KIF hosts state bowling tourney

The Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation begins hosting the Billy Tees/Hawai‘i School Athletic Association’s State Bowling Championship today at the Lihu‘e Bowling Center, playing host to more than 200 bowlers and coaches representing all the different leagues.

This is the tournament’s fifth year in the last 10 that Lihu‘e Bowling Center has hosted the state tournament. The O‘ahu Interscholastic Association was granted the most representatives (40 girls and 40 boys). The KIF was granted the fewest with only seven girls and boys each.

 One of the KIF’s representatives hoping to make her mark at the tournament is the reigning league individual girls champion Mindi Agena of Kapa‘a High School. The senior trailed rival Tiffany Lum of Waimea High School throughout the season and at the league championships, came up with her best performance of her career. Agena finished with her highest series (571) this season for the girls and her highest game (212) to win her first KIF individual title.

“I wanted to go out with a bang,” Agena said. “I didn’t want to finish second because I finished second last year.”

Agena started the match beating Lum in the first game by seven pins. Lum continued to struggle in the second, giving Agena the advantage. But by the third, Agena said “it all started to go downhill.”

After a brief pep talk from her coach, Agena came out with a strike and continued to hit strikes until the 10th frame.

“They were all pressuring me,” she said.

Now, she’s making her fourth appearance at the state tournament. Her first appearance was her freshman year, the same year Kapa‘a won the KIF. She’s happy that the tournament has returned to Lihu‘e for her senior year.

“(Having the tournament) over here will give me a better chance to medal,” Agena said, adding that because she regularly practices there, she knows the conditions of the lanes and can read them better.

Many bowling alley surfaces are wooden. The ones at Lihu‘e are synthetic which means the ball reacts to it differently and the marks on wooden surfaces would be different.

The alley also echoes and with the large turnout, it’s expecting to be loud.

“I try to shut it out as much as possible,” she said. “But when I go up on my approach, I focus on my target and if I miss it’s because of something else and not because of the noise.”

Also from Kapa‘a is Shanlee Guzman. Guzman, however, is competing in her first tournament as a senior representing St. Francis, an all-girls private school on O‘ahu.

“It’s kind of surreal. I can’t believe I’m here,” Guzman said. “When I started bowling, I was bowling for fun. I never thought I’d actually be good at it.”

Guzman is one of the 28 girl representatives granted for the Interscholastic League of Honolulu. Regularly practicing and competing at the Fort Shafter lanes, Guzman said she’s adjusted to the different surface quickly and said yesterday at Lihu‘e Lanes that she was comfortable bowling there.

Keera Cacal is another Kaua‘i girl who is bowling for the ILH. She is here representing Kamehameha Schools Kapalama.

The KIF teams competing come from Kaua‘i High School. Kaua‘i’s girls will be represented by last year’s individual champion Jessica Iwata, Wailana Borrero, Kathleen and Kelsey Cadiente, Sherri Cubangbang, Alexis Peterson and Aimee Palaroan. The individual spots went to Agena and Lum.

Iwata won the individual girls KIF title last year in her first year of competing. She, like Agena, thinks having the tournament here should be an advantage.

“We have home-alley advantage. We’ve been bowling here all season so we should be used to the lanes,” Iwata said.

Iwata also said that she’s not nervous or intimidated by the other bowlers who bowl the way they’re “supposed” to.

“I’m a straight bowler. The other girls all curve the ball and that’s the way they’re supposed to do it  because it rolls into the pocket,” she said. “I can’t do that. I’ve tried so I pretty much just straight bowl.”

She said she’s more excited about this tournament because it will be her last. And as for the loudness of the alley, Iwata has been to two straight state championship title games for softball so she understands noise and pressure.

“It’s just like any other sport. It’s all just about concentration,” she said. “It’s going to be loud, but when you’re standing in the alley, you’re not thinking about anything else.”

For the boys side, the KIF will be represented by individual champion from Kapa‘a Aaron Belmonte, Waimea’s Mathew Haack, and Kaua‘i’s Kelii Gonsalves, Benjie Bersamira, William Balbin, Brad Russell and Michael Tabata.

The boys of Hawai‘i Baptist Academy of the ILH has won the past two consecutive years. Kaua‘i has won three boy’s team championships since the sport was introduced to HHSAA in 1974. The Red Raiders first came in 1978 at the Aloha Lanes, the second in 1981 at the Ala Moana Bowling Center and the last in 1995, here in Lihu‘e.

Last year’s girls team championship went to Mililani High School.

Opening ceremonies begin at 7:45 a.m. today at the Lihu‘e Bowling Center. The tournament ends tomorrow with the awards ceremony in the afternoon.

•  Lanaly Cabalo, sports editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or lcabalo@kauaipubco.com

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