Four young bowlers from Sarnia are headed to the Canadian championships this year.
Kennedy Keating, 10, and Kailey Milner, 9, will represent Southern Ontario in the bantam girls category at the Youth Bowling Canada National Championships on May 5-7.
Graeme McGillivray, 14, and Alex Haasen, 13, advanced to the nationals by winning the junior boys category.
“This is like the Stanley Cup,” said junior boys coach Katelyn Saar.
“It’s an amazing feat. Out of this house… we’ve only had five groups qualify for as long as I can remember.”
Each of the bowlers competes in the five-pin youth league at Marcin Bowl in Point Edward.
After finishing atop the local league last year, they advanced to the zone finals, and then the provincials, where both teams edged out 23 other duos from Southern Ontario.
Ontario sends a southern and northern team each year, Saar explained. Quebec dominated the field last year but Alberta also tends to field strong bowlers, she noted.
It’s been nine years since a league player from Marcin qualified for nationals.
“You work all year for this. This is the biggest tournament of the year and we plan all year for it,” Saar said.
One of the largest five-pin bowling centres in the nation, NEB’s Fun World in Oshawa, is hosting the event, said bantam girls coach Tammy Ottonello.
“It’s usually your stronger bowlers out of your leagues that end up qualifying.”
The Marcin Bowl youth league has been operating for more than 45 years, with bowlers age four to 19 competing most weekends from September to April.
Many elite players also roll some games during the week, Ottonello added.
Graeme McGillivray and Alex Haasen have each played for seven years and are pals outside the alley.
“It’s such a good community vibe,” said McGillivray, who attends Rosedale School.
Bowling on the national stage will be daunting, but Haasen said he is calm and focused.
“I just try to play it cool,” he said with a smile. “If I throw a bad ball I don’t worry about it. Whatever happens, happens.”