Lyndhurst resident Blanco opens bowling season in style

Photo by Jim Hague/ Lyndhurst resident Gary Blanco began the high school bowling season in fine fashion last weekend, rolling a 290 high game, tops at the Bishop Ahr Tournament. Blanco bowls for St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City.

By Jim Hague

Will Blanco believes he was born with a gift – and that gift was the ability to throw a bowling ball with accuracy.
The Lyndhurst resident and St. Peter’s Prep junior was just a toddler, perhaps six years old or so, when his father, Gary, took him to the bowling alley for the first time. Although the ball itself probably weighed more than he did, young Will took the ball with two hands and found the
center of the lane almost from the very start.
“As a little kid, it was fun and something to do with my father,” Will Blanco said. “It also turned out to be something I did pretty well. I tried always to beat my dad. I never needed to use the bumpers (the guardrails that younger bowlers use to keep the ball out of the gutters). I was able
to throw it straight.”
In his early days, Blanco was recording good scores, unlike most beginners.
“I was probably cracking 100 back then,” Blanco said. “I think it was just natural.”
By the time Blanco turned 9, he was already bowling better than most teenagers. It was also around the time that Blanco was instructed by local bowling coach Orlando Lapa of the North Arlington Bowl-O-Drome Lanes to throw the ball with one hand.
“I was surprised I could do it,” Blanco said. “I saw everyone bowling one-handed and wanted to be the same. It took a little time to get used to it, but I found out that I had more control and more
accuracy. As I started to bowl one-handed, I saw my scores gradually go up.”
By the time he was 10, Blanco’s average hovered near 160. By the time he was ready for high school, Blanco’s average improved to between 190 and 200, proving that he indeed was a true natural.
When Blanco enrolled at the downtown Jersey City high school, he was already a proven commodity on the lanes, with an average approaching 220.
During his first two seasons with the Marauders, Blanco enjoyed some sense of success, including finishing second last year in the Hudson County championships.
But because he was supposed to raise the level of the entire program, there was a sense of pressure involved. He was given a nickname by opponents as “The Terminator.”
“I didn’t mind the name,” Blanco said. “But every time I picked up the ball, every single shot I took, I felt the pressure. It was a little tough. I felt the pressure of being the name for Prep, felt the pressure of keeping our team up.”
As the 2011-2012 season began last weekend, Blanco was named the Marauders’ team captain, only adding to his responsibilities, by new Prep coach Carmela Castellano.
“My job is to help the young kids and I think we will do well this year,” Blanco said.
If the rest of his teammates follow Blanco’s lead, especially after his performance in the season’s first competition, then the Marauders are going to have a solid season.
At the Bishop Ahr Tournament last Saturday, Blanco rolled a 718 series, with a tourney high final game of 290 included in that series, sending notice that Blanco is ready to have a big season.
“It was a great way to start the season,” Blanco said. “I’m happy with that start. It definitely
builds my confidence so much. I feel like I’m going to do a lot better this year.” For his efforts, Blanco has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.

Blanco knows that the opposition gets a little harder now after the first weekend, although
finishing seventh overall and bowling the high game at a tourney with a competitive field of 35 teams is nothing to sneeze at.
“I’m trying to aim higher this year,” Blanco said. “I want to bowl better than my average every time. I want to make the states this year and then try to win it. I also want to win the counties after finishing second last year.”
Blanco’s confidence is sky high, not just because he rolled a 290 over the weekend, but because on Oct. 8, he joined the exclusive club of bowlers who tossed perfect games in a sanctioned league.
At Jersey Lanes in Linden, Blanco rolled a perfect 300 game, earning his ring from the National Bowling Congress in the process. He wears the ring with pride, although it was sized too big, so Blanco currently wears it on his middle finger with a ring band.
“It was a great day,” Blanco said. “Everyone in the place came and watched. I just wanted to keep going, but my knees were shaking. I was sweating. I was so nervous. I just wanted to get through it.”
Blanco threw the three balls in the 10th frame to three different spots, yet all three went for
“They all went in different directions, but they all came together at the right time,” Blanco said. “Getting that last one was like having a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I really didn’t think I’d get it.”
Blanco said that he had already bowled a 300 game last year, but it was in practice, so it’s not a sanctioned perfect game.
“But it still counts mentally,” Blanco said.
Blanco is hopeful that his bowling skills will eventually lead to a college scholarship. Although he’s only a junior, he’s already receiving interest from major colleges with solid bowling programs.
“I’m already receiving letters,” Blanco said. “The interest is there and that’s flattering to me. It’s a really big goal of mine, to see if I could get a scholarship to college.”
For now, Blanco’s just hoping to remain consistent enough to earn a trip to the state tournament
at Carolier Lanes in East Brunswick come the end of February.
“I think that would be perfect,” said Blanco, who said that his favorite lanes to bowl at are the ones at Carolier, where Blanco owns an average of 240.
“That would be amazing,” Blanco said.
It looks as if he’s well on his way.

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