1st-year McKeesport bowling program starts quick in high school league
McKeesport Area High School is rolling out star players in a time-honored sport that's new to the district.
Making a name for itself in the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Bowling League, McKeesport Area's bowling program started fresh this season, drawing on students who were active in local leagues and others who are new to the sport.
“We put a team together in just a few weeks,” coach Mark Bacco said. “We did it pretty quickly with kids who already had equipment and experience.”
That fast action came in response to requests from students who wanted to make one of their top hobbies a school-sponsored sport.
“After a period of time that went by and enough kids expressed an interest in starting a bowling team, the district made the commitment to the kids in support of getting a team started,” athletic director Charley Kiss said.
With three matches to date, the girls are 3-0 with 21 points and the boys are 3-0 with 19 points. The next match is scheduled for Wednesday at Shaler.
“We are excited about the rest of the season and the future of the program,” Kiss said.
Bacco said the girls team is favored to win the WPIBL Southeast Division, while the boys still are in contention.
On the girls team, senior Hannah Smart is a standout bowler. A youth league player out of her team's home alley White Oak Bowl since second grade, Smart said the sport has been part of her recreation for as long as she can recall.
And with a decade on the lanes, her proudest moment came during her second high school match. Against Wilson Christian Academy at Coral Lanes in West Mifflin, Smart bowled 11 consecutive strikes and finished with a 279.
“I was shocked,” she said. “I bowled a 277 in seventh grade, and I never thought I was going to beat it. Then I beat it.”
Smart said the high school bowling experience not only helped her set a personal best, but it's allowing classmates to bond over the game.
“I'm happy to be competing in my senior year,” she said. “It was something I've been doing for so long and I was surprised that there are more bowlers in our school. There's actually a lot.”
Sophomore Mike Elias said he's happy to share his hobby with fellow McKeesport students.
“It's great to represent your school and do good in their name,” he said.
Elias, a top scorer on the team, has been bowling since he was a toddler. A participant in youth leagues out of White Oak Bowl, he hoped to use his talents to help McKeesport Area.
“This was something we wanted to do here because I was being asked — and some of my friends were being asked — to play for other schools,” he said, noting students may enroll in neighboring schools' athletic programs not offered in their home district.
Added McKeesport school director Tom Maglicco, “With the board's support, we authorized the bowling league. The Elias family brought it to my attention, and I said I would support it. It's a great program. Anytime you have a wide activities for youth, it helps to keep kids active.”
Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at email@example.com or 412-664-9161, ext. 1956.