It's the middle of July and top athletic performers from the United States and Canada are gathering in the same city to see just who is the best of the best.
Baseball's All-Star Game? Guess again. Almost 300 of North America's top youth bowlers, including three from the Baltimore area, are in Columbus, Ohio, for the Coca-Cola Youth Bowling Championships that begin today.
Jenn Kidwell, 12, of Dundalk began the 10-hour drive with her parents and younger sister at 3 a.m. Wednesday. The General John Stricker Middle School eighth-grader qualified for the national tournament after winning the state tenpins title in the girls handicap division in April. Her 187 in the finals was more than 50 pins better than her 132 average.
"She just fell down in a chair," Kidwell's mother, Michelle, said of her daughter's reaction. "She stayed quiet for the first time in her life."
Jenn Kidwell, the middle of three children in a bowling family, has been bowling in a league at Fair Lanes Dundalk since age 4. She said she never anticipated advancing this far and plans to make the most of her weekend in Columbus.
"I just want to have a good time and enjoy myself and win at the same time," she said.
Columbia's Billy Little is used to traveling for regional bowling tournaments, but this is the first time he is competing on the national level. The 18-year-old graduate of Howard High School placed first in the state in the boys scratch division. He will attend UMBC in the fall and plans to bowl on its club team in addition to his courses in computer science.
"I always wanted the chance to go to the [national] finals," Little, who has been bowling for 13 years, said. "It was my goal for this year."
Each of the four divisions (boys scratch and handicap, and girls scratch and handicap) will start with 71 bowlers and be cut to the top 24 on the tournament's second day. Little, who has a 200 average, said he would be happy just making the first cut.
"I love the thrill of competition," Little said. "It's something that I'm really looking forward to."
Edward Albert, a senior at Patapsco High School, also is competing in the boys handicap division. The 16-year-old from Dundalk has been bowling for only three years and is competing in his first major tournament.
"I'm really excited for finally getting a chance to show my stuff," said Albert, the Maryland champ in the boys handicap division. "It was a big thrill for me to win something and hopefully I'll win this."
Scholarships will be awarded to the top four finishers in each division, with $3,000 to first place, $3,000 to second, $1,500 to third and $1,000 to fourth. The tournament, which is run by the Young American Bowling Alliance, will conclude Saturday, when the top four from each division meet in the finals.
Pub Date: 7/11/96