Girls bowling: Pilcher signs with William Penn

·4 min read

Jan. 28—OTTUMWA — It wasn't even a given that Olivia Pilcher would be able to bowl for the Ottumwa Bulldogs four years ago.

The will and the skill were certainly there for Pilcher to fit right in the perennial state powerhouse. The potential jeopardy of a sharing agreement that allowed students from other schools, such as the soon-to-be Cardinal freshman, to participate on OHS athletic teams made left Pilcher's potential bowling future very much in question.

"We were lucky enough that the Ottumwa school board made the decision to allow us to continue with the sharing agreement. It had been cut off right before what would have been her first year that she was trying to come in from Cardinal," Ottumwa head girls bowling coach Doug Techel said of Pilcher. "Without that decision, I don't know if she would have this opportunity to continue her education through a sport she loves. The school board helped make that dream come true."

That opportunity was made official on Friday at Champion Bowl, where Pilcher has helped leave a mark on the Ottumwa High School bowling program as part of back-to-back state championships seasons over the past two years. Right in front of the wall that lists the state tournament appearances and championships won by the Bulldogs, Pilcher signed her letter of intent to bowl at William Penn University becoming the OHS program's latest product to sign with the Statesmen.

"It feels really good to see all the work I've put in with this program is paying off," Pilcher said. "Ever since I was little, being around the program for so long and seeing all the older girls move on to follow their dreams with bowling, it pushed me harder to achieve my own dream."

Pilcher is one of the many bowlers that grew up developing their skills from a young age at Champion Bowl, posting some of the top individual scores in the Champion Youth league almost a decade earlier. As a sophomore, Pilcher produced a strong 190 second game at state as part of a 359 two-game series that helped put Ottumwa in position to win the program's sixth IGHSAU state championship with a total team effort needed to rally in the baker games for a 106-pin win over Cedar Rapids Jefferson.

As a junior, Pilcher earned her first all-state medal finishing third individually at last year's Class 3A girls state bowling tournament with a 235 opening game and a 439 series total. Besides the medal, Pilcher was able to hoist a state team championship trophy for the second straight year as Ottumwa again surged past Jefferson in the baker rounds to bring home the program's seventh sanctioned state title and 10th overall championship last year.

The medals, the trophy and the opportunity to bowl in college all have one thing in common. All were attained through a lot of hard work in by Pilcher to make herself a better bowler.

"There's a lot of work and lot of tears that have been put into this," Pilcher said. "No one really knows hard bowling is until they try to be successful."

That hard work, according to Techel, is what should help Pilcher make a successful transition from high school to college bowling.

"She's always had the desire to learn different things. She's able to throw the ball a couple of different ways, which is always good," Techel said. "There's a lot of work ahead. She'll have to develop her strength. She'll be bowling on sport pattern (lanes). In college, you're trying to find five bowlers that can all throw in the same spot to wear a path into the pocket. That might not be in the first or second arrow. There might be a little bit of a swing. That's what she'll have to learn and get better at.

"When you get to college, you're not the outsider coming in from Cardinal. There's people from all over that are coming in to compete at William Penn, so you fit in with everybody. With everything we've competed in as a program and what we still have left to compete in this season will definitely prepare Olivia for what she'll see as a college bowler."

— Scott Jackson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.