MIDTOWN — The top young bowlers in the nation showed off their skills at Grand Central Terminal Wednesday as the 14th Annual Teen Masters’ Bowling Championship rolled into action.
The crash of pins and erupting cheers echoed through Vanderbilt Hall Wednesday as the building hosted its first-ever bowling championship, which is set to continue through Thursday evening, culminating in a guy vs. girl Grand Championship showdown at 7 p.m.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. The competition, which was set to kick off at 2 p.m., was delayed for more than an hour Wednesday after contractors hired to assemble the bowling lane showed up — ironically — wearing inappropriate footwear.
To continue construction, the crew was forced to head over to Modell’s Sporting Goods, where they traded their flip-flops for OSHA-approved work boots, Teen Masters staff and volunteers said.
“It turns out you can’t work anywhere in the U.S. with flip-flops,” said MTA spokeswoman Margie Anders, adding simply, “They came not appropriately dressed. They came back appropriately dressed.”
Despite the hiccups, participants were overwhelmed to be part of the competition, whose winner will receive a $64,000 college scholarship prize.
“I knew it was going to be amazing,” said Elmont, Queens, resident Tommy Genova, 17, who has been bowling since he was three or four years old and was set to compete Wednesday evening.
“This is one of the biggest forums in the country,” he said.
Each round featured two games between competitors, with sudden-death roll-offs in the case of a tie.
Gabriella Mayfield, from Lake Isabella, Calif., was the first to win a series, beating her opponent 2-0.
“It was unbelievable. I’m surprised I threw the ball so well. I was so nervous,” said Mayfield, 17, who said she’d never before made it this far in a national competition.
“I’m on cloud nine right now,” she said.
Her dad, Dan Mayfield, was equally thrilled.
“I can’t believe it. She’s amazing, She did great,” he said proudly after giving his daughter a big hug.
Melanie Hannon, 17, from upstate Cheektowaga, lost the matchup. She said she had no regrets about traveling to compete.
“It was a great experience. It’s so unique getting to bowl in an arena like this. It was really cool,” she said with a smile, despite tears clouding in her eyes.
Others in attendance said they hoped the high-visibility location would help expose people to bowling as a sport.
“A lot of people get that confusion that it’s just a recreational sport. It’s also serious,” said Genova, noting that he practices three to four times a week to stay at a competitive level.
“It doesn’t get the recognition that it should,” agreed his father, Tommy Genova Sr., who described the grand set-up in the station as “the biggest stage we’ve been on. … I think it’s overwhelming,”
Still, competitor Ryan Ventillo, 18, from New City, in Rockland County, said the pressure had been a challenge.
“The past couple of days have been very mentally straining and very, very tough,” he said ahead of his match, adding that the long set-up delay had eaten into the warm-up time that competitors had been promised.
“It’s definitely a new and different environment,” he said.
Those passing through also seemed to get a kick out of the new installation at the station, which has previously hosted everything from tennis matches to billiard tournaments to fashion shows.
“If you’re bored you can come here and watch," said Sara Costan, 18, visiting from Spain.
The games are set to continue Thursday at noon, culminating with the Grand Championship Match at 7 p.m. Admission is free.