By PHIL GULICK
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 14, 2001
A record 46 teams showed up, one player rolled a 299 game and a coach appeared dressed in a tuxedo.
These were the highlights as the Pinellas County High School League opened its 28th season at Seminole Lanes last week.
Fifteen boys, 10 girls and 21 mixed junior varsity squads -- about 280 players -- packed 50 lanes at the center, two more teams than last season. Fifteen schools are represented.
St. Petersburg High, led by Denny Payne and Cedric Roberts, won 20 of 21 points to grab the lead in the boys scratch chase. Boca Ciega's Chris Ellis and Billy Marsh put the Pirates in first in the handicap competition.
Gibbs is the defending boys scratch champion, and East Lake is the defending handicap title-holder. East Lake's Greg Kashmanian fired a 299-720 scratch, and Clearwater's Jacob Bilzing rolled a 289-679.
The new junior varsity competition saw Palm Harbor win 20 points for first place, with Clearwater second and Pinellas Park third.
The JV bowlers were introduced this season to offer more players to league competition and prevent schools from entering more than two varsity squads -- one boys, one girls. Home-schooled players also were allowed.
Pinellas Park recorded a 727 scratch series and won all 21 points to take the girls handicap lead. Kelly Fecke rolled a 608 series, moving Palm Harbor -- the defending scratch champion -- into second. The Seminole girls, the defending handicap and six-time league champions, and Palm Harbor tied for the top spot with 17-4 marks in the handicap competition.
"I did it on a dare," Seminole girls coach Dean Rosko said as he urged on his players dressed in a tuxedo.
"Everybody knows I often show up for matches straight from work wearing a coat and tie," he said. "I was challenged to follow the league's new dress code, and I did."
"I thought it would be a lot of fun," Lakewood senior Charlotte Betts said of her first prep competition.
"One of my friends urged me to come out, and I averaged 92 at the tryouts and even made the varsity. It was great!"
Pinellas Park junior Justin Sevier was a member of last year's Gibbs team No. 2, but he tried out for the Pats' squad after his family relocated.
"I averaged 161 during the six tryout games and missed the varsity by only three pins," Sevier said. "Now, I'm on the jayvees, but you can bet soon I'll be back on the varsity."
The league season runs 13 weeks, culminating in the state championships Dec. 8 at Seminole Lanes. The players compete every Thursday starting at 3:30 p.m. and, with so many teams, two centers are used each week.
A petition is circulating among Pinellas County principals, athletic directors and coaches directed at Florida High School Activities Association commissioner Robert W. Hughes.
The petition requests that varsity recognition be given to the county's boys and girls program, which isn't a varsity sport.
Several years ago, the FHSAA left such recognition to the discretion of county school administrators, and Pinellas County turned down the option.
The petition notes that high school bowling has prospered for more than 35 years with viable state tournaments. It also states that most leagues, Pinellas included, operate under FHSAA bylaws, rules and policies.
This should ease the transition to recognition and eventually total sanctioning of prep bowling.
Pinellas County's reason for not sanctioning was that the athletic slate is full.
MIRROR, MIRROR: Steve Hoskins, Tarpon Springs, may have tried to change his image during a stay in Tokyo for the annual Japan Cup last week.
According to PBA spokesperson Kim Bussman, Hoskins accidentally cut his right (bowling) forearm when a mirror broke.
The wound required 12-20 stitches, Bussman said. Hoskins continued to compete, finishing sixth.
Hoskins has won 10 titles and was preparing for the PBA's season opener, which began Thursday in Wichita, Kan.
ESPN will air the finals live Tuesday from 8-9:30 p.m. The winner earns $40,000.
BENEFIT SET: The Clearwater Traveling Turtles Club will stage a Kevin Collier benefit tournament Sept. 30 at AMF Clearwater Lanes starting at 1 p.m.
Collier recently underwent surgery for a brain tumor, and the benefit bowl will help pay his medical expenses.
AROUND THE LANES: Mark Cihal, Erick Truong and Mike Fick rolled 300 games at Tarpon Lanes. ... Bill Ferrie shot a 300 game at Rainbow Lanes. ... John Myers fired a 299-791 at Seminole Lanes. ... Andrea Traci, New Port Richey, won the lower division and Tampa's Jeffrey Mersch captured the lower title of the Loschetter Youth Scholarship Tournament at Countryside Lanes last weekend.
- Phil Gulick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.