There are 40 boards in a bowling lane.
Real bowlers, like Mackenzie Keane of East Brunswick High School, number each board.
The “15” and “10” boards are on the right hand side, with the “10” sitting closer to the gutter. At Majestic Lanes Bowling Alley in Woodbridge, site of the Greater Middlesex Conference girls’ bowling championship on Jan. 22, you can use the “15” and “10” boards to get strike after strike.
During the early frames on Jan. 22, East Brunswick’s coach, Amy Brehm, noticed this layout. Before the third frame, she told Keane, her top bowler, about it. She said that if Keane spun the ball from the “15” out to the “10,” it would spin back into the pocket between the first and third pins.
Since Keane is a real bowler, and not some Saturday afternoon sweatpants bowler, she can do this, and she did. Keane ripped off seven consecutive strikes and a spare in the 10th frame, finishing with a 244.
She never looked back. The freshman placed second in the qualifying round and made the stepladder tournament, where she beat Carteret High School’s Amanda Medvetz, 268-167, in the semifinals and South River High School’s Eleni Feggulis, 244-209, in the championship.
Keane became the first East Brunswick girls’ bowler to win the GMC title since Morgan Brown in 2010. Brown was a junior that year. So, Keane is the first East Brunswick freshman to win the GMC championship.
“She’s just very level headed. She doesn’t get overly excited or upset,” Brehm said. “Throughout the year, that has made her successful.”
“It was a big achievement to make the cut even, so to win the whole tournament was pretty cool,” Keane said. “It felt surreal at first but then all my teammates were there to congratulate me. It was a great feeling.”
Brehm started hearing about Keane before the freshman ever got to East Brunswick.
Debbie Stein, a private coach at Bowlero in North Brunswick, trained Brehm when she was a high school bowler for the Bears from 2005-2008. Now Stein trains Keane, and she started telling Brehm about her new standout a few years ago.
“Debbie said Mackenzie has very good mechanics and could average 190 as a freshman,” Brehm said. “That’s unheard of in the female respect.”
“I said to Amy, ‘You’re welcome,'” Stein said, laughing. “I said, ‘I got this kid you need to see. Wait until she gets there.'”
Then last year, when Keane was in eighth grade, she showed up at some East Brunswick matches, met Brehm and watched the team.
“That is not common for eighth graders to do,” Brehm said. “It showed she wanted to be on the team and see what high school bowling was all about.”
When she finally arrived for her freshman year, Keane started redefining what high school bowling was all about. Even before this year’s GMC championship, Keane was maintaining a 199 average, nine points better than Stein’s original projection.
“I had an idea of what I’d be working with, but not necessarily to this caliber,” Brehm said. “Mackenzie has exceeded my expectations and even her own.”
“She has proved to herself that she’s capable of reaching her goals,” Brehm added.
“We have the makings of a true champion here,” Stein said. “It’s really amazing.”
Keane is humble and soft spoken, but her goals are bold. This season, she wants to make the NJSIAA Individual Tournament at Bowlero on Feb. 15.
In future seasons, she hopes to win the state title and be named to the All-New Jersey First Team. Going beyond high school, Keane even wants to make Team USA.
“I’m hoping to pursue bowling throughout my life,” Keane said. “Bowl for college and maybe even pro if I can get there.”