The legend of NA’s McKenna grows with county bowling title

Dan Farinola jokingly placed a text message to a local sportswriter to tell the writer about the latest accomplishment of Eric McKenna.

Farinola, the North Arlington High School three-sport coach, texted a simple sentence that really said a lot about McKenna, the three-sport Viking standout.

“Tired talking about this kid,” texted Farinola, the bowling coach, referring to the prized member of his bowling team.
Farinola closed the text with a simple “Lol,” but this was no laughing matter, because McKenna added yet another line to his almost unfathomable resume and legacy.

“Just letting you know for your records that Eric McKenna won the Bergen County individual championship today,” Farinola texted.

It’s true. The brilliant senior with the two-handed bowling approach won the Bergen County championship Saturday at Bowler City in Hackensack, rolling a three-game high series of 719 with a high game of 268.

McKenna’s 719 series was nine pins better than runner-up Nick Greco of Fair Lawn.

McKenna said that he felt good about his chances in the days prior to the tourney, but without a head-to-head format like most bowling tournament, McKenna had to just bowl earlier than most and hope that his numbers would be enough to emerge victorious.

“The whole season, I’ve been bowling pretty well,” said McKenna, who is also an excellent soccer player in the fall and baseball player in the spring. “I feel like I can compete with anyone. I felt if I lost, it was my fault, because I could only beat myself. I know there are a lot of good teams and good bowlers in the county, so I just had to be focused.”

McKenna credited Farinola for giving the entire Vikings team a solid game plan and inspiration.

“Coach Farinola calmed us down and told us that instead of looking at anyone else’s score, we just had to concentrate on ourselves,” McKenna said. “That puts less pressure on us.”

Farinola, who also coaches girls’ soccer in the fall and boys’ golf in the spring, said that he had a good feeling about McKenna’s chances before the tourney began Saturday.

“Going in, I knew that he had a good chance to come away with it,” Farinola said. “He loves these opportunities. The bigger the game, the more he wants to step up.”

But because of the format, McKenna had to just bowl and just let the scores speak for themselves.

“We were one of the first teams done,” Farinola said. “I knew his scores were high, but I had no idea what the second place kid had.”

Farinola said that McKenna’s athletic determination, the one that made him an All-County soccer player and also earned him a scholarship to play baseball at Caldwell University, is the reason for his immense success at the lanes.

“It’s all his competitive drive,” Farinola said. “It’s what he’s proved to do in three sports. When he’s playing his sport in that season, he dedicates himself to that sport. He wants to be one of the best athletes in the state. He manages his time well, but right now, he’s laser-focused on bowling. It is impressive to see what he’s able to do and shows what kind of athlete he is.”

McKenna became the fourth North Arlington bowler to ever claim the Bergen County overall championship, joining two-time champion Matt Priore and winners Johnny Santiago and Tim Ferry.

McKenna has been rock steady all season, carrying a 228 average all season long.

“He started off red hot and just continued,” said Farinola of McKenna, who rolled a perfect game of 300 in the season’s opener.

The Vikings finished third in the small schools division behind Mahwah and Fort Lee. The Vikings were seventh overall and Lyndhurst finished 10th overall.

Liam Henkel was solid for the Vikings, rolling games of 210 and 183 to finish among the top 25 overall.

But the day belonged to the three-sport standout, who remarkably does a little bit of everything.

McKenna will lead the Vikings into action at the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2 state sectionals, also at Bowler City, on Feb. 9.

Both McKenna and Farinola were asked if it was tougher to bowl at a location like Bowler City, which is not known to be a bowler-friendly location, and especially since McKenna is an unconventional bowler, throwing the ball with two hands instead of the customary one.

“It works for him,” Farinola said. “If he hits a perfect spot, there’s no chance he’s messing up. Sure, it could be tougher bowling there, but he likes going there and he’s done well there. Every time he goes there, it seems to be a big tournament. He’s had some good moments there.”

“I really like that place,” McKenna said. “The pin carry is pretty good there. For the most part, I get a good roll there. I always know that it is a tough place, but I feel like I’m more competitive there. I can’t think too much about the conditions.”

McKenna was asked what it felt like to be a county champion.

“It really means a lot to me,” McKenna said. “It feels good to think that I finally did it. Everyone knows how good the other champions from North Arlington were. Now I’m in the same category with them.”

And what does the county title do for McKenna moving forward?

“It just gives me a lot of confidence,” McKenna said. “It instills in my head that I can do it.”

Like winning a state sectional title in a few weeks. It’s within the realm of possibility. But then again, as the legend of Eric McKenna continues to grow, is there anything the kid can’t do?




North Arlington senior Eric McKenna stands with the trophy that he won last Saturday after capturing the overall Bergen County Bowling Championship at Bowler City in Hackensack. McKenna won by nine pins with a series of 719. Photo courtesy of Dan Farinola.




Learn more about the writer ...

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”