With a last name of Paszkiewicz, it was almost a given that Hannah Paszkiewicz would naturally become a member of the Kearny High School crew team.
After all, Hannah’s father, Dave, is the long-time head coach of the famed girls’ crew team at the school. And her brother, David, is an assistant coach.
To keep with family tradition, Hannah tried her hand at crew. But…
“I didn’t think crew was my thing,” Hannah said. “I don’t even like boats.”
However, there was a sport that Hannah Paszkiewicz took to right away. It was bowling.
“My best friend and neighbor Caitlyn Battistus was really into bowling,” Paszkiewicz said.
Battistus comes from the Montanino-Battistus family connection that pretty much has a run of the lot at Bowlero Lanes in Belleville.
Hannah Paszkiewicz didn’t exactly hit the lanes running, so to speak.
“It was pretty rough for me at first,” Paszkiewicz said. “I was not good.”
Paszkiewicz said that she maintained a 127 average as a freshman.
“Even though I wasn’t very good, I really always loved the sport,” Paszkiewicz said. “I wanted to get better. Every time I went bowling with Caitlyn, I wanted to get better. It was something that I liked to do, so I wanted to be good at what I like.”
Paszkiewicz said that she practiced a lot with Caitlyn’s father, Randy Battistus, who is the in-house Professional Bowlers Association resident pro at Bowlero and runs the pro shop at Bowlero as well.
“I learned that I had to be consistent in what I was learning,” Paszkiewicz said.
Last year, Paszkiewicz noticed that she was getting much better. She also received help from friend Sean Cruz, who is a bowler at Clifton High School.
“He really worked with my form and my ball release,” Paszkiewicz said. “Bowling is a game of repetition, so these were things I really needed to work on.”
Paszkiewicz also learned about the importance of the spots on the lanes, focusing on those dots in order to find the pocket time after time.
Hannah’s persistence paid off, because she improved to a 170 average as a sophomore, an improvement of almost 50 pins a game. An improvement of that magnitude is very rare in bowling, especially in such a short period of time.
“I was really shocked,” Paszkiewicz said.
But veteran Kearny High School head bowling coach Alan Correnti was not.
“She had all the talent and ability and she had the potential,” Correnti said. “It was a matter of putting it all together. All the talent was there, so I was not surprised with the results.”
As the bowling season wound down last week, the Kardinal girls were poised to secure yet another Hudson County Tournament championship. The Kardinals had been absolutely dominant over the previous four years, winning four straight county titles. More impressively, the Kards never lost a single game in that time, winning an astounding 336 games in a row.
So when the team tournament began last Wednesday at Bowl-Rite Lanes in Union City, Paszkiewicz laid an egg.
“Nothing was working that day,” Paszkiewicz said. “I was pretty pumped up for the tournament, but I did not bowl well.”
Paszkiewicz rolled a 442 series with a high game of 150. It was some 30 pins below her average.
“My ball wasn’t hitting the pins as hard,” Paszkiewicz said. “The pins kept standing up. I wasn’t making my spares. It was just a bad day. I was a little worried that I would hurt the team, but Caitlyn picked me up.”
“It certainly wasn’t about her ability,” Correnti said. “Hannah is head strong. She doesn’t let bad games get to her.”
The Kardinals maintained their stranglehold on the county tournament, steamrolling to another undefeated season. The streak now stands at 371 in a row and five straight team titles. It is one of the most impressive marks in all New Jersey competitive sports.
A day later, everyone reconvened at Bowl-Rite again for the individual championships. Paszkiewicz was poised for a bounce back performance.
“It was a new day,” Paszkiewicz said. “I didn’t even think about what I did the day before. I just wanted to do better.”
Paszkiewicz’s first game in the individual tourney was a pedestrian 163, but then she found her groove.
“Probably by the second game, I was feeling better,” Paszkiewicz said. “I knew where to stand and knew where to throw the ball. I knew that if I kept doing that, I’d be fine.”
Paszkiewicz was more than fine. She rolled consecutive games of 243 and 237 – her two highest scores in Hudson County play this season – en route to a 643 series and the top score in the tourney, crowning her as the top female bowler in Hudson County this year.
For her efforts, Paszkiewicz has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Correnti knew that Paszkiewicz was a totally different bowler on Thursday.
“Just like any good athlete, I knew she was going to bounce back,” Correnti said. “Once she hit the first few, every ball just flew out of her hand. There was no tic in her release. She was just spot on.”
Paszkiewicz thought that she might have to wait a year to be crowned the queen of Hudson County bowling.
“I thought that it might be a senior year kind of thing,” said Paszkiewicz, a junior. “Now I’ll get a chance to do it a second time.”
As for being the individual county champion on a team that won their fifth straight county title, well, it has a nice ring to it.
“It sounds amazing,” Paszkiewicz said. “I’m just really excited. Bowling is a big part of my life.”
A lot bigger part than crew, that’s for sure.
Besides Paszkiewicz and Battistus, the Kardinals received a solid effort from junior Anna Powell, who had a 167 average and a high series of 573.
The rest of the team consists of two sophomores and a freshman, so it looks like the Kardinals will be well prepared to try for a sixth straight crown and keep that incredible win streak intact.
“When you put it all together, it’s a good recipe for success,” Correnti said.
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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.”