McConnell joins exclusive club
BUTLER TWP — Kelsee McConnell couldn’t wait to join the Butler varsity girls bowling team.
Golden Tornado coach Bob Cupp couldn’t wait for her to get there.
“I remember seeing her bowl in the youth leagues a few years back,” Cupp said. “You could see the talent in her back then.”
She certainly hasn’t disappointed.
Now a senior, McConnell will carry a 201.23 average into WPIBL team action this week at AMF Belle Vernon Lanes. She is only the second girl in Butler High School bowling history to average 200 over a full season, joining Megan Paul.
Paul went on to win the state girls singles bowling crown a number of years ago.
“My goal this year was to average 200,” McConnell said. “I never stopped to think Megan was the only other girl to do that here. I don’t even know what to say about that.”
A bowler since age 5, McConnell was introduced to the sport by her cousin, Nick Cooter, one of the top bowlers in the area.
McConnell got permission from the school district to travel to some road matches with the Butler team as an eighth-grader, just to watch the action and experience being around the team. She went to regionals with the Tornado that year as well.
“That year really helped me,” she said. “I got to be around the coaches and the girls ... I learned so much just from watching. Bob Cupp, Kurt (Huff) and Jim (Hepler), our coaches, are all 200-average bowlers in their own right. I believe we have the best coaches in the state.”
Cupp said that McConnell’s experiences as an eighth-grader with the team helped her “hit the ground running” during her freshman season.
“Her average jumped every season,” Cupp said.
McConnell averaged over 170 as a freshman with the Tornado, qualifying for postseason singles competition. She made it all the way to the state tournament that season.
Her average jumped into the 180s her sophomore year, then 190 as a junior ... but she hasn’t been back to states since.
“Yeah, I kind of took it for granted my freshman year,” McConnell said of reaching the state tournament. “I know now how hard it is to get that far. My focus now is to finish among the top six at WPIBL’s, make the stepladder finals and get back to states.”
Butler’s girls finished undefeated in the regular season. While McConnell led the team — and Northwest section — in average, she also led both with a 254 high game and 681 series.
“It’s very hard to lead all three categories like that. It’s pretty rare,” Cupp said.
The coach added that McConnell was pushed this year by Butler teammate Makenzie Zimmerman, a junior who averaged 184.73 this season with a 245 high game and 645 high series.
“When a bowler increases her average by eight to 10 pins over the previous year, that’s a pretty good jump,” Cupp said. “Makenzie had her average jump 20 pins over last year. She challenged Kelsee a little bit.”
“Makenzie’s had a great year. She became the biggest threat to me in the section,” she said. “Being able to compete with her that way as teammates helped us both, I think.”
McConnell will continue her academic and bowling career at Mount Aloysius College, where she plans to major in ultrasonography.
“My long-range goal was always to bowl in college,” McConnell said. “When I’m through. I’m sure I’ll be bowling in adult leagues. I’ll always be a bowler.