Rising senior Jessica Earnest was part of the United State team that claimed gold at the World Youth Games in Bangkok, Thailand.
July 24, 2012
Every competitor's greatest wish is to go out strong. Not everyone has that wish granted but count Vanderbilt bowler Jessica Earnest among the fortunate few.
She recently closed out her tremendous junior career in the grandest of fashions, being a member of the United States' gold medal team at the World Youth Games in Bangkok, Thailand.
"To know that I am a world champion and in the history books in my last youth tournament is the way I have dreamed of going out," Earnest says. "This was my Olympics. I love winning as a team, to me it is a bigger thrill than winning as an individual. There were no words to describe the feeling of winning gold."
Earnest, a three-time All-American on the eve of her senior year on Vanderbilt's team, said the gold medal match against a powerful Singapore "felt like any other match" much of the time.
"I could not tell you about a single shot the Koreans threw in the semifinals or Singapore had in the championship," Earnest admits. "I was focusing on my game and I figured out how to follow the game without watching. I couldn't understand what the opponents were saying but I could tell from the tone of their voices what was happening."
It wasn't until teammate Danielle McEwen, ironically a collegiate competitor during the academic year, struck in the 10th frame to clinch the title that emotions emerged. "The tears flowed" at that point, Earnest recalls fondly.
While the gold medal is a lifetime achievement, Earnest also shined in the singles where she led all Americans with a ninth-place finish. But it is not something she will want to remember as far as she is concerned since the top eight was necessary to advance.
"The ninth-place finish in the Masters was absolutely heartbreaking to me," Earnest says. "I am very competitive and to miss making the top eight and advancing was one of the biggest disappointments of my career. After it was over I went into the bathroom and cried; I was that upset. I bowled well most of the singles but I struggled in one game and that was the difference. My game was versatile enough for the various patterns; ninth is not where I wanted to finish - it might have been easier if I had missed the cut by a mile than an inch."
Earnest and her American teammates knew going into the tournament that they were at a bit of competitive disadvantage, given that many of the foreign teams subsidize their top bowlers and prepare them for years to compete in these high level events.
"Our United States team met in advance of traveling at training camp but we came together wonderfully," she says. "We knew we had little room for error and had to be at the top of our games from the beginning. I was very proud to be a part of this tremendous team."
Earnest's focus now turns to her last collegiate season, where she will be the cornerstone of what should be another strong Commodore team. That will offer her plenty of excitement, especially knowing that she is already in bowling's record book as a world champion.