For The Daily Item
Last week I had the honor of meeting with the Central Pa. Bowling Association’s high school bowlers of the year.
In case you missed it, the list of honorees included Lewisburg’s Andrew Hans and Alexis Neuer, Midd-West’s Luke Zimmerman and Jenna Yarger, Mifflinburg’s Austin Miller and Brianna Hollenbach, and Selinsgrove’s Byron Heinbach and Brynn Musser.
Have you any idea what it takes for those young keglers to be recognized as the best in their sport?
If you said practice — and plenty of it — you would be correct, but only half so.
Apparently, it also pays to get the keglers bowling at an early age.
Selinsgrove’s Best Bowl and Sunbury’s Strike Zone lanes both have large youth programs that have re-energized scholastic bowling in the Valley.
Shikellamy’s bowling team is proof that you need one program to fuel the other, according to Braves coach Bill Snyder, who is in charge of both programs at Strike Zone.
“All centers have some kind of youth program. We are fortunate to have the cooperation of the school district to inform the students of the leagues and events at Strike Zone,” said Snyder. “Managing the youth program and coaching the high school team really helps me develop the kids and keeps the (high school) program strong.
“I have to add that parental involvement has been a big factor in the development in the youth bowlers.”
A small youth program was in existence at Strike Zone when Mark Derr took ownership of the lanes 15 years ago, but now the house boasts participation of more than 100 kids.
“The fact that the majority of our high school bowlers have been in the youth program for many years is obviously a huge part of the team’s success over the years,” said Derr, who also helps coach both programs.
“The dedication of the parents behind the kids is a big part too. They spend countless hours and money invested in their children to allow us the opportunity to mold their child into the bowlers and people that have come from this program.”
The youth program at Best Bowl has been in existence practically as long as the alley has been open, but in recent years the center had seen a decline in participation.
But thanks to the efforts of coaches Matt and Heidi Beaver, as well as Roger Folk, Corey Wert and Randy Witmer, Best Bowl’s program is as strong as ever.
“We did some listening and we heard that a lot of kids/parents didn’t even know that there was such a thing as youth bowling, let alone when it was held,” said Matt Beaver. “We did some communications through Midd-West by the school’s newsletter and we attended the Selinsgrove elementary and intermediate school open houses, and we had a total of 50 new bowlers sign up this year and participate.
“I believe the final count at the end of the year was 111 kids,” added Beaver. “We have great coaches, and that coaching is a must to make the kids better. If the kids feel as though they are not getting better they will not want to participate.”
Beaver credits the success of Best Bowl’s youth program in turning Midd-West into a strong program and a perennial contender.
“We feel that we are building a solid program that promotes fun and learning, and we think the future looks very bright for the Selinsgrove and Midd-West programs,” said Beaver. “Most of the success that has been seen by Midd-West is that the bowlers came through the program and worked with the high school coaches before getting into high school.”
Another benefit of bowling in a youth league is the chance to compete for scholarship money in such tournaments as the Pepsi USBC District 6 Youth Championships, which was held March 9-10 at Northland Bowl in State College.
Of the 28 youth bowlers to advance to the state tournament May 18-19 in Harrisburg, 11 were from Strike Zone and another five from Best Bowl.
Qualifying from Strike Zone, which sent over 50 bowlers to the district event, were Sarah Malick (2nd, U8, 84-96-85—265), Kristen Derr (1st, U12, 150-172-170—492), Barb Herman (4th, U12, 149-117-170—436), Carter Thomas (3rd, U12, 159-161-150—470), Skylar Swope (5th, U12, 163-129-144—436), Hope Heller-Herman (1st, U15, 180-192-166—538), Ashlee Wertman (2nd, U15, 167-140-154—461), Noah Karge (4th, U15, 179-174-185—538), Noah Thomas (2nd, U20, 210-212-245—667), Brant Houghton (3rd, U20, 188-205-224—617) and Randy Ripple (4th, U20, 195-201-204—600).
A total of $890 was won by Shikellamy youth bowlers in State College.
“The Pepsi Tournament helps our kids gain experience through competition,” said coach Snyder. “You can’t teach that. You must learn how to react under pressure. Kids of all ages get pumped up to be in the tournament, and everyone competes for the chance to go.”
Best Bowl’s representatives are Danielle Herman (2nd, U12, 128-163-176—467), Chris Houtz (2nd, U15, 172-211-192—575), Dani Goss (1st, U20, 207-169-209—585), Jenna Yarger (t-2nd, U20, 153-169-238—560), and Luke Zimmerman (1st, U20, 234-246-256—736).
Under 15 and under 20 division winners at the state level advance to the Jr. Gold Tournament held in Detroit. It is the elite junior bowling tournament in the country.
SEASON WINDING DOWN: The 2012-13 adult league season is winding down at Selinsgrove’s Best Bowl. There’s one week left in the final third of the Thursday Night Men’s Early League, while the Tuesday Late Men’s League has ended.
Skipp’s Skippers won the Tuesday title. Team members are Skip Bryner, Bubba Aungst and Brent Womer, who had a career night.
Womer rolled his first 700 series (222-236-255—702), bowling well above his league average of 173.
SUNBURY TO TAKE CENTER STAGE: With the onset of spring comes a couple of annual traditions for the Sunbury Area Bowling Association.
First is SABA’s city tournament. It will be held April 6-14 at Strike Zone Lanes.
The following event is the SABA Hall of Fame banquet, which is scheduled for May 11 at 6 p.m. It will be held at Northumberland Legion Post 44.
The SABA will be inducting two new members this year, Karl Conrad and Steve Gilson.
Until next time, stay out of the gutters.
Brian Holtzapple is a correspondent who covers bowling for The Daily Item. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.