Although there was a CBS Sports Network television crew filming her and a national title on the line, Karina Capron wasn’t fazed on Saturday at the Junior Gold Bowling Championships in Cleveland.
Capron, 11 of Fremont, defeated Lauren Hunter of Illinois 328-309 to capture the championship.
Capron’s father, Kevin, said his daughter coped well with the hoopla of the tournament.
“I think she handled it all fantastic,” he said. “She doesn’t really get nervous. She is focused. She sits there while (waiting) and has ear plugs in. She doesn’t like distractions. She just concentrates on what she has to do.”
The championship match against Hunter was broadcast on Tuesday night.
“I think she was nervous for the first three or four frames just because of the lights and all of the people being there,” Capron said. “But she settled down after the fourth frame and acted like she normally does.”
Kevin Capron, who also serves as his daughter’s coach, said she enjoyed the challenge.
“I tell her that pressure is something you should use toward the good and not the bad,” he said. “It is a good thing to have, but you can’t let it get to you. When you bowl, you don’t care who is out there on the lanes with you. It doesn’t matter. You have to bowl and beat the lane, not the people. If you can’t perform on the lane, it really doesn’t matter.”
In the first day of qualifying, Capron bowled 157-169-199-174 to place her third. She went 197-155-161-181 on the second day to move to fourth. She bowled 151-131-180-171 on the third day to stay fourth.
She fell to eighth on the fourth day with a 169-138-134-159. The top 18, however, advanced. She eventually moved on to the double-elimination match play tournamentwhere she bowled 165-211, but suffered a 385-376 defeat to Jenna Hedgepath.
She won her next match with scores of 203 and 236 to defeat Victoria Varano 439-329. The Fremonter then edged Isabella Romano 322-321 to move on the final four.
Capron then avenged her loss to Hedgepath with victories of 357-344 and 432-344 to advance to the finals.
“She made a lot of friends, like Jenna, who she had to beat twice, and Lauren, who she went against in the final,” Capron said. “They are all friends. Everyone wants to win, but they don’t want to hurt the feelings of anyone.”
Capron only had open frames 25 percent of the time in the tournament. She also threw 574 times in 32 games, but she knew what to expect.
“She bowls in tournaments in Kansas, Illinois, Iowa and South Dakota,” Capron said. “We don’t just stay in Fremont or Omaha. We get her exposed to the other kids that are competing out there. She gets to see the talent, plus in some of those tournaments you have to bowl 10 or 12 games in one day.”
The championship netted Karina a trophy and possibly as much as $1,500 in college scholarship money. Her father said she already has more than $8,000 in scholarship funds in an account set up by the United States Bowling Congress.
“She doesn’t even have to bowl in college to get that,” her father said. “She can use that money (for school) any way she wants to.”
College is a few years off for Capron, who also competes in softball (playing on a pair of state championship teams) and volleyball. She also plays saxophone in band.
“We hope she continues with (bowling), but we don’t push her,” Capron said. “I know some kids live in the bowling alley. We don’t.”
Capron said his daughter is grateful for the help of many bowling enthusiasts during her young career, including Tom Kelley Jr. of Omaha (her first coach), Randy Dodge of Dodger Bowl in North Bend and the late Al Knoell, who established the Fremont Bowling Club.
“Al kept youth bowling alive in Fremont,” Capron said.
Karina Capron, who owns a high series of 693 and high game of 277, will be honored in Kearney this weekend as the Youth Bowler of the Year. She will also be recognized next month for the Youth Bowler of the Year for the Omaha area.
Capron and his wife, Kim, are happy their daughter’s hard work has paid dividends.
“We’re pretty proud of our young lady,” he said.