By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Emily Young doesn’t mind being the lone girl competing on the Lyndhurst High School bowling team.
In fact, Young embraces the idea.
“I love bowling with the boys,” Young said. “I love being on the team with so many good bowlers. I actually look up to them. I never have any pressure on me when I’m with them, because I’m never expected to do anything. There’s never the pressure to be the best.”
After all, Young is a member of the state’s premier bowling team that features three members, namely Jordan Lopez, Daijon Smith and Ryan Donohue, who have all bowled perfect 300 games in their lifetimes.
“Basically, I want to do my best for them,” Young said. “I always know that my fiercest competition is the boys on the bus. I always say that to Ryan. I always say that I just want to stay close with the boys on the team.”
Young began bowling at the age of eight.
“I wouldn’t say that I was great right away, but I never bowled with the bumpers,” Young said of the training tools seen at most lanes for beginners. “I joined a recreation league with one of my friends because it seemed like fun.”
However, it didn’t take long for Young to get hooked.
“I wanted to bowl all the time,” said Young, who also plays volleyball at Lyndhurst. “It didn’t take me that long to get pretty good at it.”
Young’s uncle, Michael Gingerelli, was a standout bowler in his own right, winning the Bergen County title at Lyndhurst in 1978. Gingerelli gave Young her first ball.
“He was a big help,” Young said. “So was Ryan’s (Donohue) dad. He’s great. He helped me a lot as well.”
When Young began bowling at Lyndhurst High, she owned a respectable average of 133. But she wasn’t exactly a world beater.
“I just kept working on trying to get better,” Young said. “I had a lot of encouragement from my friends and teammates. Coach (Brianna) Balkin teaches us to never give up.”
“She’s just a great kid who works hard,” Balkin said. “She just loves to be out there and competing.”
Young has gradually improved over the years, rolling to a 179 average last year and 184 this season.
“I got thrown into the varsity lineup, sink or swim,” Young said. “I’m just lucky to be sharing lanes with Jordan, Daijon and Ryan. They’re their own animal.”
Young said that she did get a new ball this season, a 15-pounder that was just a little heavier than the one she had been using.
“I think the weight gives me more action and I’m able to throw a more aggressive ball,” Young said. “There’s definitely a difference.”
Earlier this season, Young won the Bergen County girls’ bowling title, but two weeks ago, she was bowling with and against the boys at the NJSIAA North 1A Sectional at Bowler City in Hackensack.
And Young was beyond sensational, rolling a 759 series, which was the highest score of any bowler present _ male or female.
“For me to beat my teammates is a miracle,” Young said. “I never thought I could beat them, never mind come even close.”
“She was almost unconscious,” Balkin said. “She just went up there, threw the ball and smiled. She was just happy to be there for the team. I never expected her to be the best, to beat her teammates. I thought she might place high, but never above all the rest.”
Young had 269, which was the second highest single game, and the combined-score of 759, which was high series, helping the Golden Bears set a new record for the state sectional and move on to the state Tournament of Champions, which they eventually won.
For her efforts, Young has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.
“It’s an amazing achievement,” Balkin said of Young winning the overall state sectional singles title. “It’s never happened before.”
In fact, state officials were so unprepared for a girl to win the boys’ state sectional title that they didn’t present Young with the trophy for winning the sectional. The award went to James Kane of Paramus Catholic, who finished second with a 748 series.
How ridiculous was that?
“The rule said that a girl can’t win the boys’ sectional,” Young said. “He (Kane) got a trophy. I got a shout out. When I found out, I was pretty upset. It was terrible. It really was. I guess no one ever thought that a girl could win the boys’ tournament. I was just glad I could compete.”
Balkin said that the boys on her team offer encouragement to Young all the time.
“They all want her to do well,” Balkin said. “They are all so much behind her that I think it eases things up for her. They pick her up. She doesn’t have to worry about being good or being bad. She just has to bowl.”
Young has also been an inspiration to her teammates.
“The boys on the team are all still talking about it,” Balkin said. “We have four other girls on the team who all want to get better. They see what Emily has done, that she’s not just competing as a girl, but with the boys. She’s keeping up with the rest.”
Or in some cases, beating them.
Young competed alone in the NJSIAA girls’ state tournament on Wednesday and finished 25th overall. She then bowled Friday with her teammates and helped the Golden Bears bring home the golden prize.
Young hopes to attend either Sacred Heart University or the University of Delaware in the fall. On target to be the salutatorian for the Lyndhurst Class of 2015, Young hopes to major in social work at whatever school she chooses.
“I definitely want to work with kids,” Young said. “I love children and if I can help them, then that’s my next step.”
Needless to say, Young never imagined she would become a state sectional champion _ make that a boys’ state sectional champ.
“This has been my best year for bowling,” Young said. “I’ve achieved my goals. The team has done tremendously.”
It’s been a dream season for Emily Young and the Golden Bears, truly a golden season.