Jim Novak, Age 91, Becomes Oldest to Shoot 800 Series

by Matt Cannizzaro, USBC Communications 0

ARLINGTON, Texas - Jim Novak of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, begins each day with a simple at-home exercise routine, but his fitness regimen doesn't end there.

He also participates in three senior bowling leagues each week at his home away from home, May City Bowl, where he consistently averages above 200, and recently made his way into the United States Bowling Congress record book as the oldest bowler to roll an 800 series.

At 91 years, 2 months and 21 days old, Novak put together games of 279, 256 and 268 for an 803 series during Monday's Young at Heart league. He topped the previous mark of 85 years and 9 days, set by William Lautenschlager of Stockton, California, in 2016.

Novak's score is pending formal approval from USBC and would be the 21st certified 800 of his 65-year bowling career. He last eclipsed the 800 mark in March 2010.

"Honestly, I'd given up on having another day like that, because an 800 series really is hard to come by," said Novak, who also owns 35 USBC-certified perfect games. "A 300 is one thing, but putting three games together is so tough. This came as a total surprise, especially on that pair of lanes."

May City Bowl is a 32-lane, independently owned center that offers Novak and his fellow competitors a clean and fun environment in a family atmosphere. But, lanes 17 and 18 had been a little less welcoming than the friendly staff - until this week.

Novak hit the lanes knowing that one lane on that pair hooks more than the other, and he'd have to be wary and careful if he was going to find any success.

Even as the strikes added up, the atmosphere was relaxed and low-key, which helped Novak stay calm in the moment.

He knew he was flirting with 800, but he actually wasn't sure how close he was. His main focus was on throwing strikes in his final frame to help his team win the game.

After tossing a double, he turned around to ask if the 800 was possible. One person said no. Another said he needed seven pins. He added one more strike to secure the 800, the record and the game - by six pins.

"Everyone just goes about their business, and you don't often have anyone spying on you, so the whole thing was a pretty low-key good time with friends," Novak said. "There wasn't a lot of pressure, and we're not there for the money. We're there for the exercise and because we love bowling. It was just a nice afternoon."

Novak didn't start bowling until his late 20s, and his career as an auto mechanic who owned his own specialty shop limited the amount of time he spent on the lanes. After the business was established and doing well, there was more help and more time to bowl.

His first USBC-certified 300 game came in 1988 when he was 60 years old, and his first 800 came almost seven years later.

Recently, Novak and his timing were affected by illness, but continuing to work out at home, along with the addition of a new bowling ball, have him back in bowling shape with his legs properly under him.

"I just can't get over it," said Novak, who lifts weights for his arms, walks on a treadmill and rides a bike as part of his morning routine. "It feels so good to hold the record. I couldn't have asked for a better day."

For more information on the USBC record book, visit BOWL.com/Records.

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