Delaware Hayes senior Makayla Pounds remembers qualifying for this year’s Junior Gold Championship like it was yesterday.
“I bowled in a Jr. Gold qualifier at the 7-12th grade championship tournament,” Pounds said. “As soon as I found out I qualified, I immediately started crying and hugged my family.”
Now, with the tourney set to start Friday, Pounds is hoping to create more memories this weekend in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She leaves Wednesday.
“I haven’t bowled in the Jr. Gold before, but I know there are four days of practicing and four days to qualify to make it to the finals,” Pounds said. “I expect a lot of competition. There are bowlers coming from all over the country and, to compete with that, I have to keep my head up no matter what.
“The main thing in bowling is the mental part. If that’s gone, the rest of the game is gone. My game plan is to go in with a positive mindset and make every shot count.”
The Junior Gold Championship is a national tournament for the top male and female youth bowlers in the United States. It has eight divisions: U12 boys, U12 girls, U15 boys, U15 girls, U18 boys, U18girls, U20 boys and U20 girls.
Pounds will be competing in a division with more than 600 girls, all vying for scholarship money. Last year, the top third of the contestant pool (213 bowlers) earned scholarships. On top of that, at least one in 10 bowlers receive a paid entry into the upcoming Team USA Trials.
Pounds, who has a career-best game of 279 to her credit, knows the stakes. She’s been practicing like crazy to make the most of the upcoming opportunity.
“I’ve been practicing every chance I get,” she said. “Either I’m practicing my spares or I’m trying to hit the same target. No matter what I’m doing, I’m working super hard. I think my chances are pretty good, I’m feeling confident, I’ve been bowling well at home and I have my family—my biggest supporters—by my side.”
Pounds said she prides herself on consistency. That should help this weekend and beyond.
“In bowling, you have to be able to throw the same shot if it’s good enough,” she said. “When you find the shot, you just have to hit it every frame. Is it going to strike? Maybe not, but if your spare game is strong, it’ll be OK. I’m super confident and have a great feeling about Jr. Gold.”