On Feb. 17, the Lenape High School boys’ bowling team did something no other team had done in school history.
The Indians won the first South Jersey Group IV title in school history, scoring an impressive 3,416 pins during the sectional tournament. Their score blew away the competition, besting second place Brick Memorial by 370 pins.
And yet, at the time, no one, not even head coach Michael Lombardo, knew the team had accomplished a Lenape first.
“We had no idea,” senior Matt Frei-Funk said.
“We figured in a big school like this, we would have won it already,” senior Dean Klimek said.
Everything went Lenape’s way during sectionals on Feb. 17. Frei-Funk and Klimek had their best performances of the season, with Klimek earning the high game of the tournament with a 299 and Frei-Funk recording the top series with a 790. Both seniors, along with junior Mike Uhl, qualified for the NJSIAA State Individual Tournament.
The team had such a large lead after two games, it only needed to hold steady to clinch the championship.
“We knew we were going to win it after the second game,” Frei-Funk said.
Klimek wasn’t too upset he missed a perfect game by one pin. He has bowled a 300 before, and his 299 game came when Lenape had already wrapped up the title.
“I already knew that we won the sectional,” Klimek said. “So it wasn’t like we would have lost if I didn’t get 300.”
Lombardo said the sectional performance was proof of how much the team has improved over the past few seasons. He felt Klimek is a prime example of this.
“When he came out freshman year, he was barely averaging 100,” Lombardo said. “To be averaging 213, it took a lot of hard work and dedication.”
Advancing to the individual state tournament was big deal for Klimek. In 2014, he missed the individual tournament by three pins.
“I was really excited,” Kilmek said of qualifying for the individual tournament. “I’ve come a long way.”
Klimek and Frei-Funk both advanced to the second round of the individual tournament. Frei-Funk finished in 10th, while Klimek finished in 15th.
Despite all the team’s accomplishments, the season ended on a disappointing note at state finals on Feb. 20.
Lenape followed up its sectional championship with a fourth-place finish in the Group IV championship on Feb. 20, bowling a 2,906. Freehold Township won Group IV with a score of 3,118.
Frei-Funk felt his team was more than capable of being the best in the state. After recording 3,100 or more pins most of the season, falling short at states was a huge disappointment.
“Bowling is all about one day,” Frei-Funk said. “We’d thrown a 3,000 all season. We could have shot that easy.”
Lombardo feels his team was disappointed because it set a goal before the season to win a larger prize than the sectional title. Still, he doesn’t feel it takes away from the historical season his team had.
“What we did this year was still an amazing accomplishment regardless,” Lombardo said.
While the Indians came up 213 pins shy of a state championship, Frei-Funk believes Lenape was the best team in the state this year.
“I know we’re №1 in my heart,” he said.