Josh Stephens paused briefly when reading through a list of Kara Crowe’s accomplishments the last four years.
“There’s a lot of this,” the Alcoa athletics director cautioned a gathering in the lobby of the school’s gymnasium last Friday, “which is a big reason why we’re here today.”
Moments later, Crowe made history, her decision to sign with Pikeville College making the Alcoa senior the first known athlete from a Blount County high school to ink scholarship papers for bowling.
It took Stephens a few minutes to complete his list. While Crowe may be a pioneer from the scholarship angle, she’s no newbie. The state’s top-ranked bowler this past season doesn’t give up real easy, either.
Crowe learned the game from her father, William, and was ranked one of the state’s top amateurs long before high school. Only, when she got to Alcoa four years ago, the school didn’t field a team. Bowling had become a sanctioned TSSAA sport only four years prior in 2002, and only Heritage and William Blount had teams within the county.
For three years Crowe fought to join one of those teams through the TSSAA’s co-op program, which allows athletes to compete on teams at nearby schools when theirs doesn’t offer the sport.
“It was really hard,” Crowe said. “I fought every year to get on a team.”
Last fall, Heritage principal Earl McMahan, athletics director Chip Fuller and Stephens gave the go ahead for Crowe to join the Lady Mountaineers.
“Finally, after three years of fighting it,” Crowe said, “it worked.”
It was a perfect fit. Crowe and Lady Mountaineer aces Brenna and Brittney Endsley were longtime friends and regulars at nearby Crest Lanes. The Endsleys made a point of telling Heritage coach Mark Rowland about Crowe when he took the job two years ago.
“After you met with (Crowe) and talked with her,” Rowland said, “you knew that’s a kid you want to work with.”
Crowe was a known commodity by high school having won the Youth Pepsi Tournament, one of the state’s best for amateurs, as a sophomore. That same year, the trailblazing Lady Tornado flirted with a perfect game, rolling a 288 with strikes on her first 10 throws.
In 2010, Crowe won a statewide invitational for youth bowlers at Cumberland University, prompting renewed efforts by the Endsleys to have Crowe bowl for the Lady Mountaineers. When Alcoa and Heritage finally gave the OK this past season, it was absolute magic.
Endsley won the Division I individual championship at last month’s state tournament in Smyrna, becoming the first state champion at her school in any sport. Crowe, whose 188.2 scoring average led the state this past season, finished third. Together, they led the Lady Mountaineers to a Heritage record 16-1 season, reaching the state semifinals as a team.
“It turned out to be wonderful for us,” Stephens said. “It turned out be wonderful for Heritage.”