Friendship is right up their alley

McCallum bowling team reflects on takeaways from teamwork as pandemic puts season on hold

Seniors+Miles+Lee+and+Bruno+Cioci%2C+Coach+Dave+Stanton%2C+junior+Keegan+Langley+and+senior+John+Pratt+share+a+fist+bump+at+a+Dart+Bowl+match+in+January.+

Frances Arellano

Seniors Miles Lee and Bruno Cioci, Coach Dave Stanton, junior Keegan Langley and senior John Pratt share a fist bump at a Dart Bowl match in January.

Samantha Powers, co-news editor, co-copy editor

When Bruno Cioci convinced his reluctant freshman classmate John Pratt to join the bowling team, what he didn’t account for was that one day Pratt would become the better bowler. He also didn’t account for the fact that he and Pratt would soon become best friends as they bowled alongside each other at Dart Bowl, home of the McCallum bowling team.

It was just so convenient having Dart Bowl right [across from] the school. … If you got a break in class, or after school, even if there wasn’t practice, we would just go and hang out there, and it was like my school outside of school.”

— senior Bruno Cioci

“Me and John became really good friends because of the bowling team,” now senior Bruno Cioci said. “I think we had one class together and I convinced him when I was a freshman to join the team, and now he’s better than me. I would definitely say that me and John’s friendship was definitely strengthened by the bowling team. Everyone on the team is good friends.”

Cioci, who found a safe haven in bowling, was disheartened when he realized that the pandemic would put his team’s home alley out of business, thus canceling his final year on the bowling team before it even started. He is comforted, however, by the fact that his hiatus from bowling won’t last forever.

“It definitely does bum me out,” Cioci said. “It was sort of my niche, and a bunch of other kids really enjoyed it. But also, there’s really nothing you can do about it. I would say I’m definitely disappointed that I couldn’t live out my last year on the bowling team, but it’s not like I’m never going to bowl again.”

Cioci may bowl again, but he’ll have to find a new location. Dart Bowl, home of the bowling team, closed on July 17 after 62 years of bowling, brotherhood, and the best enchiladas in town.

“I was sad, it’s sort of like the end of an era,” Cioci said. “It was just so convenient having Dart Bowl right [across from] the school. That was perfect because we could just go, if you got a break in class, or after school, even if there wasn’t practice, we would just go and hang out there, and it was like my school outside of school, almost.”

I just love the bowling community. … Bowling is one of many things that has helped me when I’m stressed with school.”

— junior Frances Arellano

Junior Keegan Langley was also saddened that the bowling alley that had been a part of his life for so long closed. He also wonders what the future holds for the team.

“I was very sad because I have been going there since I was 9, so it’s like all the memories faded,” Langley said. “I feel like in the future we will have to go through a lot more trouble trying to practice since it’s not right near us anymore.”

After last year’s bowling season ended but before the quarantine hit, Cioci would often get a group of friends together to return to Dart Bowl’s hallowed 32 lanes.

“After the season ended last year… we had a group chat,” Cioci said. “And we would just meet up and do something, meet up and go bowling.”

Junior Frances Arellano has an idea for a future home alley for McCallum bowling: Highland Lanes, a couple dozen blocks north of McCallum.

“Now that Dart Bowl is closed we don’t know where our new location is,” Arellano said. “I was thinking about Highland Lanes, but … we don’t have anything set in stone for the bowling season this year.”

In its second season in 2019-2020, the girls team cruised to a second straight district title, prompting this celebration with the district championship trophy by Frances Arellano, Zoey Rucker, Lulu Elliott and Olivia Lincscomb at the year end banquet on Feb. 22. Photo courtesy of John Pratt.

Although the location is uncertain, Cioci is optimistic about the future of the team.

“If, when COVID ends and there’s a great bowler at McCallum someday, and they have the same great idea that someone did four years ago, then yeah,” Cioci said. “I think it’s totally possible to get another team going.”

Cioci said that once he found the bowling team, it was like finding his family. Cioci would still have bowled with his friends even if it wasn’t for the school team. In fact, he bowled for fun and friendship just as often as did competitively.

“I think it was just like [a] finding my niche kind of thing,” Cioci said. “Every Friday after school you go and bowl, and it was like a routine. All the matches were so much fun. It was great to have this community that’s part of your school, but it’s also something you’d do even if it wasn’t having to do with school. It was just a lot of fun.”

Langley felt immediately welcomed by the older members of the team.

“I joined the bowling team because I really like to play bowling for fun with friends or just by myself,” Langley said. “Being on this team got me to meet a lot of new people, and they were all very nice even though they were upperclassmen.”

Arellano joined the team after she developed an interest in the sport during the individual sports gym class. Bowling was one of the units in the class, and after a bit of coaxing from some friends who were anxious to start an all-girls’ team, she joined the after -school team.

“Every Friday, Coach Amaro took us to Dart Bowl to learn how to bowl and as I slowly got the hang of it, I started to enjoy it, and I saw it as a great stress reliever,” Arellano said. “One day Coach Amaro asked the class to join the bowling team and at first I was skeptical. A couple of days later my friends in the class had asked me to join the team so we could have an all-girls team at McCallum and that’s when I decided to join the bowling team.”

Arellano, like her fellow teammates, appreciates the community of the team.

“Going to practice was one of the things I was looking forward to after school, and I just love the bowling community,” Arellano said. “Bowling is one of many things that has helped me when I’m stressed with school.”

As the Dart Bowl era comes to a close, the teammates reflected on some of their favorite Dart Bowl memories.

Cioci’s favorite memory comes from a game that didn’t exactly … count. McCallum played in a league with only three teams, so each week one team played a game without an opponent. Cioci liked that the low-pressure environment, which allowed the team to goof off and have fun.

I was very sad [when Dart Bowl closed] because I have been going there since I was 9, so it’s like all the memories faded.”

— junior Keegan Langley

“There was one game where I think we were just doing stupid stuff,” Cioci said. “And we would roll up our sleeves and our pant legs or something, and throw it behind the back shot or something like that. We weren’t playing against anyone, so we would automatically win. On those kinds of days, when it was an official game and we were all in uniform but at the same time we were just goofing off, that’s definitely a highlight.”

Arellano’s favorite memory is similar. To her, it’s not the glory of a high score, or the glee of winning a match, or even the satisfaction after a long day of practice. Rather, her favorite memory is when she rolled a gutter ball.

“Since it was my first bowling competition ever, I was super worried,” Arellano said. “Once the competition started, it was all fun and games until I made a gutter ball. I was so disappointed in myself, but as I walked back to my seat my teammates were sitting there cheering me on for making a gutter ball. I couldn’t believe it.”

Cioci said that the bowling team was more than an after-school sport for him: it was something to be a part of, somewhere where he belonged. Cioci’s advice for other high school students is to find something that will be for them what the team was for him.

“I think the value of being a part of something is so important,” Cioci said. “Even if you think you don’t need to be a part of something, you probably already are a part of something, whether it’s just a casual friend group to kick it back with or the No. 1 football team in the region.”

That’s the theme that seems to emanate from people’s experiences on the bowling team: friendship and camaraderie. For these McCallum bowlers, it’s not about who wins or loses, it’s about the friendships they made along the way.

Bruno Cioci bowls at a Dart Bowl match on Feb. 14. Photo by Frances Arellano.