By EDWARD KENSIK
kensik@montclairlocal.news

Montclair boys bowling coach Jenna Totaro decided at the beginning of the season to name Tai Burns as one of the Mountie captains.

Usually it’s not big news, and usually the honor is set aside for seniors.

But Totaro was so impressed with his coolness and maturity that she named the sophomore one of the two squad leaders. “I named Tai as a captain this year because I knew of his talent and I wanted to establish matureness as well,” she said. Junior Daniel Walker was named co-captain.

Burns went on to make his coach proud this season, grabbing the high series at the North Jersey Group 4 Section 1B championships at Lodi Lanes on Feb. 10.

The three-game total of 704 that Burns spun was not only the highest of Group 4, but of all four groups at the state section meet. He won the individual high series by three pins over Hackensack’s Matt Lugo. 

“I felt really fine and calm during the whole experience,” said Burns, who added that he knows that this is just the start. “I can prove to myself that I can do better.”

His coolness makes him perfect for the team’s anchor slot. “With that comes pressure, but when you watch Tai you never see him being nervous,” Totaro said. 

Burns said his personal high series is 711, and he will look to do even better in the 2022-23 season, with a 300 game in his sights. He bowled a 300 in a league at the Linden Lanes on Jan. 15.

Totaro can’t wait for Burns’ future on the Montclair team. “Tai had an outstanding season, and the best part about this all is that he has two more years,” the coach said.

As a team Montclair came in fifth in the Group 4 Section 1B tournament, with a score of 2,444. The Mounties only had one senior, Sam Philo, on the team. Montclair was also one of the top teams in the Super Essex Conference.

Burns made sure that he got an early taste of Lodi Lanes, bowling there a few days before the sectional. “It really did open my eyes and helped me find out what to do and how to play the lanes,” he said.

That helped him right from the start, when he rolled a 249 in the first game. “Well, right after bowling the 249 I felt more relaxed that I knew I could do it even more,” he said. 

Burns said he just did his job at the sectionals and was unaware that he had the best series: “I didn't even know I had a shot of winning a high series.” He was told after the last ball in the third game that there was the possibility of his bringing home the individual title.

Burns has been hitting the lanes since he was 5 years old, following in his mother Kisha’s footsteps. “And it does go with the rest of my family, because my mom bowls a lot,” he said.

After winning the high series, he competed on Feb. 18 at the state individual championships at Bowlero in North Brunswick.

While he did not advance in the state individuals and was not happy with his bowling, the arrow is pointing up, and he does have two more tries at it. 

He chalked it up as experience. “It will most definitely help me next year when I start bowling because it gives me info on what I need to do and what I have to do," he said.