Young Craig bowlers rolling their way to state after regional successes | CraigDailyPress.com

Young Craig bowlers rolling their way to state after regional successes

Members of Craig's youth bowling program gather around a ball-return at Thunder Rolls Bowling Center following a March 16 flight for the Western region event for Pepsi Youth Tournament.
Andy Bockelman

Wherever they may be rolling along to in the weeks to come, you can bet Craig kids will be doing it with focus and determination.

Craig will send five bowlers to the state round of the Pepsi Youth Tournament in April in Longmont following a successful session on their home lanes this past weekend at Thunder Rolls Bowling Center for the Western region round of the event.

Placing first and second, respectively, in the boys 20 and under division, Trenton Hillewaert and Trevor Miller rolled a 1035 and a 1012 across six games to qualify for the next round.

While Hillewaert had his best go in the fifth game with a 204, Miller started strong with a 215 in the first.

For boys 17 and under, Cody Lewis earned third place and picked up a total 1054 for the weekend as part of his first year bowling competitively.

“Learning how to use two hands has been the toughest part,” he said, noting that considering the upcoming roll is far different than simply tossing the ball down the alley as quickly as possible.

Though his tournament tallies ranged from 132 to 221 during the weekend, Lewis happened on a perfect game during a practice session this week, hitting every bowler’s dream of a 300 score.

For boys 12 and under, Andrew Duran took second with a six-game run of 770.

“The toughest part is concentrating,” he said.

Rounding out the state qualifiers who Aveory Lighthizer, who finished as the runner-up in the 15U girls division with an 857.

Lighthizer’s mother, Anna Martinez, is one of the coaches for Craig’s youth bowling team, with 31 local youths part of the regional event.

“That’s the most kids we’ve had in a long time,” she said, adding that about 70 kids have been part of the youth leagues this season.

Her son, Zander Martinez, was among the youngest competitors over the weekend, the top finisher for boys under 10, scoring 678. For bowlers under 12, the tournament is referred to as Youth Generation.

“Kids are really building up a lot of confidence,” she said. “It’s about learning the bowling, but also it’s about the courtesy and working as a team. We work a lot on that bonding, and it helps them have more fun and be more confident. It’s really fortunate that we’re able to host a tournament here because it’s good for the kids and brings more people into Craig.”

Some bowlers have been on the lanes half their lives, while others are still in their first year.

“I’ve gotten a lot better since I started,” said Conner Perkins, who placed fourth in the 20U boys division. “When I started, I was just a straight bowler, but now I can curve it a lot more.”

LeeAnna Nelson has been in the sport for four years, taking seventh among girls 17 and younger.

“I could have done a little better,” she said. “My fifth game really went my way. Learning a new oil pattern and meeting new people, that was my favorite part.”

Chris Runyan served as organizer and sargent-at-arms for the regional event in Craig, which also featured young bowlers from Rifle, El Jebel, Grand Junction and more. She also works with other youth tournaments across the state, including the South region in Colorado Springs and Metro in Greeley.

She hopes to see kids from Craig go all the way to the Junior Gold Nationals in Detroit, with the hope that some of the new challenges at each level — including oil patterns on the lanes — will sink in for athletes new and returning.

“If you’re going to compete against thousands of kids in Detroit, you’d better know how to bowl,” she said. “I love seeing these kids do well.”