HOOSICK, NY — The Hoosick Falls bowling team has not lost a regular season game since 2017. It is undoubtedly more impressive that it has not lost a single point in the regular season since 2019.
After his win over Berlin on Thursday, Hoosick Falls’ record improved to 11-0 in games and 55-0 in points on the season.
The Panthers have one more game in the regular season, Friday against Saratoga Catholic, but have already taken first place in the postseason of the Wasaren League and a farewell to the championship game.
Hoosick Falls now shifts its focus to its third consecutive Wasaren League title, which begs the question: What made the Panthers so dominant in the alleyway during this run?
“We as a school and as a city are extremely lucky to have the Barbecue Recreation Bowling Alley,” said Panthers coach James Lynch. “And the community it created in that space.”
Lynch said the owners of Barbecue Recreation — home of Hoosick Falls bowling — Jack and Linda Fitzsimmons play a critical role in the program’s success.
Children in Hoosick Falls have the opportunity to participate in youth bowling leagues on Saturdays through Barbeque Recreation, introducing them to the sport at a competitive level early on.
So when it comes time to join the high school team, which is seventh grade bowling in New York, the Panthers bowlers are already well advanced.
As Lynch puts it, “These kids grew up a little bit in the sport.”
A tradition of excellence
Many of the bowlers on the Panthers roster have parents who also bowled for Hoosick Falls. Lynch is himself a former member of the Hoosick Falls bowling team.
Just as he has had a lot of success running the program, Lynch had plenty when he was the one to knock over the pins. A member of the Hoosick Falls Class of 2011, the Panthers coach was part of two sectional titles with the bowling team.
He knows the tradition of the program and attributes its success to his environment.
“The bowling alley in Hoosick Falls and the community we’ve built there are a big part of our success.”
Building a culture
Like any successful program, the Panthers have built a culture. That can be difficult in a sport like bowling, which has a few extra wrinkles that aren’t common in other sports. For starters, there’s a wide age range: the youngest bowlers on the Panthers roster are 12 years old, while the seniors are 18 years old. Connecting as teammates can be difficult at times, but that’s where the team aspect of bowling comes in.
“It’s a funny sport; you play your own game, but what really matters is the total of the team,” Lynch said. “So there’s a lot to pick each other up. And that just kind of adds to that team chemistry.”
Lynch has been fortunate enough to coach athletes from an early age.
“I see these kids growing for half a decade, which is great, and they’re doing it together.”
He credits the seniors guiding the younger bowlers as well as a constant cycle of talent that allows Hoosick Falls to maintain its success.
This year’s team consists of five seniors: Colin King, Brody Mullen, Riley Hayes, Ethan Yonconish and Jamie Haviland. Many of them have been bowling together for at least four years, some even longer. That kind of continuity only helps the program.
Last year’s season was held virtually in response to COVID-19. Often the Panthers would complete their game and not know whether they had won or lost until the next day.
Despite the unique circumstances, Lynch enjoyed that every game was held on the Barbecue, allowing his team to create the same playing conditions for every game.
“With that consistency, I thought they could really focus on their own game. There was nothing but you, your teammates and bowling.”
At the same time, not having the opponents in the same building affected the competitive aspect to some extent.
“We didn’t get that competitive environment.”
That added some extra nerves when the personal competitions returned this winter.
“We’ve had some tight games this year where it’s the first time in ages that they’ve been in that situation. They hadn’t felt that pressure, they hadn’t seen the guy on the other side of the track take a few strokes against each other and feel the need to do it yourself.
Despite this, Hoosick Falls just kept rolling. The winning streak continues and Lynch is convinced that the success will not disappear.
“We haven’t had a year of rebuilding, it was more of a reload. I have many bowlers coming back with varsity experience. I have other bowlers who are ready to perform now but will have to wait until next year because there are some seniors ahead of them.”
King has consistently been one of the best bowlers for the Panthers this season, though their depth has been impressive. Brody Mullen, Riley Hayes, Ethan Yonconish, Ryan Maxon, Elliott Brenenstuhl, Payton Merrills, Memphis Hathaway, Bradley Senecal and Jenna Backes have all had strong scores and played a big part in extending the winning streak.
The Panthers coach says he is lucky enough to be part of the program.
“It’s something I’ve been lucky with, and I hope it continues like this that we have kids ready for every year.”