesota. (Adapted bowling is under MSHSL jurisdiction.) There are 134 varsity teams and 110 junior varsity teams, along with a separate high school girls league that started last year.

Nearly 70 high schools offer the chance to letter in the sport. Others, like Centennial, consider it more of an extracurricular club.

Josh Hodney of the Bowling Proprietors Association was among those on hand to witness Centennial/Concordia's victory: "They always played just well enough to beat their opponent. I've never seen a state champion like that before," he said.

Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer.