UNION CITY – Mississinawa Valley bowling has had a lot of success over the past four years, and it all centers around family connections.
That’s never been more evident than this year when for the first time in school history Mississinawa Valley is sending two bowlers to the Ohio High School Athletic Association state tournament, both of whom are the children of the Blackhawk coaches.
“Bowling’s kind of been a family sport for years,” Mississinawa Valley girls bowling coach Mike Warren said. “A lot of people do it as a family just for recreation. It seems like a lot of your bowlers hand that down from generation to generation.”
Spencer Warren, the daughter of Mike Warren, and Zac Longfellow, the son of Mississinawa Valley boys bowling coach Alan Longfellow, are Mississinawa Valley’s two state qualifiers this year.
But the family connections run even deeper.
Spencer Warren also is the sister of Quincy Warren, who in 2014 became Mississinawa Valley’s first state-qualifying bowler.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for her,” Mike Warren said of Spencer Warren qualifying for state. “I know it’s kind of been a goal for her since her sister made it in 2014. There’s always been a little rivalry I think on the lanes between them. It’s been a friendly rivalry.”
The family connections don’t stop there, either. Last year Mississinawa Valley bowler Joseph Teeter won the OHSAA Division II state championship. He was coached by none other than his father, Joe Teeter.
“You can see how much the coaches’ kids are committed,” Alan Longfellow said. “I think in high school, any grade, it’s hard to find commitment to a sport.”
So in the past four years four Mississinawa Valley bowlers have quailed for state – all of them the children of MV coaches.
“I feel like bowling is just our little bond,” Spencer Warren said of her family.
In 2014 Quincy Warren finished ninth in the Division II girls state competition with a three-game series of 579, and she was named second team all-Ohio.
Now Spencer Warren, who watched her sister bowl at state, is hoping to replicate the success and earn all-Ohio recognition as well. Spencer Warren remembers the atmosphere, she said, and is feeling some pressure as her turn approaches.
“There was just a lot of people and a lot of good bowlers,” the Mississinawa Valley senior said. “It’s kind of intimidating.”
Her father hopes that she can follow Quincy Warren’s path and remain relaxed at the state tournament.
“Her sister, she was just thrilled to make it to state,” Mike Warren said. “She was the first one from Mississinawa so she had no real goals other than just to have fun and enjoy herself, and it worked out well for her because there wasn’t any pressure.”
Zac Longfellow used that formula at last week’s district tournament very well. He didn’t expect to qualify for state and simply was relishing in the opportunity to compete at districts.
“I was just going into districts looking to have fun, and then I made it to state,” he said. “I’m pretty happy, happy and surprised.”
Zac Longfellow plans to keep his relaxed attitude this week although in the back of his mind he’s still hoping to roll a 680 series and try to contend for a state championship.
“Just looking to bowl my best and have fun and take in that whole experience and try to get there next year to do even better,” he said.
Alan Longfellow credits the dedication of Mississinawa Valley’s state qualifiers to their success. They cherish the opportunity to practice, he said.
“A lot of commitment in the boy,” Alan Longfellow said of his son. “There’s no reason why he can’t do good down there on Saturday.”
Having his dad in attendance helps Zac Longfellow calm his nerves, he said.
“It’s real nice having my dad because he keeps me calm most of the time,” the Mississinawa Valley freshman said.
The success that Mississinawa Valley has had in bowling is rewarding, Mike Warren said, and he hopes it’s just the beginning.
“It’s very fulfilling. It makes all the hard work that they’ve put into it and that I’ve put into it feel like it’s worthwhile,” he said. “Hopefully this is just the start of many more for Mississinawa. In the last four years we’ve sent four players so hopefully it’s just kind of become habit forming.”
Spencer Warren will bowl at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl in Columbus while Zac Longfellow will compete at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.