By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Most high school bowlers don’t get to experience in a lifetime what Will Blanco did in the past week.
It’s safe to say that it will always been a week to remember for the Kearny resident and St. Peter’s Prep senior.
Blanco started off his week Monday by rolling a 739 series to qualify for the NJSIAA individual state tournament and helping St. Peter’s Prep advance to the state team tournament.
A day later, Blanco led the Marauders to the Hudson County team title, the first for the school in almost a decade.
On Wednesday, Blanco headed to the NJSIAA individual team tournament at Carolier Lanes in New Brunswick and after rolling a 763 series to earn the fourth seed, he finishes 11th overall in the state.
He’s not done yet.
On Thursday, Blanco won the Hudson County singles title for a second straight year, having this time to defeat four bowlers in a row to get the championship.
One day later, Blanco and his Marauder teammates finished second at the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions among Group IV schools, rolling a 692 series (202-256-234).
Now that’s a pretty hectic and eventful week, filled with gigantic accomplishments.
Perhaps the most impressive event of the week was the way Blanco had to maneuver his way through the rest of the field in the Hudson County singles tournament.
After winning last year as a junior and finishing second as a sophomore, Blanco wanted to make sure he finished his high school bowling career with a flourish.
“I knew I could do it,” Blanco said. “I had a lot more competition, even from my own teammates.”
However, disaster struck when Blanco started off in unconventional fashion, rolling a 166 and 171 during his first two games of the three-game qualifying series.
“I couldn’t figure out what to do,” Blanco said. “I really wanted to repeat. But I just didn’t feel right. I looked around and noticed that there weren’t a lot of big scores, so I knew I could do it if I could pull out a big one. I didn’t know what was wrong. It came to mind that it could be over. So I just took a deep breath, relaxed and little and went to work.”
On his first ball of the final game, Blanco fired a strike. But Blanco had a troublesome open in his second frame, which could have sealed his doom.
However, soon after, Blanco found his form. He rolled 10 straight strikes to finish with a 268, good for fourth overall among the top five who moved on to the step-ladder final round.
Blanco first had to defeat the bowler who finished fifth and he rolled a 204 in that game to move on. Then he had to take on Prep teammate Danny Tanelli, who finished third in the qualifying round. Blanco won that game, 231-188.
Blanco then had to take on Joseph Papalonia of Hudson Catholic, who finished second overall. Blanco won that game, 197-179, to move on to the finals.
He was just one step away from pulling off the miraculous comeback. Blanco defeated Alex Vargas of Hudson Catholic, 207-203, with a strike in the last frame to seal the deal.
Certainly a comeback of epic proportions.
And for his efforts, Blanco has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Needless to say, Blanco’s second county title will be the one he’ll forever remember.
“Last year, I finished first, so I had to wait for everyone else to battle it out to come to face me,” Blanco said. “This one, I had to work hard to do it. It was great. I knew I wanted to win again. I just did it. Last year, I knew I could do it. Thus year, I just had to do it.”
Blanco, who plans to attend St. John’s University and major in business management while participating with the bowling team there, tried to put into perspective that his high school bowling career had come to an end.
“I really wish that I could start all over again and do it again,” Blanco said. “I definitely can say that I accomplished everything I could dream of.”
Blanco becomes the first Prep bowler ever to win consecutive county titles.
“It was great that the team went so far this year as well,” Blanco said. “We had a lot of talent on the team this year. I just wish I could have won a state tournament and we could have won as a team. But everything else was great.”
Blanco has rolled three 300 perfect games in his career. His high game in high school has been a 279.
“I’ve been so close to a perfect game so many times this year,” Blanco said.
He’ll continue to play in local tournaments and be a fixture at his home lanes in North Arlington, but it’s safe to say that Will Blanco will remember that week in February of 2013 when everything almost fell into place for him – but left with his second consecutive Hudson County crown.