Top Interstate Youth bowlers compete

Elizabeth Retherford (from left), Sarah O’Connor, Katie Cole, Lizzi O’Brien and Amanda Pietrofeso are Charleston area youth bowlers who participated in the event. Retherford had the high game overall in the girls 13-15 age group with a 231.

You probably could hear pins drop throughout the tri-county area over the weekend, certainly at Sandpiper Lanes in North Charleston on Saturday and Sunday. That’s when 132 youths from South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia gathered for the 17th annual Interstate Youth All-Stars bowling competition.

During the two-day event, girls and boys between the ages of 14 and 19 knocked down 180,733 pins. North Carolina won the overall title, based on total pinfall, with 61,655. South Carolina placed second with 59,987 and Georgia was third with 59,091.

Several local bowlers earned honors during the tournament, and the South Carolina 16-over boys won their division.

Billy Wallace of Summerville had the total high pins and was bowler of the year in the boys 16-over age group with 1,406 pins. He also had the high series, 757.

Elizabeth Retherford of North Charleston had the high game in the girls 13-15 age group with a 231.

Other local youths who participated in the event included: 16-19, Mariah Mallard, Amanda Pietrofeso and Dakota Blitch, all of Summerville; 13-15, Lizzi O’Brien and Sarah O’Connor of West Ashley, and Katie Cole and Christian Gurney of Summerville.

This past weekend’s event was one of three Interstate Youth All-Star competitions. The next will be Nov. 3-4 in Greensboro, N.C., and the third will be Feb. 16-17 in Athens, Ga. Each state fields a team of 40 bowlers who compete for two days with the total pinfall determining the winner.

“We have three different open tryouts,” said Paul Pietrofeso of Summerville, one of the South Carolina coaches. “Once the tryouts are complete, the coaches sit down and, based on scoring and character, such as how they interact with other bowlers and how they interact with coaches, select a team. You can try out at all three locations, so if you have a bad day at one, you have another opportunity to make the team.”

Greenville and Columbia are the other locations. Visit http://bowl.com.

Pietrofeso said there are about 500 youth bowlers in the Charleston area, although that number has been as high as 700. South Carolina team members carry averages ranging from 140 to 210, Pietrofeso said.

“As they get more experience, the averages go up. Most of the bowlers here would have a chance to advance to the college (bowling) ranks,” he added.

Wallace, 18, is a student at Trident Technical College who said he has been bowling for seven or eight years.

“I went bowling one night, found out about a league and got started,” Wallace said. “I bowl at least twice a week. I did play baseball and basketball growing up, but bowling is the only sport I compete in now. It’s time management with school.”

Amanda Pietrofeso, 16 and a student at Ashley Ridge High School, said her father, Paul, got her started in bowling at age 3.

“I started my first league when I was 5,” she said. “I think it’s the environment, all the people. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of hard work, but I have good teammates.”

Katie Cole, 15 and also an Ashley Ridge student, said it is the overall environment she enjoys. She said she bowls twice a week and averages between 175 and 180.

“Bowling is better than any other sport,” said Cole, who one day hopes to bowl in college.

Paul Pietrofeso said bowling is not a sport sanctioned by the high school league, but that’s something he hopes someday will change. There are college bowling programs for girls, with the nearest being South Carolina State University.

Youth bowlers are governed by the U.S. Bowling Congress, which recognizes them for achievements such as 300 (perfect) games and 700 series.

For youths to get involved, he suggests checking with the nearest bowling center to find out about youth bowling programs, the majority of which take place Saturdays. The volunteer coaches have undergone background checks and will teach fundamentals and work with them through the ranks.