In Fairport, Rich Lanes and the high school’s bowling program a perfect match

 

Members of the Fairport boys and girls bowling teams at Rich Lanes.

 

Members of the Fairport boys and girls bowling teams at Rich Lanes. Mark Podolski — The News-Herald

It doesn’t take long to drive through Fairport Harbor. 

“Oh, about a 1-mile square radius,” said Jerry Rich, co-owner of Rich Lanes.

If you blink, you might miss a treasure and mainstay of the tiny village near to the shores of Lake Erie.

Rich Lanes has been in existence for more than 60 years. Brothers Jerry and Brian Rich co-own the bowling alley.

Their grandfather Tony built it in 1955, then sold it to their father Jerry Sr., who ran the Lanes for 32 years. Brian and Jerry have owned it going on 12 years.

Community pride and tradition has built Rich Lanes into an institution in Fairport Harbor.

Over the last eight years, another tradition has been built — Fairport High School’s bowling program.

The school usually short on numbers for most sports has made its mark in bowling.

For the first time in program history, Fairport has qualified a boys and girls team to the state tournament in the same year.

Competition at the Division II state tournament begins on March 3 with the girls tournament at Wayne’s Webb Columbus Bowl. The D-II boys tournament is March 4, also at Wayne’s Webb Columbus Bowl.

In the past, Fairport has taken boys teams to state in which girls were members. There have also been years in which there was only a girls team.

This year is different, and the presence of Rich Lanes just a short drive, and in some cases, or walk for Fairport’s bowlers is huge.

Junior Bella Coll has been bowling at Rich Lanes since she was 9 years old.

Jerry Rich is the coach for the boys team, while Tom Chipps runs the girls team. How Rich came to be into his position is proof how much the village appreciates the presence of the Lanes, and those who run it.

Eight years ago, Fairport student Heather Reho approached the high school administration when the Ohio High School Athletic Association sanctioned the sport.

“She pushed for the program,” said Rich. “And she told them, ‘Guess who’s going to be the coach?’ I said, ‘Sure, I’ll do it.’ Since then, (the program) has taken on a life of its own.” 

It’s provided community pride, and when the team makes its trips to the state tournament, fan turnout is impressive, said Rich.

At the state tournament, the Skippers have finished third once and seventh two more times.

Coll said the reason is one person.

“Everything I’ve learned (about bowling) is from him,” said Coll, nodding in the direction of Rich. 

Rich and his brother Brian are standout bowlers, as the two have combined for almost 200 career 300-games. They flirted with 900 series in 2016 and 2017.

The locals who frequent Rich Lanes are well aware of the owner’s exploits as bowlers.

For Jerry, he’s helped build up the village’s bowling reputation with the addition of the high school program. It’s training grounds are, of course, Rich Lanes.

“It’s a huge advantage,” said Rich of the family’s business doubling as a practice facility. “These kids love to bowl. I have to kick some of them out of here they love it so much.”

Many of the Skippers current group have bowled at Rich Lanes as long as they can remember.

Freshman Michael Chipps started when he was 5.

“Coming here, it’s a like a small community,” he said. “It’s comfortable here. You know everybody.”

The community will know this group of Fairport bowlers for a while.

The boys starting teams consists of three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior. The girls team’s top five features a sophomore and four juniors.

Said Rich: “The future of the program is bright.”

With Rich Lanes being the center of the program’s universe.

Contact Podolski at MPodolski@News-Herald.com; On Twitter: @mpodo.