July 17, 2009
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - In a national tournament with over 525 young women competing, one would think finishing second and fourth would be cause for high fives and celebration.
Some day soon it will be, just not today. These thoroughbreds had come to win and they came ever so close to doing just that.
Vanderbilt bowlers Josie Earnest and Brittni Hamilton both came away disappointed after dominating the leader board at the United States Junior Amateur Championship, a mentally and physically grueling event that began Monday. It ended with Earnest knocking down 9,481 pins but coming up just 10 pins shy of champion Maggie Zakrzewski.
Commodore bowlers Kayla Rhoades finished 13th and Kim Carper was 14th in this ultimate test of skill, stamina and also bowling luck.
By finishing in the top four, both Earnest and Hamilton are guaranteed spots on the Junior Team USA. It will be Earnest’s record-setting fifth time on the squad but the two-time NCAA Player of the Year was in no mood for history following the photo finish here.
Earnest had led Zakrzewski by 33 pins after 46 week-long games and in bowling tradition, the 16 finalists are paired for one last head-to-head match with 1 vs. 2, 3 vs. 4 and so forth.
Earnest suffered a string of three costly splits in the final game, and to Zakrzewski’s credit, she capitalized by throwing strikes and converting a tough spare. However, in the 10th frame, Zakrzewski gave Earnest a chance with a split of her own. Earnest needed two strikes and a nine count to win; her first ball was a strike but she left one pin standing on the second ball.
Hamilton, who flew from Bogota, Colombia after winning a Gold Medal at the Pan American Bowling Federation Games last week, was outstanding virtually the entire week. The Webster, N.Y. product led heading into the final eight games but struggled in several and slipped back in the tightly bunched pack. She rallied and was ended just two pins behind Cassie Leuthold for third place.
All in all, it was a superior showing by Vanderbilt’s large and talented contingent as no other university could match the Commodore depth or production. A fifth Vanderbilt bowler, Brittany Garcia, had made the semifinal cut from 500+ to 78 and three other incoming freshmen – Courtney Morgan, Sarah O’Brien and Lauren Rhein – gained valuable experience in this venerable tournament.