The United States Bowling Congress Open Championships has provided the backdrop for many of bowling’s most notable moments, and its custom venue has given USBC members big-time butterflies and goosebumps from more than a century.
The two worlds are colliding this weekend at the Oncenter Convention Center as more than 400 of New York’s best high school bowlers have converged on the sport’s biggest stage to compete for boys, girls and composite state titles.
The growing high school bowling program in New York includes more than 700 varsity teams and 7,600 student-athletes, and the state event expanded to two enrollment-based divisions – Division 1 (large schools) and Division 2 (small schools) – for the first time this year.
Teams at the Oncenter Convention Center this weekend are the champions of the state’s 11 sections, while each team in the composite competition includes the top six-rated players from each section. How those all-star teams are selected is up to the individual sections.
Being able to crown the 2018 New York State Public High School Athletic Association Bowling Championships winners in the same 48-lane venue that will be home to the 2018 USBC Open Championships from March 24-July 8 was a dream years in the making, and seeing it become a reality stirred a lot of emotion in the local and state bowling communities.
Among the coaches at the 2018 NYSPHSAA Bowling Championships is two-time Open Championships titlist Mike Tryniski (right) of nearby Fulton, New York, who has logged 30 years on the championship lanes and still considers the feeling to be indescribable.
“I am so honored and excited to be able to bring my bowlers here to experience the same thing we’ve been able to enjoy for a lifetime at the Open Championships,” said Tryniski, who won Regular Doubles and Team All-Events titles at the 1994 Open Championships.
“This is an incredible experience, possibly once-in-a-lifetime. Some of these bowlers will go on to collegiate and adult bowling, and some might not bowl competitively again. My kids walked in and were in awe, much like most of us were the first time, too.”
Knowing the Open Championships was returning to Syracuse and the Oncenter Convention for the first time since 1999 and that his home section (Section 3) would be hosting this year’s state event, Tryniski knew there was no better place to hold the tournament.
Once the plan was finalized through USBC, NYSPHSAA and the Section 3 Bowling Committee, of which is a member, Tryniski’s focus turned to making sure his Fulton Red Raiders qualified for the state tournament, which is just 25 miles from home.
“As if there wasn’t enough pressure with just one team qualifying from each section, being able to compete in this venue really was the carrot,” Tryniski said. “My goal as a coach every year is to win sectionals, but this opportunity really is extra special.”
The Fulton boys qualified for this weekend’s state championships, but the girls fell just short. Tryniski also had the opportunity to serve as the coach for the Section 3 girls composite team, which finished second Saturday night.
Before hitting the lanes Saturday, Tryniski had a chance to reminisce about his success at the Open Championships and show his players where his name appears on the tournament’s participation wall, a tribute to all of the champions and longtime bowlers from the event’s previous 114 years.
Another top local competitor and Open Championships titlist, Bob Youker Jr. of Syracuse, also wandered the halls of the venue Saturday night and had a chance to show his daughter, Haley, his name on the prestigious list of winners.
Youker was a co-champion in Regular Singles at the 1992 event, shooting 801, one of just three 800s rolled that year.
“It’s pretty cool that she gets to experience the same environment and feelings I get to when I walk out on these lanes,” Youker said. “Especially being in our hometown, being that Haley is a senior and not knowing when or if the tournament will come back, this is extra special.”
Last month, Haley Youker led her East Syracuse Minoa team to the Section 3 Division 1 title and a spot in the state event at the Oncenter Convention Center.
Her six-game individual total of 1,318, a 219.67 average, was the best individual effort of the day, male or female, and more than 150 pins better than the next competitor.
Youker, who was the individual runner-up at the state tournament as a sophomore, will head to Tennessee’s Lincoln Memorial University in the fall to bowl collegiately, but she’s hoping to end her high school career on a high note first. She’ll lead her team onto the lanes at the Oncenter Convention Center on Sunday morning.
“It’s exciting because it’s my senior year, and I get to finish it here,” Haley Youker said. “It would mean a lot to be able to win a state title in this incredible venue.”
Being able to have the season-ending event on the biggest stage meant months of planning for the NYSPHSAA, but the effort is resulting in an unforgettable experience and a record ticket sales.
“For the student-athletes, this is an incredible opportunity,” said NYSPHSAA Assistant Director Joe Altieri, who oversees 33 state championships.
“Whether they’ve bowled in the event in the past when it was in a tradition center, they’re here for the first time or they’ll qualify again in the future, they’re here seeing this great venue – the Oncenter transformed into something tremendous. It’s a real treat for them, and I think it’s creating a lifetime of memories.”
Competition continues Sunday at 9 a.m. Eastern with Division 1 action. To follow the scores, or to check out the results from Saturday’s Division 2 or composite competition click here.
In the coming days, the Open Championships and the Oncenter Convention Center will welcome the Special Olympics National Unified Tournament and the Syracuse USBC Bowling Association Frank Fortino Memorial City Tournament.
The 107-day run of the 2018 Open Championships will begin with an official opening ceremony on March 24.
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