Bobcat bowlers focus on conference title

SARANAC LAKE – Two years ago, the brand-new bowling team at Paul Smith’s College rolled into the Yankee Small College Conference with a bang. Now in their third season, the Bobcats would like nothing better than to show they have already established a dominating program at their school.

After winning the YSCC title the first year and placing third a season ago, Paul Smith’s heads to the conference championship tournament this month in Maine looking to grab its second crown in three attempts.

In addition to having a realistic shot at claiming a second team title, the Bobcats could land their best bowler on the top of the individual podium.

Junior Jason Duryea leads the 15-member Paul Smith’s bowling squad into the 16-team YSCC tournament April 12 and 13 in Lewiston, Maine. A transfer student from the Berkshire County town of Monterey, Mass., Duryea has already claimed one conference individual title in 2011 as a student-athlete at Unity College in Maine.

Returning to a familiar house, Duryea will be seeking his second individual championship as well as a second team title. When he claimed his first victory, he was also joined by the rest of the Unity bowlers as team champions.

“In the spring of 2011, I was the individual champion and we were the team champions,” Duryea said. “This time, I want to win individuals again, and just as importantly, I want to see us win the team championship. I think we have a really good shot at it.”

The Bobcats, who call Romano’s Saranac Lanes their home house, are coached by Paul Smith’s graduate Phil Muha, who has led the program since it began. Muha has the same optimistic outlook that his top bowler does.

“We won it in 2012, we were third last year, and the group we are taking this time has more experience than ever,” Muha said. “I think we have a great shot at winning it all. There are a lot of legit bowlers on this team.

“We’re lucky to have Jayson,” Muha added. “He’s done so much in the sport of bowling, and he’s shared what he knows with the rest of the team and with me. He’s shown me some things that I didn’t know as a bowler and a coach.”

A 22-year-old majoring in Natural Resource Management and Policy, Duryea has compiled an impressive – no, make that a remarkable – resume as a bowler. Growing up in a family of bowlers, Duryea got involved with the sport when he was just 18 months old, and rolled his first 200 game as a 6 year old. He bowled his first 300 at age 15, and since then, the left-hander has piled up 18 perfect games and numerous three-game series scores in the 800s.

“My parents (Anna and Dale) are both bowlers, and when I first started, they told me as long as I can get the ball down the lane 90 percent of the time, they’d keep taking me,” Duryea said. “When I was 6 and bowled that 200, I knew this was my sport.”

Standing at height of nearly 6-foot-4, Duryea rips the ball down the lanes at an average speed of nearly 19 mph, which is slightly above what the professionals average.

“Throwing it hard takes some of the curve out and gives it more spin and more pin reaction,” Duryea said. “Whenever I get a 300, it still gets the heart pumping, even though I have several of them.

“I just bowl for the enjoyment of the sport,” he added. “The oil patterns are always changing between lanes and nobody bowls the same.”

Duryea has his sights set on becoming a professional bowler, but as is the case in every sport, reaching that level is never a guarantee. That’s something Duryea realizes, so he has a back-up plan, which in fact, really isn’t a back-up plan.

“I transfered to Paul Smith’s because the curriculum is more on track for what my goals are,” he said. “One day, I hope to become a professional, but it’s really expensive to enter all these tournaments. Looking at a career, I want to be what they call an EnCon officer in New York. I don’t know where I want to go, but there are plenty of options. I love the outdoors. I like to fish, hunt and hike.”

As a bowler, Duryea has already won his share of prize money and has experienced the limelight of competing on a big stage. In his biggest tournament to date, Duryea won a tournament in East Greenbush that was televised on Fox 23, rolling a 256 to claim the victory. And in order to attend his first semester of college at Unity, he was able to help pay for tuition with $6,000 in prize money he won in tournaments.

“Jayson has already accomplished a lot as a bowler,” Muha said. “Going pro, that’s extremely difficult, but I think he has a definite shot at it. If he can make it, the best to him. We’d all be pulling for him.”