One of the things Western New York bowling can be most proud of is its role as the yearly host of the National Junior College Athletic Association men's and women's championships. The 48th edition will get under way on Friday at AMF Airport Lanes in Cheektowaga.
There was a time when Erie Community College, the host institution, dominated the tournament, especially on the women's side. ECC women's teams won 24 championships over a span of 28 years (1977-2005). They've won four of the last 12 since, the most recent in 2014. There have been 15 singles, 19 doubles and 21 all-events individual champions from ECC on the women's side.
The Kats have won 18 men's team titles, the last in 2011. Along with that are 20 singles champions, four doubles champions, and 15 all-events winners, the last Dana Voytovich in 2016.
Now, there's a new dynasty.
The Schenectady County CC women's team will be shooting for its fourth straight women's national title, and the Royals are favored to do it again because their lineup will be led by last year's singles champion, Lauren Piotrowski, who was second in all-events. Piotrowski also was second in all-events at last weekend's NJCAA Region III tournament in Utica. The winner was another Schenectady bowler, Jenna Lemke, a freshman who was a scholastic standout in the Albany area. Lemke and Piotrowski teamed up to win he doubles at the regionals.
The ECC women finished seventh in the regionals and don't figure to be in the championship picture this time even though three of the Kats have experience from last year's nationals. Amy Feldman was 13th, Kourtney Killian was 29th and Chelsea Simmeth was 42nd.
The ECC men would seem to have a shot at a podium finish in the nationals. The Kats finished second to the Schenectady men in the Region III tournament, by a decisive margin however. Schenectady was 306 pins better. The Royals won the men's team championship in 2015. Suffolk CC took he crown in 2016.
The defending champion in the men's tournament is Iowa Central Community College, and the Tritons should be favored again. They return 2017 all-events champion Brandon Freese. The Tritons have experience bowling in Tier I collegiate tournaments, such as last weekend's Hoosier Classic in Indianapolis with 78 men's teams and 66 women's. The field included most of the national powers and Big Ten teams.
ECC's best hope is Joshua Large (Tonawanda), who won the all-events title last weekend in the Region III tournament with a 1,703 total pinfall (819 singles and 884 doubles) for eight games. Large was 30th in last year's tournament as a freshman.
Two other Kats have nationals experience -- Alex Weinreich (Sweet Home) and Alex Leader (Maryvale). Leader was fourth in all-events in last week's regionals.
Newcomers to the ECC roster are Andrew Burckhalter (West Seneca West), Dominic Germano (Kenmore East), Matthew Kasperek (West Seneca West) and Joe Peters (Williamsville East). Peters was seventh in all-events in the regional tournament.
The NJCAA tournament will begin Friday with doubles, singles and a three-game block of traditional team bowling with five-player teams. Another three-game team block will be bowled Saturday, followed by a three blocks of three-game Baker format matches.
Plenty of openings remain for the 28th New York State Masters Championship on March 3 at
Allie Brandt Lanes in Lockport. It's a scratch singles event with a $2,500 first prize and a free entry to next year's USBC Masters. It's the first time the Masters has been held in Western New York in eight years. Entry fee is $100. There is no re-entry.
"We're pleased to be able to offer this high-caliber competition close to the bowlers in the Buffalo and Rochester areas and, of course, welcome all of the best bowlers in New York State to participate," said Roger Buckman, NYS USBC president. "Last year we had a tremendous turnout on Long Island, and we hope for the same in 2018."
Five-game qualifying squads will be at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. One in five bowlers from each squad will advance to head-to-head, two-game match play finals with seedings based on total pinfall. Bowling will be contested on the 40-foot "Sport" lane condition.
Walk-ins will be accepted but bowlers are asked to email Mike Pettinella at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve their time in advance. Entry forms and checks are to be mailed to the NYS USBC office at 55 Edgewood Dr., Batavia, 14020. Credit card payment will be accepted by phone.
Last year's champion, Rob Gotterbarn Jr. of New York City, is entered to defend his championship.
Among the WNY bowlers so far are Brian Cline (Lockport), George Pierce Jr. (Hamburg), Pat Brick (Buffalo) and Geno Walh (Lackawanna).
X - A 9 a.m. squad on March 4 as been added for the Greater Buffalo USBC Youth Doubles tournament at AMF Lancaster Lanes. The Youth Doubles Tournament was scheduled for March 10-11. The addition was made to accommodate bowlers who will be competing in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships in Syracuse on March 10 and 11. Bowlers who enter online should note the date desired in the comments section.
X - Michelle Ryan and George Pierce Jr. bowled 1,598 to win the GBUSBCA Me & Mine Division A (351 average and over) Tournament at AMF Lancaster Lanes the last two weekends. Retha Kinnebrew and Desron Weatherspoon were runners-up with 1,569. Third were Tiffany Lindstrom and Daniel Stachowiak with 1,563.
Division B (350 average and under) was won by Jill Nine and Kenneth VanEpps with 1,649, followed by Debra America and Shane America (1,627) and Shane America and Teena Kosminski (1,613).
X - Women's bowling teams from Medaille and Daemen hooked up in a dual match on Tuesday at Classic Lanes with the Mavericks sweeping the opening traditional match, 1,045-929, and taking four-of-seven Baker matches, 4-3. Freshman Adrianna Peneck (Dunkirk) bowled a 222 game in the first match for Daemen. Ysobel Conrad (Olmsted) shot a 233 for Medaille. Carla Hansen has a 19.44 Baker average for the Mavericks.