Bowling with the champs

Alaska's top youth bowlers converge on Juneau for tourney

Posted: Sunday, April 06, 2003

It's 1 a.m. - do you know where your kids are?

This weekend, if your kids bowl, they were probably at Channel Bowl in Juneau, where more than 200 of the state's top youth bowlers were competing in the 22nd Annual Alaska-Young American Bowling Alliance State Championships.

This was only the third time in the last 20 years Juneau's hosted the AYABA state tournament - the others were 1984 and 1993 - and bowlers were throwing strikes around the clock from 8 a.m. Thursday until tonight. Bowlers were in town from Anchorage, Fairbanks, Kenai, Ketchikan, Sitka and other spots around the state.

There will be a second session on April 25-27 to complete the tournament, with most of the bowlers in that session coming from Juneau.

"This is my first time in Juneau; it's kind of cool," Kenai's Cael Askin, 15, said after one of his sessions on Friday. He's one of four members of his family competing this weekend - Eli, 18, Cael, Trent, 12, and Tori, 6 - the only girl of the family.

Tori Askin, who was kind of bashful and didn't talk much, used more body-English than most bowlers as she tried to will her ball into the pocket. Then she'd cheerfully skip back to her chair after knocking over a couple of pins.

Some of the older bowlers were dead serious as they rolled - probably thinking about possible scholarship money - but for the most part the atmosphere was as much social as it was a keen athletic competition.

And there were some great scores, with several bowlers throwing 200-plus games and a few 600-plus three-game series. Richard Moore of Anchorage threw a 696 series, while Faye Kelly of Anchorage had a 678. One 9-year-old from Kodiak, Jacque Kaune, threw a 211 during his doubles round on Thursday, and his 500 series was 194 pins better than his 306 series average.

The bowlers are divided into six divisions based on their averages, with mixed genders and ages, so a 10-year-old boy could be competing against a 20-year-old woman.

One person who gained a new appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes of a big tournament was 18-year-old Kyle Lanz, the president of the Juneau Junior Bowlers Association. Lanz, who is ranked fourth in the state in seeding with a 190 average, spent more than 50 hours working on scheduling and other logistics for the tournament.

"I've been doing scheduling work for the past month," Lanz said between frames of his team event Friday night with Juneau's Nick Wolf, 18, Wilbert Ridgeway, 17, and James Peralta, 12. "I volunteered, but I'm very tired. Yesterday I spent 21 hours here. Even when it was my turn to bowl, I still had a lot of people coming up to me asking questions."

Lanz also works at Channel Bowl, and when he wasn't working on the tournament he and Wolf were practicing. Wolf, who averages 180 and is ranked 15th in the state, took second place last year in the Division I singles and hopes to better that this year.

"I don't know, it's just fun," Wolf said when asked what attracts him to the sport. "You've got to do it yourself, you can't let others help you. You've got to practice and Kyle and I have been in here just about every day."

"I like to see the pins fly, especially when you get in the pocket," said Ridgeway, who averages 154 and is ranked 28th in the state. "Right now I'm hitting the pocket pretty well."

Lanz, Wolf and Ridgeway will be heading to Fairbanks next weekend for the Pepsi Youth Bowling Championships, which take place on April 11-13 at Arctic Bowl and serve as a qualifier for the national youth championships on July 12-18 in St. Louis.

The vast majority of the bowlers at this tournament started the sport because other members of their family bowled.

Lanz and Wolf said their parents bowled, while Ridgeway said he got started when his mom bought him a bowling ball (his mom said her son ended up paying for the ball himself). Bubba Larson, 12, said his aunts and grandmother all bowl, while Peralta said his mom bowls.

"It's fun, you get to come here and enjoy yourself," Larson said. "I also like when the ball hits the pins, that sound it makes."

"I do it just for fun," Peralta said. "It's the sport I like to do."

Results will run in the Juneau Empire sports section later this week, after this weekend's session is over. The final results will run after the late April session.

Charles Bingham can be reached at

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