The North Arlington High School bowling team returned all five starters from last year’s team, a fact that wasn’t ignored by veteran coach Dan Farinola.
“We had a high average last year with everyone coming back,” Farinola said. “So I thought that we could compete this year.”
The first step came recently when the Vikings knocked off neighboring rival Lyndhurst, sending the Golden Bears to defeat for the first time in over five years and some 105 consecutive matches.
“We always compete with Lyndhurst,” Farinola said. “So that was a good sign.”
The next positive sign took place Saturday afternoon at Bowler City in Hackensack, when the Vikings emerged from a highly competitive pack to win the Group I and II team championship at the Bergen County Championships.
The Vikings were fourth overall including the larger schools, but captured top honors among the smaller schools for the second time in three years.
Incredibly, a district with such a storied tradition in bowling never won the county title before two years ago and now the Vikings have two county titles in the last three years.
“It’s a nice accomplishment to win this year,” Farinola said.
Senior Kenny Bennett is the lone bowler who was on both championship teams. Bennett had the high series of the day for the Vikings, rolling a 572 series in the morning and a 639 series in the championship round in the afternoon.
Bennett had a 222 high game.
“He’s always performed well in the bigger spots,” Farinola said. “He always shows up to play. I expected him to do well.”
Junior Liam Henkel had a 584 series in the morning session to help the Vikings qualify among the eight smaller schools for the second session, where Henkel bowled a 582 series. That’s incredibly familiar.
“He’s always consistent,” Farinola said. “He’s consistent as you’d get. He’s almost very robotic-like. He doesn’t get too nervous or too anxious. He’s the same all the time.”
Henkel had a high game of 226.
Junior Eric McKenna is perhaps the most athletic of the Vikings. McKenna is also a superb soccer player, one of the best soccer players in the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference. McKenna also is a fine baseball player.
McKenna holds the Vikings’ top average of the season at 197 per game. He rolled a 549 series in the morning and a 582 in the afternoon with a 222 high game.
“They’re all pretty consistent,” Farinola said.
But it’s remarkable that Henkel and McKenna both rolled the same exact score in the afternoon session.
“Consistency is what we preach,” Farinola said. “I like the way they compete. Eric is probably the most focused bowler on the team.”
Brandon Barth is the younger brother of former girls’ soccer and girls’ basketball player Taylor Barth. Brandon Barth is also a baseball player as well.
Barth bowled a 477 in the morning and a 566 in the afternoon.
Trent Petito, a sophomore, rolled a 557 in the morning and a 519 in the afternoon.
The Vikings took the lead in the early morning and never lost a hold of first place. The Vikings finished 63 pins ahead of runner-up Mahwah with Lyndhurst coming in third.
“I think the day gave us a lot of confidence,” said Farinola, who also coaches the girls’ soccer team in the fall months and the golf team in the spring. “It was a big step for us. We’re always competing with Lyndhurst, so this was a first big step for us. I think the big advantage is that we have a bowling alley (the New North Arlington Bowl in Schuyler Avenue) right down the block. Our kids can always go to the bowling alley whenever they want. It’s a big advantage for us.”
The Vikings now prepare for the upcoming NJSIAA state sectionals, also at Bowler City, on Feb. 3.
“We think we can be competitive that day as well,” Farinola said. “It’s our goal. We feel good coming into the state sectionals.”
From there could be a berth in the overall NJSIAA Tournament of Champions. It’s not out of the question for the locals.
The North Arlington bowling team won the small schools (Groups I and II) championship at Saturday’s Bergen County Championships at Bowler City in Hackensack. From left, are Liam Henkel, Trent Petito, Kenny Bennett, Brandon Barth, Eric McKenna and head coach Dan Farinola. Photo courtesy of Farinola