A-K Valley Senior Spotlight: Burrell’s Leah McCandless

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Monday, February 19, 2024 | 9:51 AM


When someone accomplishes a feat no other person has, it’s said they’re in rarefied air.

Leah McCandless of the Burrell bowling team is breathing that air after she became the only girl in the WPIBL this season to roll a 300 game.

McCandless’ perfect game came in the third match of the season as the Bucs met Kiski Area on Dec. 6.

“It wasn’t a great feeling going in to face Kiski,” McCandless said. “We only had three girls on the team this year, not enough for a full team. It was hard knowing that I would be going into it losing most of my matches.”

“But when I got the 300, everybody, including Kiski, was very supportive,” McCandless said. “Once I got past the ninth frame, I said, ‘OK, I can do this. I just need to take a breath, and I’ll be fine.’ It was a really great experience.”

McCandless has been bowling since she was 5 years old. She bowls in a travel and junior league, and her dad owns a bowling alley, but that was her first 300 game.

In the WPIBL, McCandless finished second in the Northeast section with a 203.63 average and 735 high series.

“I give credit to all my coaches, from my junior league to my high school coaches, and even my dad,” McCandless said. “They all really help me become myself and realize that if I put in the effort, I could do it.”

McCandless now shifts her attention towards the postseason, where she will compete in the WPIBL singles championships Feb. 22. Last year she finished 23rd, qualifying for the Western Regionals.

This year, the Western Regionals singles championships are scheduled for March 8 and McCandless hopes to better her 11th-place finish from last year.

“I struggled a bit in regionals and thought I wasn’t going to make top 12 to make states,” McCandless said. “This year, I hope to go in confidently and make states.”

She made states last season, finishing 24th.

As her senior season finishes, McCandless is glad to have the memories to cherish.

“It’s been a really great experience,” she said. “You meet people from other schools, see who’s into bowling and you end up making good connections.”

She took some time for a Senior Spotlight Q-and-A:

How does it feel being the only girl in the WPIBL to have a 300 this season?

It’s really cool to know that from bowling for so long throughout my whole high school career that no one around me has gotten a 300. Being the only one this year was a nice experience, and it’s a nice thing to think about.

What were some goals you set for yourself coming into the season?

Just do my best and just knowing that I tried, that’s good enough for me.

You finished fifth in the WCCAs girls competition Jan. 20. What can you say about how that day went?

That day was a mess. Not my strongest day emotionally, thus it was not my strongest outing. Coming out in the top five was a shock.

What do you do to stay focused in a match?

I usually sit down and talk to the other teams and try to produce a nice atmosphere for everyone. Then I sometimes sit and think to myself.

Have you been to Junior Gold?

Yes. Three times, and I’ve already qualified for my fourth.

What are your thoughts on the Junior Gold experience?

It’s a huge learning experience. You see how other bowlers form across the country compete and come together. You get to see kids from all over the country and the skills they display. It’s really fun and somewhat humbling.

What are your college plans?

Right now, I’m undecided, but I would like to bowl collegiately. I would want to study something in media or website design.

Aside from the 300 game, what’s been your favorite high school memory so far?

My sophomore year, when the team nearly made states. The feeling that carried us through the day was amazing, just knowing we might have a chance.

What’s one piece of advice you would want to leave your teammates before graduating?

A frame is a frame. If you mess one up, just do better the next.

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