LAS VEGAS - Just like other top-tier athletes, Kelly Kulick of Union, New Jersey, and John Janawicz of Winter Haven, Florida, know there's an expiration date on their careers.
It may not be as matter-of-fact in bowling, which is a lifetime sport, but certainly at the elite level, where the two longtime Team USA members have found success throughout their hall-of-fame careers.
They have watched contemporaries retire from the Team USA program in recent years, and they've wondered when they'll know the right time to step away, too.
That time is not now, however, as the two United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famers head to Las Vegas for the 2020 USBC Team USA Trials, where they'll look to defend their titles and hopefully add a few final touches to their Team USA resumes.
"I have had the chance to experience so many things and see some incredible places, but I want to go out on my own terms and when I feel like I've done all I can on the lanes for Team USA," Kulick said. "The main goal right now is to make the team again. I'd love to have a World Cup title, as well, but I'm also starting to learn to enjoy the experiences as a whole, win or lose. Yes, every time I put on my shoes I want to win, but that's not always realistic."
The Team USA Trials will take place at the Gold Coast Bowling Center in Las Vegas from Jan. 3-7.
The week also will include the United States Amateur Bowling Championships.
A sold-out men's field of 175 players and record field of more than 165 female competitors will begin the first of five qualifying blocks Friday at 11 a.m. Eastern. All rounds of competition will be broadcast live at BowlTV.com.
The event returns to the place where Kulick and Janawicz showcased their skills across five challenging oil patterns in 2019 to become the oldest champions in their respective divisions at 41 and 46, respectively.
"In hindsight, that week was very special," Kulick said. "We were the oldest in history to win, and I'd just found out I had been elected to the USBC Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, that light didn't stay lit for me in 2019. I'm hoping 2020 can get off to another great start, but that I'll be able to carry that momentum throughout the year. I don't have anything to prove to anyone but myself. I want to prove that age is just a number and see if I'm still good enough."
Their victories at the 2019 Team USA Trials earned Kulick and Janawicz the opportunity to represent the United States at the 2019 QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup in Palembang, Indonesia.
It was the first appearance for each at the prestigious event, and coming up short there also will be a motivator for the duo heading into the 2020 Team USA Trials. Kulick, who is looking to make Team USA for the 16th time, finished tied for third place at the World Cup, while Janawicz, a nine-time Team USA member, finished 19th on the men's side.
"It was a bucket-list item just to bowl in the World Cup, but to put on the performance I did was pretty disappointing," Janawicz said. "My execution could've been better, and to lay an egg in what could be my only appearance was disappointing, too. I don't really want that to be my only World Cup performance, so I'd love another chance. There's only one way to get there, and that is to win the Team Trials, so that's extra motivation."
As the 2019 calendar year wound down, the two did not ignore the things they needed to work on to ensure another solid effort in Las Vegas.
Kulick was very focused on her release, which she feels will help her ball reaction on some of the tougher oil patterns she'll face in 2020, not only at the Team USA Trials, but also on the Professional Women's Bowling Association Tour.
Janawicz, who flew back and forth between the United States and Asia many times in 2019 for both work and bowling reasons, returned home from the World Cup and immediately started working on some fit changes in his bowling balls to hopefully correct the things that didn't feel quite right in Indonesia. He also admitted to struggling with repeating shots, so there has been some focus on that.
"You're always trying to find ways to score, especially as the game and equipment changes," Janawicz said. "You have to find ways to stay competitive with the talented young players, who are so far ahead of where I was at their ages. As you get older and your body changes, you have to be more creative. Winning in 2019, when scores were a little lower, spare shooting was key for me."
Also among the talented field at the 2020 Team USA Trials will be reigning U.S. Amateur champions Breanna Clemmer of Clover, South Carolina, and Wesley Low of Palmdale, California, and a slew of recent and past winners from the prestigious Junior Gold Championships.
Competitors at this week's event will earn ranking points based on their finishing positions in each of the five qualifying rounds - the top bowler of the round will earn one ranking point, second place will earn two points, etc. - with the lowest total of ranking points after five rounds determining the men's and women's Team USA Trials champions. Each will earn an automatic spot on Team USA for 2020.
In addition to the title and spot on the team, the winner of each division again will represent Team USA at the World Cup. The 2020 event will be held in Kuwait.
The top four men and top four women at the 2020 Team USA Trials, based on ranking points, will earn automatic spots on Team USA, while two additional men and two additional women will be selected by the National Selection Committee from the pool of players that competed during the week at the Gold Coast Bowling Center.
The National Selection Committee also will select a maximum of five men and five women for the team based on submitted resumes. Those applicants must have been Team USA or Junior Team USA members within the last 10 years or among the top 25 in earnings during the 2019 Professional Bowlers Association Tour season or top 25 in points during the 2019 PWBA Tour season.
After the final qualifying round at the Team Trials, the top three amateur men and top three amateur women will advance to a stepladder final to determine the U.S. Amateur champions. Both winners will earn spots on Team USA.
If the U.S. Amateur champion already has earned a spot on the team, the spot will be awarded to the next-highest Team USA Trials qualifier based on ranking points.
To be eligible for this year's U.S. Amateur, a bowler must not hold or have held a professional membership (PBA or PWBA) in 2019. Also, anyone who has won a professional title (regional, national or senior) as a professional is not eligible to compete as an amateur.
For youth competitors, the top four boys and top four girls, based on ranking points, automatically will earn spots on Junior Team USA 2020. Two additional boys and two additional girls also will be selected by the National Selection Committee based on performances from either the 2020 Team USA Trials or 2019 Junior Gold Championships.
They will join the youth competitors who already earned their spots on Junior Team USA 2020 through qualifying at the 2019 Junior Gold Championships.
BowlTV will provide wire-to-wire coverage of the events, including the announcement of Team USA and Junior Team USA 2020.
Along with the World Cup, the 2020 schedule for adult Team USA will include the Pan Am Bowling Adult Championships, Pan Am Champion of Champions event and World Bowling Singles Championships.
The schedule also provides additional motivation for Kulick, who was not part of the Team USA contingent at the recent World Bowling Women's Championships and is the defending champion at the World Singles Championships, which last was held in 2016.
"Not being able to go to the World Women's Championships in 2019 has been a motivator because I'd love one more event with the ladies," said Kulick, who is an assistant coach for Team USA and has helped Junior Team USA to international success. "So much of what we do is individual, and there's nothing like getting to compete as a team. At the same time, the World Singles Championships also is special for me, and I'd love a chance to go back."
For more information on the USBC Team USA Trials, visit BOWL.com/TeamUSATrials.