DALLAS – The first set of stepladder finals at the 2018 Junior Gold Championships presented by the Brands of Ebonite International will include a defending champion, while two of the other finalists will have the opportunity to claim a pair of major youth bowling titles Saturday at the International Training and Research Center.
Karina Capron of Fremont, Nebraska, earned the top seed in the girls division and will seek to successfully defend the U12 title she won in the Cleveland area last year. She will face the winner of the opening match between No. 2 Katelyn Abigania of San Diego and No. 3 Saphyre Nofuente of Rocklin, California.
In the boys division, Nihal Hari Mareedu of Union City, California, is the No. 1 seed and will face the winner of the match between second-seeded Keegan Alexander of Victor, New York, and third-seeded Joseph Dominguez of Manalapan, New Jersey.
Nihal and Saphyre are teammates on Four the Love of Boba, the U12 team that advanced to the finals in the USA Bowling National Championships on Thursday, and they are the first bowlers to advance to the finals of the Junior Gold Championships and the USA Bowling National Championships in the same year.
Nihal is a defending champion at the USA Bowling National Championships, where he was a member of the Cloverleaf Strikers team that won the U12 title last season.
All Junior Gold Championships stepladder finals will be held at the ITRC on Saturday and taped for broadcast on CBS Sports Network. The U12 boys and girls finals will be the first show to air, on July 24. The U15 finals will air July 31, and the U20 finals are scheduled to air Aug. 7. All shows at air at 8 p.m. (Eastern).
Karina was the top qualifier after Friday morning’s advancers round. In the double-elimination match-play portion of the event, featuring two-game total-pinfall matches, she slipped past Ashtyn Woods of Santa Rosa, California, beat Keira Magsam of Gretna, Nebraska, and then rolled to a 385-318 victory over Abigania in the match to determine the No. 1 seed.
“I’m just really happy to be here to try and do it again,” Karina said of the chance to defend her title. She said last year’s TV experience was a blur.
“It seemed to go by really quick,” Karina said. “It was like, I was bowling, I was eighth, and now I’m here on TV. It was surprising because I was 53rd the year before.”
Saphyre had to win two matches in the Elimination Bracket to earn her spot in the stepladder, after falling to Abigania in the second round of match play.
Nihal rolled a 722 four-game block in Friday’s advancers round to reach match play as the seventh seed.
After a favorable matchup in the opening round, where he had the second-lowest score (310) among the eight bowlers, but advanced, he then had the highest score (432) in Round 2. He then got past Keegan, 346-317, in the battle for the top seed.
“It feels really nice to be the No. 1 seed,” Nihal said. “I practiced like heck back in California, and now it’s paying off. So, I’m happy about that.”
And, he’s excited to go after his second USA Bowling title. The finals also will be held at the ITRC on Saturday and will be taped for delayed broadcast on CBS Sports Network. The U12 show will air Aug. 14 at 8 p.m. Eastern, and the U15 final will run Aug. 21 at 7 p.m. Eastern.
“It makes me happy to be able to kind of defend my title, to make my family and friends back home happy again,” Nihal.
On the way to the No. 3 seed on the U12 Junior Gold Championships TV show, Joseph lost his opening match but stormed back with two wins in the Elimination Bracket. He then ran up against Rylan Breese of Wilmington, North Carolina, last year’s U12 runner-up and the top seed after the advancers round.
The match came down to the final frame, and with Joseph needing no less than two strikes to advance, he got the double and finished with a 411-408 victory to earn the No. 3 seed.
Match play to determine the stepladder finalists in the 15-and-under (U15) and 20-and-under (U20) divisions will continue Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m. Eastern, live on BowlTV.
The U15 matches will take place at Forum Bowl in Grand Prairie, Texas, while the U20 divisions will be contested at USA Bowl in Dallas.
More than 3,800 of the top youth bowlers in the country started the week competing for national titles, plus spots on Junior Team USA and part of a tournament record $350,000 scholarship fund at the 2018 Junior Gold Championships.
The city of Dallas and the Dallas Sports Commission are hosts for this year’s Junior Gold Championships.
Competitors in all divisions bowled 16 qualifying games over four days (four games each day) before the field was cut. Bowlers in the U20 and U15 divisions bowled an additional five games before a second cut was made, and those remaining bowled an additional five games to determine the 16 bowlers for match play.
In the U12 division, after the initial cut, competitors bowled an additional four games before the field was trimmed to the top eight for match play.
Match play for each division was a double-elimination bracket.
Visit BOWL.com/JuniorGold for more information on the event and the Junior Gold program.