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YBC Nationals a little out of season - but these kids don't mind
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Leave it to the local youth bowling contingent to make good use of a little extra “spare” time (old man humour, at its best!).

A twelve player delegation representing primarily Whitewater Lanes in Azilda – Bantam Boys Singles entry Landon Zelonko from Plaza Bowl is the outlier – left over the weekend for Oshawa and NEB’s Fun World, site of the 2022 YBC Five-Pin Nationals.

In most years, this event would be taking place sometime in May – but the provincial shutdown in January and the challenges of Covid-19, in general, managed to elongate the season, moving this tournament well beyond the end of league play for most of the teens and pre-teens.

Still, on a muggy Wednesday evening in July, the bulk of the group assembled at 420 Notre-Dame Street East (the Rayside-Balfour version of the ultra-popular road name in these parts), adding a little fine-tuning as they prepare to face the very best from across the country either in singles or doubles competition.

Making his sixth and final appearance at nationals, 19 year-old Kyle Beaulieu has a tried and true system that he prefers to implement on the days leading up to the big matches. “Usually, when I go to a tournament, I will go straight to the bowling alley and shoot 10ish games to try and get used to it, and then go from there,” said the accomplished bowler who started in the sport at the age of three or four.

“I’m watching for ball movement and pinfall.”

While a solid portion of the general population can easily wrap their minds around the basic motion of throwing a bowling ball, the ability to precisely repeat the motion, all while adjusting to the varying lane conditions is what separates those like Beaulieu and the other participants in Oshawa from the masses who wander out to the lanes.

In his particular case, there are a couple of elements of his technique that tend to come into play more often than not. “One huge thing is to keep your speed constant, your approach speed,” he said. “Usually it has to be the same speed – but it does depend on what kind of shot you are going for.”

“With a corner pin only, you might go more slowly, just to make sure that you get it.”

“If I am at a tournament, I will try and make sure I always use my three step approach which is kind of average (speed),” Beaulieu added. “I try not to go too fast because if I go too fast, I’m always off, I’m always missing.”

“But it’s not just about muscle memory; it’s a huge mental game. If everything is going well, you want to get it out there, you want a huge explosion, you feed off that – but it can throw you off.”

For the record, Beaulieu will be joined by Zachary Eckensviller (coach Roger Givoque) for Senior Boys Doubles play, with the remainder of the locals slotted in as follows:

Bantam Boys Singles – Landon Zelonko
Bantam Boys Doubles – Wayd O’Sullivan and Alex Lachance (coach Richard Godin)
Junior Boys Singles – Matthieu St-Onge
Junior Boys Doubles – Connor Carroll and Ryan Burton (coach Joni Barton-Bedard)
Junior Girls Singles – Alyssa Phillips
Senior Girls Doubles – Zoe Belisle and Isabelle Rodrigue (coach Junior Belisle)
Senior Girls Singles – Danika St Jacques

Wayd O’Sullivan will undoubtedly tap into some of the experience of his new teammates. At just ten years of age and entering grade five at Ecole St Joseph in the fall, the talkative youngster is making his first appearance on the big stage, picking up the sport only a couple of years ago.

Still a two-handed bowler – athletes are not required to throw one-handed until they reach junior status – the young man who has recorded three games over the two hundred plateau, two of which came in tournaments on the road to nationals, has maintained a very straight forward approach to the task at hand.

“I just try and aim for my target down the middle – but instead of hitting it right on the middle arrow, I have to hit it just off to the side,” said O’Sullivan. “Sometimes when I bowl in tournaments, I have pressure because I don’t know what the other people are bowling – but I just focus on my game and focus on either the middle arrow or the corner.”

As for the Canadian playdowns this week, O’Sullivan is not getting all that stressed about the setting. “I am going to have fun at nationals,” he said. “Even if we finish 20th, we are still the 20th best team in Canada.”

For her part, Alyssa Phillips owes her participation in bowling to some family lineage on the lanes, benefitting from a couple of generations worth of involvement. “My grandmother started it all and everyone kind of fell into the tree of bowling: my mom’s mother, my mother, my brother and me – and some people on my dad’s side as well,” said the 14 year old long-time resident of Copper Cliff.

“I bowl three times a week and my brother (Joe) has always taught me to throw the ball precisely, how to release it and everything,” said Phillips. “I’ve always had good guidance to help me get to where I am. We (brother and I) work pretty hard together.”

Beginning from an average of 138 a few years back, Phillips has improved to the point of finishing this past winter around 186 or so, bumping that up even further with a 207 standard in the spring league. Again, the key is not trying to re-invent the wheel.

“I just had to learn to start focusing more on my spot,” she said. “When I learned that, I learned to follow through to my spot which really helped me. It’s a pretty simple motion to repeat, but then sometimes you get tired and lose your spot – and that’s when you’re game goes bad.”

“It’s usually just a frame or two so you pick yourself up and try again.”

As for her first trip to nationals (Joe has been twice), Phillips has come up with an ingenious way to prepare for the atmosphere she is about to encounter. “When I found out I was going to provincials, I started coming out with my brother on the night when he bowls with the adults,” she said.

“I would practice on the spare lane and I got used to all of the noises. I kind of learned how to adapt to it.”

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