ARLINGTON, Texas - While top competitors from nearly 40 countries make their way to Lincoln, Neb., for the 2016 World Bowling Youth Championships, two members of Junior Team USA will find themselves feeling right at home as the biennial event gets underway Tuesday.
Julia Bond and Gazmine Mason already have brought a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship to Lincoln as members of the University of Nebraska women's bowling team, and they'll look to collect medals in singles, doubles, team, all-events and Masters competition for Junior Team USA at Sun Valley Lanes from July 26-Aug. 2.
Bond and Mason helped the Cornhuskers capture the 2015 NCAA title against Stephen F. Austin. Bond, competing as a freshman, was named the tournament's most outstanding bowler.
"Bowling with Gazmine has been an exciting learning experience," said Bond, a three-time Junior Team USA member. "I've been fortunate enough to win a national championship with her as well as lose one with her. She's seen me at my highest and lowest, and I've seen her there, too. We made a commitment to each other during the season to be there no matter what, and to not only push one another, but to support and raise the other up. That commitment still stands, and to represent our country as teammates means a lot to both of us because it's not an experience many get to share."
In the title match of the 2016 NCAA championship, Nebraska once again faced off against Stephen F. Austin. The Ladyjacks, led by reigning National Tenpin Coaches Association Division I National Player of the Year Stephanie Schwartz, captured their first national title in the decisive Game 7, 247-192, to deny the Cornhuskers back-to-back championships.
Schwartz and Jordan Richard, who joined Schwartz as a NTCA First-Team All-American in 2016 with Arkansas State, will team with Bond and Mason in Lincoln for the World Youth Championships.
The familiarity these players have developed while competing against each other through collegiate bowling will serve as common ground as the team looks to improve on its bronze-medal finish at the 2014 World Youth Championships in Hong Kong. Schwartz was a member of the team that traveled to Hong Kong.
"Julia and I already have developed a chemistry, but I also have developed chemistry with Stephanie and Jordan by communicating with them during collegiate tournaments and individual events," said Mason, a two-time Junior Team USA member who captured a gold medal in singles at the 2015 Pan American Bowling Confederation Youth Championships. "In order for the team to take the gold, I truly believe focus, communication, positive energy and thoughts, enjoying ourselves and having the desire to win all are needed in order for us to succeed."
Bond and Mason have made their way to Lincoln from different parts of the country but have developed a relationship with the community. Bond hails from Aurora, Illinois, and Mason is from Cranston, Rhode Island.
"Bowling at the World Youth Championships is a great opportunity to represent the United States as well as the city that's become my second home," said Bond, the 2013 Junior Gold Championships winner. "It's very special to me because I love doing what I can to give back to the people who have helped me and given me the resources to perform at my highest. To be able to bowl in such an important tournament makes me very excited to see what we can do."
Now, they will look to give the Nebraska faithful another performance to cheer about as they represent their country and community.
"Competing at the World Youth Championships is an honor, but having it in Lincoln also means a lot," said Mason, the recipient of the 2016 Alberta E. Crowe Star of Tomorrow award. "For one, my dad will be able to watch me bowl for Junior Team USA. And, at UNL, we all agree 'there's no place like Nebraska.' The fan base here is absolutely phenomenal. The people are die-hard Nebraska fans, so winning medals, preferably gold, would be very special to me."
Junior Team USA is seeking its third consecutive boys' gold medal in the team event at the World Youth Championships. The 2016 team will feature Kamron Doyle, Wesley Low, Anthony Simonsen and Michael Tang.
Doyle and Low were on the team that successfully defended the title at the 2014 event at the South China Athletic Association Bowling Center.
Other countries represented at the 2016 World Youth Championships will be: Australia, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, England, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Macau, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Taipei, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.
BOWL.com's BowlTV will broadcast wire-to-wire coverage at the 2016 World Youth Championships, starting Tuesday at 10 a.m. Eastern with girls singles.
The World Youth Championships will kick off with an opening ceremony Sunday at 7 p.m. Eastern, and official practice sessions will take place Monday.
For more information on the World Bowling Youth Championships, visit WorldBowling.org.