BY GENE J. KANAK
2022 JUNIOR GOLD NOTEBOOK – ROUND 1
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The qualifying portion of the 2022 Junior Gold Championships got underway Monday as bowlers in each of three age-based divisions for boys and girls (18-and-under, 15-and-under and 12-and-under) completed their first four-game qualifying block.
Jillian Martin of Stow, Ohio, found herself atop the U18 girls leaderboard after Day 1. Martin, a Junior Team USA member who led U18 girls qualifying and rolled a 300 at the 2021 Junior Gold Championships in Indianapolis, shot 226, 211, 225 and 247 to grab the opening-round lead with 909.
Annalise O’Bryant of Ball Ground, Georgia, a two-time U15 Junior Gold champion (2018 and 2019) and fellow member of Junior Team USA, used a 257 in Game 2 to post a second-place total of 905.
Karina Capron of Fremont, Nebraska, fired 875 to secure third. Reaghan Smith of Howell, New Jersey, (869), and Brooke Salzman of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, (866) rounded out the top five.
Carter Street of Dublin, Ohio, who narrowly missed making the stepladder finals for U18 boys at Junior Gold 2021, got off to a good start Monday. Street started his block with 267 and finished with 257 enroute to a four-game total of 973, which was good for a 243.25 average and first place among U18 boys.
Fellow Buckeye State bowler Chris LeSueur of Kent, Ohio, finished just behind Street with 959. Joseph Spagnola of Barnegat, New Jersey, was third with 933 while Ashton Yamasaki of Portland, Oregon, shot 923 to claim fourth. Alexander Evans of Jacksonville, Florida, was fifth with 918.
Gianna Brandolino of Joliet, Illinois, used a steady performance to secure first place among U15 girls after Day 1. Brandolino, who finished 22nd in the U15 girls standings last year, used games of 211, 224, 213 and 246 to grab the lead with a four-game total of 894.
Kaitlyn Stull of Raleigh, North Carolina, a 2021 Junior Gold U15 match-play finalist, started with 245 and finished with 235 to secure second place with 867.
Kayla Starr of Crofton, Maryland, the 2021 Junior Gold U15 girls runner up and member of 2022 Developmental Junior Team USA, shot 828, which was good enough to place third.
Addison Kohl of Dubuque, Iowa, used a 245 in Game 3 to move into fourth place with 814. Allison Roberts of Roscoe, Illinois, sits alone in fifth with 784.
Nicholas Schaberg of Holt, Michigan, started with 279 and finished with 274 for a four-game total of 986, which was good enough to lead the pack in the U15 boys division.
Sean Buck of Plantsville, Connecticut, used a final-game 267 to move into second place with 929. Cadyn Pranger of nearby Rockford, Michigan, was third with 923. Kai Strothers, the 2021 Junior Gold U12 boys runner up, was fourth with 889 while Ethan Lower of Griffin, Georgia, grabbed fifth with 872.
Anna Antony of Farmington, Connecticut, was rock solid while working her way to the top of the U12 girls standings. She fired games of 214, 181, 190 and 209 to set the pace with a four-game total of 794.
Ashlyn Henry of Fayetteville, North Carolina, used a 224 in Game 4 to move into second place with 728. Sadrianna Erb of Farmington, New York, also broke 700, using games of 203 and 207 to propel herself to third place with 716. Kennedi Spears of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and Jayna Larson of Three Rivers, Michigan, took the remaining spots in the top five with 690 and 676, respectively.
Ridgely Potter Jr. of Clearwater, Florida, started with 185 and only got stronger from there, finishing with 243, 208 and 259 for a four-game total of 895, which put in first place by more than 85 pins atop the U12 boys standings.
Miles Gordon of Columbus, Ohio, also finished strong, using a 213 in Game 3 and a 224 in Game 4 to move into second place with 809. Eason Taylor of Chicago started with 265, which helped him into third place with 797. Sebastian Vetter of Oak Lawn, Illinois, was fourth with 779. Malachi Wilson of Jonesboro, Georgia, rounded out the top five with 778.
Wilson is making his Junior Gold debut at this year’s tournament, and his mother credits his love for the sport with helping him get off to such a good start.
“Malachi has a passion for bowling, so we don’t really have to do a whole lot to get him going,” Keyana Wilson said. “He’s always ready to bowl, so he’s excited, and it’s very exciting for us as well.”
When discussing his strong opening-round performance, Malachi Wilson definitely showed the excitement his mother referenced; however, he was quick to point out the importance of keeping his emotions in check during competition as well.
“I try to stay really cool and calm,” Malachi Wilson said. “If I make a bad shot, I really don’t worry about it; I just try to make the next shot better.”
Michigan mother and daughter make memories, inspire positivity in all around them
Competing at Junior Gold is not for the faint of heart. After all, the event is a national tournament contested on very challenging lane conditions, and it’s the culmination of countless games and hours of hard work, practice, and preparation.
As such, emotions run high on the part of Junior Gold competitors. A bowler who is laughing and high-fiving one minute can be reduced to tears or seen red-faced with frustration after the very next shot. That’s how quickly the emotional pendulum can swing from one extreme to the other.
But occasionally, a unique bowler emerges, one who figures out how to have fun and enjoy competition even when the pins aren’t falling in his or her favor. Summer Stone of Marshall, Michigan, is that unique bowler.
Just like her fellow competitors, Stone came to Junior Gold hoping to bowl her best. Unfortunately, things didn’t go exactly as planned on Day 1 when Stone landed in 255th place in the U15 girls standings.
Nevertheless, while Stone may not have led the field in strikes on opening day, she was no worse than tied for the lead in another very crucial category: smiles.
Stone was the picture of positivity as she completed her four games of qualifying at Spectrum Entertainment Complex Monday. No matter what happened on the pin deck, Stone came off the approach with a bright smile on her face.
The positivity of her demeanor was so infectious that it seemed to improve the moods of the other bowlers on her pair. Also, it made it impossible to tell that she was struggling a bit in terms of score. On the contrary, anyone who saw Stone’s consistent smile would have had to assume that she was at or near the top of the standings.
“Instead of getting mad and frustrated, you have to make the best out of things,” Stone said. “My mom has always taught me that you need to have a good attitude, so I get that from her.”
Smiling in the face of adversity is not something many people can do, but it’s a skill for which Stone displays a level of mastery way beyond her years. Nevertheless, her mother Robin Kingsbury isn’t surprised as she’s seen that quality in her daughter for as long as she can remember.
“Summer has always had that personality that draws people to her,” Kingsbury said. “I always tell my family that happiness is a choice, and Summer makes that choice. She’s got a good soul, and she’s just so happy.”
Stone’s ability to remain positive is inspirational under any circumstances, but it’s almost incomprehensible when considering the uncertain future that she and Kingsbury have been forced to confront.
“I have N-Stage cancer, and the doctors recently told me that it has spread to my stomach and up by my heart,” Kingsbury said. “They’ve given me around 10-12 months, but I’m pretty tough. Also, I’m a positive person, and Summer has been raised on that positivity. I’m super grateful to be here to see Summer experience Junior Gold, and it means the world to me that I get to be here to experience it with her.”
No matter where the road may take Kingsbury and her daughter during the remainder of Junior Gold and in the days and months that follow, one thing is certain: wherever these two turn up, smiles are sure to follow.
Will bowl for boba
For some, bowling well is its own reward; others require a bit more incentive.
Incentives can come in many forms, but few are as unique as the reward most desired by U12 boys competitor Ezra Bentkowski of Aiea, Hawaii.
When Bentkowski’s parents want to inspire him to deliver a clutch strike or to make a crucial spare, they don’t go for what the doctor orders; instead, they turn to the remedy that only a skilled barista can whip up.
That’s because Ezra Bentkowski’s go-to reward is boba, or tapioca starch balls that are typically placed in various kinds of tea and other beverages.
“If Ezra makes a big split or we’re competing and he beats me, he gets a boba,” Eric Bentkowski said. “It’s just a way of keeping things fun and adding an incentive.”
Ezra Bentkowski finished in 28th place out of 227 U12 boys after Round 1. If that didn’t earn him a boba, he needs to hire an agent to handle his negotiations from this point forward!