LAS VEGAS - It may have taken longer than he hoped, but Cameron Crowe of Orland Park, Illinois, eventually got to experience everything Team USA has to offer, and there might not be enough adjectives to properly illustrate the magnitude and impact of the opportunity.
Crowe is a little more than two months removed from his first international trip, both for Team USA and overall, and he'd love a chance to build on what he learned on the lanes in Cali, Colombia.
His quest to reclaim his spot on Team USA will begin Sunday at the Gold Coast Bowling Center, where he'll have two hours of practice to finalize his arsenal and game plan for the 2022 United States Bowling Congress Team USA Trials.
Competition at the 2022 USBC Team Trials will get underway Monday and again will be a five-day test of versatility across five challenging lane conditions, with a unique point-based system determining the winners.
The field will feature nearly 170 men and more than 130 women, including nine of the 12 men on the current Team USA roster and eight of the 15 women.
The United States Amateur Bowling Championships will be a second layer to the week, as it is has been since being reintroduced in 2016, and Crowe, a 20-year-old left-hander, will walk into the venue as the defending men's U.S. Amateur champion.
The tournament will conclude Friday with the introduction of Team USA and Junior Team USA 2022.
All rounds of competition will be broadcast live at BowlTV.com, beginning Monday at 11 a.m. Eastern.
"It's still hard to describe that week in 2020 and all that came from it, but being part of Team USA has been a dream come true and a blessing," Crowe said. "It meant the world to make the team, and now, it means 10 times more. Nothing can replace or replicate representing your country on the lanes and winning a gold medal. I want to get that chance again."
Crowe, a standout for the St. Ambrose University bowling team who missed most of the recent semester due to a nagging foot injury, used the 2020 Team USA Trials as his breakout performance on the national stage. He finished third in the Team Trials standings, while qualifying for the U.S. Amateur stepladder, and his success earned him spots on Team USA and Junior Team USA for the first time.
The effects of COVID-19 then forced the suspension of the Team USA program for 2020 and the cancellation of the 2021 Team USA Trials, ultimately delaying Crowe's debut in a Team USA jersey by almost two years.
All 2020 Team USA and Junior Team USA members were granted an additional year on the teams when the program and international competition resumed in 2021, and Crowe parlayed that into an invite to the 2021 PANAM Bowling Elite Championships.
The trip offered a full range of feelings that started with the initial call from Team USA head coach Bryan O'Keefe and transitioned to a bit of worry about his new passport arriving on time.
"I did a lot of growing up on that trip as a person and a bowler, I did my best all week and I learned a lot about my own game and about the level of competition in other countries," Crowe said. "At first, I felt like the annoying little brother just poking at everyone the whole time with questions and inexperience, but I appreciate everyone being so patient and supportive."
On-site, once the event got underway, Crowe said he was the most nervous he'd been in a while, but that eventually passed with help from his coaches and teammates.
The week ended with him on the medal podium, surrounded by those teammates, listening to the Star-Spangled Banner in celebration of the third consecutive team gold medal for the Team USA men at the event.
"For the first two or three games that week, I was nervous for the first time in a really, really long time, and I was afraid to let everyone down, even though the tournament started with singles," said Crowe, who also took home a bronze medal in trios. "I felt I over-exaggerated the pressure I usually put on myself, and it took a while for me to get comfortable. It was amazing to have everyone there to help me, and I certainly can't be mad about how the week ended for us."
The PANAM Elite Championships in October, which also included the top women from the region, was one of five international events for the Team USA program in 2021.
The 2021 PANAM Bowling Champion of Champions was held simultaneously in Cali using some of the same scores, while November included the International Bowling Federation Super World Championships, inaugural IBF Para Bowling World Championships and IBF Masters (formerly Senior) World Championships.
Also part of the trip to Colombia were Matthew Russo of Ballwin, Missouri, and Breanna Clemmer of Clover, South Carolina, who first joined Crowe in the trophy hoisting in Las Vegas. Russo won the men's title at the 2020 Team USA Trials, and Clemmer became the women's U.S. Amateur champion for the second consecutive time.
Russo earned some redemption with the Team Trials win, along with a return to Team USA, after not making the roster in 2019. He was on the team in 2017 and 2018.
He now is a seven-time gold medalist, after claiming three golds in Cali, and later was selected as the 2021 Professional Bowlers Association Rookie of the Year.
He's back at Gold Coast this week looking to continue his momentum from 2021.
Clemmer, a five-time member of Junior Team USA and a member of Team USA since 2019, enjoyed a successful professional debut in 2021, too, though she finished as the runner-up to Stephanie Zavala in the points-based race for Professional Women's Bowling Association Rookie of the Year. It was disappointing but motivating at the same time.
Her sophomore campaign on the PWBA Tour is just a few months away, so kicking off the year with another great run at the Team Trials certainly would help her confidence.
"After the PWBA Tour season finished, I was heartbroken with how it ended, but I learned a lot from it and realized that sometimes, the losses can be just as important as the victories," said Clemmer, a 24-year-old right-hander. "I had a really good season overall, and there's nothing to hang my head about. It's something to build on in 2022."
Due to her professional status, Clemmer won't be able to defend her U.S. Amateur title, but she can improve on finishes of second and fourth, respectively, at the last two editions of the Team USA Trials and claim a spot on Team USA for the fourth consecutive year.
"I honestly think I'm more prepared mentally than I have been in the past based on my overall experience and getting to spend this past year bowling against the best in the world," said Clemmer, who claimed three gold medals and a bronze medal in Cali, her first event as a member of adult Team USA. "I've also had a couple close calls at the Team Trials, which shows me I can do it. Plus, I love competing for my country, and it would mean the world to have another chance."
Kelly Kulick of Union, New Jersey, the two-time reigning Team Trials champion on the women's side, will be in Las Vegas this week, but not to defend her title. Instead, she'll be scouting the talent as her first assignment as the new head coach for Junior Team USA.
Kulick, a 17-time Team USA member, won the 2020 Team Trials with a record score of 13 ranking points and closed the year by helping the Team USA women to a team gold medal at the IBF Super World 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 2022.
The top four age-eligible men and top four age-eligible women at the 2022 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.
Bowlers now must be at least 18 years old as of the end of the 2022 Team USA Trials to be eligible for the adult version of Team USA.
The National Selection Committee also will select additional men and 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 2021 PBA Tour season or top 25 in points during the 2021 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 2021. 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 age-eligible boys and top four age-eligible girls, based on ranking points, automatically will earn spots on Junior Team USA 2022. Two additional boys and two additional girls also will be selected by the National Selection Committee based on performances from either the 2022 Team USA Trials or 2021 Junior Gold Championships.
They will join the youth competitors who already earned their spots on Junior Team USA 2022 during the 2021 Junior Gold Championships.
BowlTV will provide wire-to-wire coverage of the events, including the announcement and introduction of Team USA and Junior Team USA 2022.
Team USA's competition schedule for 2022 still is taking shape, but the list of potential events includes the World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, PANAM Bowling Champion of Champions in Brazil, PANAM Bowling Women's Championships in Peru and PANAM Bowling Masters and Grand Masters (Senior and Super Senior) Championships in the Dominican Republic.
For more information on the USBC Team USA Trials, visit BOWL.com/TeamUSATrials.