Some bowlers spend a lifetime in pursuit of a perfect game, which requires 12 consecutive strikes to arrive at a score of 300. West Orange High School (NJ) senior Kieryn Knox has rolled seven perfect games and capped his final year with the Mountaineers by claiming the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Boys Bowling Individual Finals crown.
Knox, who will continue his scholastic and athletic pursuits at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Atlanta, Georgia, garnered First Team All-State honors for his feats on the lanes and is among the nominees for All-USA TODAY High School Sports Awards Boys Bowler of the Year. He topped a field of 100 bowlers to emerge as the state champion.
Having previously rolled perfect games on the state tournament stage, Knox delivered a 300 pin performance in the Boys Team Finals in February, which helped propel him to more success in the individual competition phase - as he notched the fourth seed. Knox proceeded to defeat four opponents en route to the championship.
"One thing that we love to make sure that we instill in all of our student-athletes is a drive and desire to want to be better," West Orange High School Bowling Coach Adam Miller said. "It's about life lessons. I want all of my bowlers to be better and strive for the best. When you show that you care and are passionate about something, there is no stopping you as a team or as a person. Kieryn is the biggest testament to that."
Knox, who credited family for introducing him to the sport as a five-year-old, said the season provided a lot of enjoyable moments.
"It was a roller coaster, but throughout the season we communicated and grew as a team," he said. "Our new player averages increased because they were open to trying new things and growing as players. That really helped us this past season."
Miller said early in the season Knox experienced some struggles, but he demonstrated resilience that has become his trademark.
"Once he figured things out, there was no stopping him," Miller said. "His work ethic, drive, dedication and heart got him there. As a person, Kieryn is a great kid. He's a fantastic teammate and a great leader. Kieryn actually taught me. I learn so much as a coach from my players - it's a two-way street and we love it."
Knox said he steadfastly embraces bowling's mental component.
"Going into matches, I generally talk with the team," he said. "I try to tell everybody to do the best they can. If you can stay calm, whether you're doing good or bad, it will help you. Because if you let your mental game go, you can throw it all away. Staying focused and doing the best you can is really important."
Miller said Knox is of few words, but his actions speak volumes.
"If I had five Kieryn Knox's, I would be a state champion coach every year," he said. "Kieryn Knox is by far the most silent individual, but when he does say something, everyone listens. He's definitely a leader that is going to be missed moving forward. It was him leading by example. He really didn't have to say much. Everybody fed off of the energy Kieryn was going up there with."
With regard to his West Orange High School legacy, Knox offered the following:
"I would like to remembered as someone who put in the hard work," he said. "It wasn't easy to get here and between the help I had from my coaches and others, I was able to help my team be successful."
And as it relates to Knox's advice for Mountaineer underclassmen:
"Don't be afraid to ask questions," he said. "That's the only way to learn more about the game. Ask questions and work with people who are more knowledgeable than you. And researching the game goes a long way. If you're able to expand your knowledge, you will help yourself and others in the future."
Knox said he met the SCAD bowling coach during a Junior Gold Championships tournament in Indianapolis over the summer, which served as a springboard to his decision to attend SCAD.
"During that time, they had a college fair," he said. "I was walking around, looking at the different colleges. I knew about the Savannah campus, but I didn't know that they (SCAD) had an Atlanta campus and a bowling team. I talked with the coach and he seemed really interested in me - which added to my interest in the school. I had talked with some of the other programs that were larger and some of those schools didn't show as much interest. I took a campus tour and I really liked the school. It was the best fit for me."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kieryn Knox is one of the nation's premier high school bowlers