Katie Gemberling plays the mellophone, but she marches to the beat of a different drummer.
At least she does at the bowling alley.
With no girls bowling team at Columbus North High School, Gemberling bowls against the boys.
The sophomore has averaged 198 in South Indiana Conference action, leaving some of the boys to wish there were a girls team at North.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Gemberling said about bowling against the boys. “It makes me step up my game. I’ve only lost once so far.”
It’s been a terrific performance considering Gemberling’s schedule. “Music is my priority,” she said.
Besides being a member of North’s marching band, she is a member of the school’s choir and the Indianapolis Youth Chorale.
“I want to be a music major,” she said. “But I also want to look for colleges that have women’s bowling teams, like Wichita State and Valparaiso.”
Her rapid improvement in bowling has her thinking that she has to expand her time at the lanes even with all her other commitments.
“You have to be good with time management,” she said.
Her father, Roger Gemberling, was asked if his daughter was good at juggling all her responsibilities. “She could be better,” he said. “But that’s a father talking.”
Besides being a math teacher at North High School, Roger Gemberling is an assistant coach for the bowling team. A former league bowler, he has spent years working on his daughter’s game.
“I’ve gotten a lot of help from my dad,” she said. “The thing about bowling is that there is a lot of math behind it. He teaches me what goes on with the bowling ball, and about how the oil goes down, all the different patterns.
“And I’m a daddy’s girl.”
Despite that, her father said she can be stubborn at times. Their coach-student relationship got a little stagnant for a while, so the elder Gemberling sent his daughter to veteran bowling instructor Ray Jensen of Greenwood. Katie Gemberling got back on the improvement trail even though her father said the message was pretty much the same.
As a seventh-grader, Gemberling was second in the state competition and fourth as an eighth-grader at Northside. Her father knew at that time that she might have a scholarship in her future. Then this past year, she started to bowl better scores than her father in the Saturday morning league they participate in together.
“My consistency got better in terms of where I was placing the ball,” she said. “Then I passed him last year.”
She has kept the teasing to a minimum this year. “It’s not as much as it was last year,” she said with a laugh.
Roger Gemberling is OK with being the No. 2 bowler in the family.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s great to see the things that you are teaching your daughter makes sense and then click.”
Although competitors seem a little uneasy when facing up against Katie Gemberling, her father said the other boys on North’s team treat her as one of the guys.
“They’ve all bowled together on Saturday mornings for quite a few years,” he said. “They know each other, and they are friendly competitors.”
Gemberling and Jacob Rose are going neck-and-neck to have the highest average this season at North.
“Absolutely, the competition has been great for her,” Roger Gemberling said. “If you look at our conference, she is bowling at 198. The next closest girl to her is bowling 181, then it drops down to 167.
“Some of the bowls she bowls against are not expecting a female bowler to be so competitive. Her first game this year against Scottsburg was a 269.”
Her next competition with North will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at Scottsburg, but because of music commitments, Gemberling will have to bowl by herself the night before to post her scores.
Anyone who would like to check out North’s bowling team can go to Columbus Bowling Center at 2 p.m. Jan. 5 for the next home match.
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