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There are three area individuals competing today in the second Ebonite/KHSAA Bowling State Individual Championships at Louisville’s Executive Lanes. And wouldn’t you know it, the only one with a past State history is the one who is the least at ease.
“I am really nervous,” said North Hardin senior Kawika Glover. “There are a lot more expectations going in as the region champ.”
Glover finished 23rd out of 32 at State last year, rolling games of 183, 191 and 195 to miss the quarterfinals by 77 pins.
“Last year, I learned I just have to keep the nerves down a little better,” Glover said. “Sure there were some great bowlers out there, but in all reality, I wasn’t too far out of the top eight for not throwing a single 200 game.”
His numbers are way up from since then. Since winning last week’s 27-player 2nd Region Tournament at Dix-E-Town Lanes, Glover has averaged 210 in practice with a high of 269.
In the region tournament, Glover shot games of 193, 224 and 168 to get to the two-game quarterfinals, where he added a 255 and a 178. In the four-player stepladder, the third-seeded Glover beat top-seeded Taylor County sophomore Winston Cook in the championship (237-212) after edging second-seeded Taylor County freshman McKinley Knopp in the semifinal (181-171) and besting fourth-seeded Central Hardin senior Seth Oberdorf in the quarterfinal (199-183).
Despite his strong finish at region, Glover has tweaked his game heading into State.
“I’ve been working on picking up my spares on the left side of the lane because that was an issue for me at regions,” said Glover, who is joined in the area individual contingent at State by Oberdorf and John Hardin senior Karen Ledford, who finished third in the girls’ regional stepladder.
With a Hawaiian name and many ties to the island state, Glover routinely gives a “hang 10” hand gesture after marking. He admits he feeds off the crowd, but he can’t get too far ahead of himself if he’s going to have a longer showing this time at State.
“My key is to keep a good pace,” Glover said. “Sometimes I get too ahead of myself and roll too fast, which messes up my rhythm. I just have to keep my fans in it because they really keep my head in the game.”
Oberdorf said his head is in the game heading into his State debut.
“I’m not really too nervous – I’m just ready to bowl,” said Oberdorf, who shot games of 244, 179, 176, 199 and 186 to advance to the region tournament’s stepladder and earn a State berth.
Oberdorf split his practices at Dix-E-Town and Fort Knox’s Houston Lanes in order to get ready for State. While Dix-E-Town is his home, Houston is the closest synthetic surface. Dix-E-Town helps with the size of the monstrous Executive Lanes, but it cannot mimic the playing surface like Houston.
“Basically I’ve been trying to get the right mindset down and learning to control my mental game,” Oberdorf said of his preparations. “Just being able to have a good mental game and keeping control of my emotions and focus on what I should be doing is basically my biggest key when it comes to the big moments.”
Glover, who admits he is an emotional bowler, said he feels Oberdorf has a strong mental game.
“Seth and I are two different bowlers in my opinion,” Glover said. “He stays very calm all through the match and even when he is bowling good, he stays pretty level.”
Like Oberdorf, Ledford said she’s not nervous – yet.
After going to State last year to cheer on the John Hardin boys in the team baker portion, Ledford finds herself as a double competitor this year as the lone area girl in today’s individual portion and as the Lady Bulldogs’ anchor in the team portion Friday.
“It’s definitely going to feel different,” Ledford said. “It was nerve racking just watching the boys last year, so I can’t imagine what it will feel like for us.”
After school Monday, Ledford practiced at the State site, shooting games of 207 and 170.
“I actually don’t remember my other score, but I did pretty well,” she said. “I’ve bowled there several times and I’m familiar with the lanes. I’m not too familiar with (the oil pattern) but I guess it’s the regular sport shot.”
Since the region tournament, Ledford said she have averaged around a 173 while trying to get in three games a day. In the region tournament, she had games of 148, 194, 162, 170 and 184 to qualify for State. In the region tournament stepladder, the fourth-seeded Ledford edged third-seeded Taylor County freshman Candace Gibson in the quarterfinal (182-169) before falling to second-seeded Taylor County sophomore Shelby Barnett in the semifinal (186-158).
“I’m just worried about consistency right now,” Ledford said.
Ledford said her team needs to not underestimate the importance of the eight-person seeding game early Friday. With four players on each lane, the lowest score is dropped. However, the six-person total is what is used to seed the 16-team single-elimination tournament. Should the Lady Bulldogs struggle in the seeding game, they could be seeded last, which would mean an opening-round match with the overall No. 1 seed.
“Those games are a very important part of the tournament,” Ledford said. “That first game could totally decide on how you do in the tournament.”
With all three being uncommitted seniors, today offers a great chance to impress college coaches. Ledford has talked with Cumberlands and wants to speak with Bellarmine, while Oberdorf has met with Cumberlands and Glover with Lindsey Wilson. Glover said he would also like a chance to meet with Morehead State, which is where Central Hardin senior Keri Johnson signed.
“Hopefully if I meet the goal I have set for myself, I hope there would be more colleges looking at me to come visit them and hopefully come to their school,” Oberdorf said.
Glover said all three have already accomplished a lot, no matter how they fare today.
“To go out on a stage as big as State in your second year of bowling says good things,” he said. “It would hopefully open more scouts’ eyes.”
Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at (270) 505-1758 or email@example.com.