OCEAN CITY – Thirty-five Eastern Shore youth bowlers, including 13 from a northern Worcester County league, will advance to the Maryland State Pepsi Championships after securing top-place finishes in a regional tournament in Ocean City last weekend.
On March 1, roughly 100 youth bowlers from five bowling facilities across the Eastern Shore participated in the 2020 Pepsi Regional Tournament at Ocean Lanes Bowling Center in Ocean City.
Each year, youth members of certified United States Bowling Congress (USBC) leagues participate in league-level qualifying as part of the Pepsi USBC Youth Championships tournament. From there, qualifying bowlers move on to the regional tournaments, where the top bowlers in each division will advance to the state level.
Beginning with league qualifying, youth bowlers have the opportunity to advance to state and national tournament competitions and earn scholarships. Last year, for example, more than $500,000 in scholarships were awarded across the country as part of the tournament.
Last weekend, three bowlers from Choptank Bowling Center, eight bowlers from Southbound Alley, four bowlers from Easton Bowl, seven bowlers from Eastern Shore Lanes and 13 bowlers from Ocean Lanes secured top-place finishes in their divisions to advance to the state tournament in Elkton, Md., on April 4 and 5.
“There’s five houses in our association, the Eastern Shore USBC …,” Ocean Lanes Coach Marc Smith said, “and all the houses come together for this tournament every year.”
Smith said the 13 bowlers from Ocean Lanes’ youth league include Matthew Frey, Anthony Frey, Ava Gehrig, Madilynn Frey, James Frey, Bo Gehrig, Eric Braica, Andrew Shuler, Ryleigh Smith, Eric Rimel, Katie Koontz, Dylan Arnold and Shawn Rosemond.
“We are sending 13 of them to states, which is the most of any house,” he said. “I couldn’t be more thrilled about it.”
The number of bowlers sent to states depends upon the number of participants in each age division, Smith explained. In years past, for example, he said as many as 19 bowlers from the Ocean Lanes youth league qualified for the state tournament.
“The number of youth bowlers has dwindled in recent years,” he said.
Smith noted that the alley’s youth league bowls on Saturday mornings from October to March each year.
Parent John Gehrig said the youth league is a flexible, unique activity for young bowlers.
“It’s a unique, fun experience and gets the kids up and doing something …,” he said. “They do a great job teaching kids how to bowl, and it’s an activity they can do the rest of their lives.”
Gehrig also highlighted the many league bowlers from Ocean Lanes who went on to win state championships and earn recognition for their contributions to the sport.
“When we think of sports we think of things like football, baseball, soccer, lacrosse,” he said. “But Ocean City/Worcester County is a bowling powerhouse.”
Smith noted, for example, that state champions Kiersten Bateman and Katie Koontz and youth league bowler Eric Rimel are recent recipients of the Maryland State USBC Youth Star of Tomorrow Award.
“It’s basically a Hall of Fame award for youth bowlers,” he said.
Gehrig said he is a huge advocate for youth bowling and encouraged young bowlers to participate.
“It’s cool to bowl,” he said. “It’s cool and it’s fun.”
For more information on Ocean Lanes’ youth league, call 410-524-7550. For full standings from last Sunday’s regional tournament, visit easternshoreusbc.org.
“The regional tournament was great, and everyone was happy with it,” Smith said. “It’s nice to celebrate these bowlers’ accomplishments.”
Smith said the first-place winner in each division at the state tournament will advance to the national Junior Gold Championships in Las Vegas, Nev., later this year.