Matthew Hedden, a 17-year-old junior at Derby, can hardly remember when his father first had him in the bowling alley. Hedden was 3 and began to learn to love the game.
Now he hopes to carry on the family tradition.
“My dad started bowling when he was 13,” Hedden said. “Before my dad it was my grandma that bowled, so it’s kind of been a family thing and I want to keep carrying on the tradition.”
Hedden and the Derby Panthers enter the Class 6A tournament at Northrock Lanes on Friday fresh off of a regional title last week. Hedden bowled a 687 series, led by a 269 in his third game. The Panthers won the regional over Campus by 73 pins. Hedden finished second individually.
Class 5A begins the two-day series of tournaments Thursday at Northrock.
“I feel like they’re a lot more confident going into the state tournament,” Derby coach Allie Ijams said of her boys team. “They just bowled at Northrock last week for regional and they’ve had a chance to practice there a few days this week and last week, so I feel like the environment won’t be shocking to them.”
Hedden spends a lot of time in bowling centers, whether it be Derby Bowl, Northrock Lanes or other centers. Hedden tries to spend every day or every other day in the offseason working on bettering his game and hopes to continue his bowling in college, hopefully at Wichita State.
“I’m looking at WSU right now,” Hedden said. “Ijams has been helping me with that and showing me what to expect. They also have the engineering program I want to go into as well, so that helps.”
When Hedden steps up for his approach, all jokes stop — except the ones that he and his partner Justin Pechanec have with one another.
“We’ve been friends since my freshman year,” Hedden said. “We’ve learned each other’s games and we almost know it as well as we know our own games. We can see what we need to change, whether it be adjustment or ball change, we can see that and let the other one know.”
Hedden is averaging 232 pins and has a high game of 276 this season. Hedden and the Panthers are trying to win state after finishing in the top three the past three years.