Darlene Vietri knew from the beginning that she wanted to raise her son around bowling. That's how Chris, 14 months old and toddling on uneven steps, found himself stepping up to the line, crouching down near a ball about as big as he was, and giving it a two-handed shove as mom stood nearby.
Chris Vietri's delivery was a little smoother Thursday -- none of that crouching business -- and the stage a little grander, but there was Darlene, all nerves and pride as her son checked off yet another accomplishment on his bowling bucket list.
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Vietri, a Holy Trinity sophomore, shot a tournament-high 279 in Game 1 of a 760 series to take the CHSAA individual bowling title at Syosset Lanes. He overshot his next closest opponent, St. Dominic's Vinny Fitzgerald, by 109 pins."Thinking about when I first started bowling is crazy, because I've been doing it for such a long time," said Vietri, whose 222 season average is tops in the CHSAA. "I'm really thankful that I've gotten this good to win this type of thing."
He's not even done. Vietri will compete in the state tournament with 11 other Long Island bowlers this weekend at Baldwin Bowling Center. His average marks him as a favorite to win the individual title.
But as much as Thursday's tournament was a coronation, it was also a shot at redemption.
Matt Simmonds' St. John the Baptist team went 2-12 this year ("it's been rough"), and he shot poorly in the first two games, "and I really just wanted to make sure my day ended on a good note," he said.
Simmonds shot a 237 in Game 3 -- more than 100 pins better than his Game 2 -- giving him the high-game title (highest game bowled by a non-series winner).
"It makes it a little better to be able to take this back to SJB," he said.
Vietri had something to prove, too. His Titans were in a rebuilding year, and the league MVP is one of the team's primary ambassadors. His hardware "will be a good boost for us," coach Frank Messina said.
Vietri said he knew he had a good shot after the third frame. And Darlene? Well, for all her nerves, you could say she knew from the very beginning.