At roughly the midway point of the season, the girls’ team is a perfect 6-0, while the boys are 5-1. It’s a dominance tempered both by the relative lack of attention the teams get and the fact that their regular sectional competition is just two schools deep.
In her second year as the team’s head coach, Cynthia Kolodziejski is still new to the squad. But she’s a 20-year veteran of Kingston City Schools, currently teaching health and fitness at J. Watson Bailey Middle School. She’s also a long time bowler, and her son’s involvement in Saturday morning youth bowling familiarized her even further with some of the kids she’s now coaching.
“The position became available, and I said why not,” Kolodziejski said. “I’d seen the kids every weekend, I knew who they were and I knew what they could do.”
Kolodziejski took over the coaching role from Lester Green, bringing with her a combination of boxing and coaching experience that’s served the Tigers well.
“I think they were ready for a change and someone that was a little more familiar with the sport,” she said. “I think having a familiar person who is familiar with bowling gave some credibility to it.”
FDR and Highland are the other two teams in the section, with matches taking place at either Hoe Bowl on the Hill in the Town of Ulster or Mardi Bob Lanes in Poughkeepsie. For Kingston, it means familiarity not only with the competition, but also with the lanes on which they often compete.
“We pretty much know what we’re in store for,” said Kolodziejski. “You’re bowling the same people each week, or you’re bowling a blind.”
A blind is a match against no actual competition, where the team wins or loses based on whether they can match a predetermined combined score. For the boys, it’s 800. For the girls, it’s 625.
The opportunity to break up the monotony mid-season is one the team looks forward to, and it’ll come on January 15 when Arlington hosts its seventh annual Ralph Destefano Tournament. The boys’ team placed second overall last year against some pretty stiff competition from across the state.
“We look forward to that every year,” said Nick Torres, captain of the boys’ team. “It’s a full house and there’s so many teams that are competing. A lot of the teams coming down from Albany are more our competition than the teams in our own section. We finish in the top three every year.”
This season’s Tigers are 13 deep on the boys’ side and eight deep on the girls’. Kolodziejski said she mixes it up a bit during the regular season so the team’s best is on the line when it matters most, in tournament play and at the end of the year.
“I don’t like to show my hand too soon,” she said.
Tradition of awesomeness
This year’s roster is also the first that doesn’t include anyone from the team which fought so hard to take the leap from club to actual competing team. Though there’s no direct link to that inaugural team, the players on the 2010-11 squad still take the sacrifices and efforts of their predecessors seriously.
“Our school had to fight for a team, and seeing that go on encouraged me to try out for the team so we could keep it there,” said Torres, adding that he left basketball behind as a winter sport in his sophomore year to join up with his favorite game. “Basketball is my second or third sport, but bowling is my passion. I’d enjoyed being part of the (basketball) team. It was me, but it wasn’t me. I’m happier that I joined the bowling team.”
But while the players on the team take it seriously, some of their classmates may not.
“A lot of kids in school don’t take us seriously as a team,” said Nicole Cioni, captain of the girls’ team. “We get laughed at and some kids don’t think of bowling as a sport. We do everything else any other sports team would, but a lot of people don’t care. In a sense it does bother me, but I’ve kind of given up on the fact that we just may not see eye to eye on it.”
For Cioni, a senior with a high game of 256, bowling is a family tradition.
“My grandma works in a bowling alley, so I was kind of born into it,” she said. “I got my first ball when I was like three.”
The appeal of bowling is clear for Cioni, who has been part of the Kingston High team since her freshman year.
“It’s a good stress reliever,” she said. “It just takes your mind off things.”
Torres, too, has been bowling for quite some time.
“I’ve been bowling since I was 4 and a half,” he said. “My mom, she’s not really a bowler, but we’ve been trying. My dad and brother have been bowling for a long time.”
Both Torres and Cioni take their roles as captains seriously, not because of the weight of the title but because it means they can use their veteran experience to help bring the younger players along.
“I think the people who have been on the team since their freshman year are the ground of the team, and the others work their way up,” Cioni said. “I think having the title of team captain, it’s not really there. I just represent us if we go somewhere. It’s not that I’m the strongest on the team. We work together and do what we can to keep it going. I think (the younger bowlers) do look to us and come to us if they have a question, like if they don’t know how to pick up this split or this spare. It really is a team, and we all help each other.”
Torres, who has bowled a perfect game, agreed.
“We’re all friends with each other and know each other in school and out of school,” he said. “A lot of them come to me and ask what they can do to develop their game better. I try to help them and work on little basics they can use in match play and fundamentals.”
The Tigers’ last match was a position round at Mardi Bob on Wednesday, Dec. 22 after the Kingston Times went to press. They return from the holiday break two weeks later to take on Highland at Mardi Bob.