Daemen University right up her alley
Chelsea Porga can thank her late grandfather, Bert Rancourt, for her love of bowling.
The 17-year-old, Grade 12 student at École Secondaire Catholique Saint-Jean-de-Brébeuf grew up playing a variety of sports but never felt any passion until she laced on a pair of bowling shoes when she was eight years old.
“When I was younger, I really didn’t know what sport I wanted to play so I tried everything and I really didn’t stick with anything until my grandad told me to try it for fun,” Porga said. “I went out and never looked back.”
Within a week of giving bowling a try, Porga signed up for a 10-pin league at Jeff’s Bowl-O-Rama in Welland.
“I love bowling,” she said.
Porga, who also credited coaches Brian Staneff, Todd Walker, Steve Cadrin and Pat Guglielmi with her development, parlayed her love of bowling into an athletic scholarship at Daemen University in Amherst, N.Y., where she is the program’s first international recruit.
“A lot of relief,” she said, when asked how she felt now that her schooling was decided. “Now I know where I’m going and I can start to get organized for college. I’ve already talked to some of the girls on the bowling team so I’ve already made friends. It feels a lot better knowing people who are already going to that school so I just won’t be showing up there and having no one.”
Porga decided in early 2021 she would try to combine bowling with school, if possible.
“After my grandad passed away in May 2021, I thought maybe I wanted to play at a higher level,” she said. “I was in Grade 11 and I was thinking about what I wanted to do.”
Porga did her homework — she knew she wanted to stay close to home — in an attempt to find a school that offered both bowling and a fitness and health program.
“I did all the research and found Daeman and it had exactly what I wanted,” said Porga, who will study fitness and health promotion with a specialization in fitness and health to eventually pursue education in physiotherapy.
She then went about selling herself to women’s bowling coach Carrie Racsumberger.
“I e-mailed the coach and introduced myself,” Porga said. “I wanted to know a little more about the program. She was recruiting a lefty at the time and I told her my information and made up document with all accomplishments and grades so she could look at an ensemble. I sent a video and we’ve been in contact since May of last year and talk all the time.”
Porga toured the campus of the school last fall and also met with the team. She was recruited in September was offered an athletic scholarship in November before committing the next month.
Daemen is a member of the East Coast Conference (ECC), competing at the Division II level of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
“We play tournaments in the Buffalo region and take a trip to Florida or Las Vegas and play against D1 teams. It gives us an experience to get better,” she said.
Porga, whose top game is a 244, was a silver medalist from the Youth Bowling Tour of Southern Ontario. In June she is headed to a camp in Kingston run by bowlers who have played internationally.
“They chose people from Ontario and Quebec who have the potential to go farther. We have a chance to win our entry,” she said.
This weekend, Porga is off to Daemen for a Scholar’s Day.
“They choose first-year students who have the potential to go farther and they are willing to offer us full tuitions,” she said. “I really have to sell myself.”
On the lanes, Porga is proud of her ability to adapt.
“It depends on the oil and if they are long lanes or short lanes,” she said. “You adjust, move to the left or right. I have six balls all designed to do something different. Sometimes (I throw) more hook, sometimes slow it down or move up or back. It’s a lot of adjusting.”
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