John Larsen knew he had a great bowler to rely on.
He wasn’t sure about what else he had.
Larsen is the bowling coach at Abraham Lincoln High School, and judging by the way he’s played his entire career as a Railsplitter, he had every reason to believe Steven Leslie would once again be one of the top bowlers in the Public League. Last year, he helped lead the Railsplitters to the Public League championship match, where they fell to Engineering and Science. Great bowler Ian Zeitz graduated, but Larsen expected Leslie to be one of the best bowlers in the Public League.
He was right about Leslie.
He continued to bowl as well as anyone in the game. But the question about the rest of the team was answered. Jabril Graves, Nelvin Mejia, Owen Zheng, Justin Arnott and Jacob August turned out to be exactly what they needed.
The Railsplitters are headed back to the Public League championship and they’ll once again meet E&S.
“I thought we’d be rebuilding with Steven as the lead, and the supporting cast really did great,” said Larsen, who is also the baseball coach at Lincoln. “Steven did his thing, he’s in the 250 range, which is amazing. He’s worked with these kids as well, we go through the regular season undefeated, and we won our playoff matches. I didn’t expect to be back there this year, but we really bowled well.”
Leslie was happy to lead the way.
Leslie, who was born and raised in Frankford but recently moved to Southwest Philly, has been bowling his entire life. It’s a sport that runs in the family, and he was happy to follow suit.
“Bowling is the kind of a thing that runs in my family, it’s in my bloodstream,” said Leslie, who has two official perfect games on his resume. “That’s how bowling started for me. My grandmother when she was alive, she was bowler. She was good, from all the the stories I’ve heard, when they were alive and around, they were really good. Some of my uncles, cousins, they all still bowl a little bit.
“I started bowling, I guess competition-wise, when I was 6, but it all started when I had bowling parties when my family would have them, I was 3, I was starting. I was pretty good from the start, I’ve been winning since 2010. I have a bunch of old trophies that my dad has, patches. Sometimes it’s cool to see them.”
It’s also pretty cool to help Lincoln begin a run of bowling success.
Leslie has been the perfect leader for the team because he’s a good teacher, and he’s happy to share tips to make them better.
Bowling is a sport that takes a lot of practice. But you need a good leader to show you the way. Lincoln has both a coach and a leader in Leslie who are great teachers.
“I can honestly say what we’re doing is amazing, it’s a great feeling,” said Leslie, who works as a cashier at Dollar Tree. “It’s not just me, we have the team involved as well.
“I’m having a great time and I can say I’m shocked that it’s happened. I never thought it would happen, but hard work beats talent, and I tell myself practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes improvement. I’ve stuck with that, it’s all come together and clicked.”
The coach couldn’t be happier with the success. He also loves the way his players represent his school.
“The unique part is our school, we pride ourselves in how diverse we are, you’ll see flags in the hallway of every single culture represented,” Larsen said. “Take a look at our team. Nobody is as diverse as we are. To see the six boys come together, they didn’t know each other, and they jelled.
“We had a great regular season and they’ve taken the lead from Steven. Best bowler in the city. This kid lives bowling. I think he could go pro, he’s that good. I don’t think we’ve ever had a bowler the level of Steven. It’s something special.”
Leslie is looking into bowling in college. He’s also thinking about going to a trade school. Automotives is a possibility.
He loves working with his hands, and thinks that would be a good career, but he’s not against going to college if a school offers.
“I’ve looked into a few colleges, and I’m still trying to make my mind up. I think I’m going to apply to colleges to be on the safe side, but also have the trade schools as a backup.”
The future is bright, but he hopes Wednesday brings Lincoln a trophy.
It would be the greatest accomplishment of Leslie’s bowling career.
“It’s way bigger than a 300 game, you can bowl a 300 game anytime,” Leslie said. “I really want to win a championship for Lincoln. It would be for me, all the other bowlers, the coaches and the school. It would be big for all everyone.”