Gateway bowlers cap season with successful trip to national tournament

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Sunday, June 16, 2024 | 11:01 AM


The Gateway boys bowling team finished fourth overall at the Pennsylvania State Championships in March at Leisure Lanes in Lancaster.

But it wasn’t the final event of the season for the team, which returned to Leisure Lanes on June 8-10 for the U.S. High School Bowling Foundation’s National Championships.

“We didn’t even know what nationals was until we got to the state championship,” Gateway coach Joe Bowman said.

In Pennsylvania, each team that qualified for the state tournament also was invited to compete at nationals.

“They said, ‘Oh, nationals is (at Leisure Lanes) in June.’ So, we figured out what the costs were, and the parents were good about it,” Bowman said.

“The team was all for it. They are a pretty close-knit bunch. We were there from Friday through Monday, so it was a long weekend, but the guys had a lot of fun bowling against some of the best in the country.”

This was the eighth national postseason tournament. In addition to the several Pennsylvania teams in action, there were teams representing Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, Louisiana, Kentucky, Florida, Iowa, Alaska, Maryland, Texas, Missouri, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Indiana and Massachusetts.

“We met kids from Alaska and Hawaii, and all over,” Bowman said. “No matter where they were from, being a high school bowler, they are pretty much the same. It is a fraternity of kids who love the game and love to compete. It was a pretty competitive environment, but they were cheering each other on and helping pick others up if they weren’t doing as well. There were numerous 300s, and kids would just go over and congratulate that person. We were on a lane where we bowled against 10 kids from 10 different states.”

The team tournament kicked everything off June 8, and Gateway was one of 51 qualifying teams in the field.

The top 16 teams with the highest pin totals made it out of the qualifying round, which consisted of a pair of traditional team games involving five bowlers from each team and six Baker games for a total of 16 games overall.

Gateway bowlers totaled 2,964 pins for an average game score of 185.3 and a 30th-place finish.

The Gators rolled a Baker-best 210 in their final game of the team tournament.

“You get into the throes of the competition and it just comes down to getting a break here and there and how things go,” Bowman said. “There were different lane conditions than what we experienced at the state level. It had a little bit of a bearing of where we finished. It was a challenge, but we did decent.”

Gateway transitioned to the singles tournament June 9, and sophomore Chase Owens led the team with a 105th-place finish.

Each of the 362 bowlers threw four games in the qualifying round, and the top 150 advanced to the first survivor round June 10.

Owens was 79th after the qualifying round with an 834 series that featured high games of 239 and 228. He slipped a little bit in the next round with a three-game average of 185.3.

“Chase did very well,” Bowman said. “He learned a lot. He was up for the task. He never gets too high or too low. He’s a good student of the game.”

Junior Landon Lohr finished 147th after the qualifying round with a 782 series, just two pins above the cut line.

But he made a move up the ladder in the first survivor round with a three-game average of 198.3 to finish 111th overall.

“He turned his scorecard in at the end of his four (qualifying) games and then he sat and waited for them to post the standings on their website,” Bowman said. “We bowled in the morning, and there were others who bowled in the afternoon, so it was a rather long wait. It was close, but he was just excited to be able to make the cut and move on to the survivor round and still compete. ”

Alex Keeling-Oliver capped a standout high school career at nationals. The lone Gateway senior finished 229th with a 718 four-game series and a high game of 213.

“We told Alex at the beginning of the year that we wanted to give him the fullest season we possibly could,” Bowman said. “It was really cool that he was able to conclude his high school career at nationals.”

Juniors Joey Jurczak, Allon Wallace Jr., Josh Zlokas and Kai Jones also represented Gateway at nationals.

“Nationals was a celebration of talent,” Bowman said. “The tournament director said that it was the best of the best. For us to be included in the best of the best, that was an achievement.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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