Cheryl Brown of H. D. Woodson High overcame awkward form, extreme nervousness and even superstition to win the girls' handicap bracket of the 19th All-American Youth Bowling Championships yesterday at Springfield Fair Lanes.
The 17-year-old senior had perhaps the most unorthodox style among the 205 high school bowlers from around the country entered in the tournament.
She has a hitch in her downswing, throws what bowlers call a "backup ball" and, worst of all, ends her lane approach on the wrong foot.
Despite the flaws, she won her last two matches after dropping the first two and held first place yesterday with a 196 average for the week.For her efforts, she received a $1,000 college scholarship.
Joe Lonar of New Mexico won the boys open division and Hawaii's Randall Sato took the boys' handicap division. Alina Won, also from Hawaii, captured the girls' open class. Each of these bowlers also received a $1,000 scholarship, as did 24 others on the basis of academic achievement and bowling performance during the week.
Brown got off to an awful start in yesterday's final round. She began the day in first place, 2 pins ahead of runner-up Sonya Hixon of Alabama.
Brown admitted being superstitious and didn't like the idea of rolling her first game on Lane 13. In addition, all of her friends had to be seated near her because, she said, "I just can't bowl well without them."
She totaled only 74 through the first five frames of her opening game against Hixon, had four open frames and finished with a 143, her lowest score for the tournament. She lost her second game, 198-173, despite ending with four consecutive strikes, thus slipping to third place.
Brown became so nervous her knees literally buckled at the foul line. She almost disqualified herself when she ran outside "to clear my head and get myself back together."
As an entourage of relatives, friends and neighbors looked on, Brown regained her composure and defeated New Orleans' Celya Novak, 159-136. She even managed a smile in her last match of the day as she closed out Hixon in the final rolloff, 183-163, to win the title and draw praise from the hundreds of spectators.
"You can swallow those butterflies now," one observer said to Brown's mother and father.
"This is ridiculous, isn't it? Cheryl's the one bowling and I'm sitting on pins and needles," said her father, Larry, who is her coach and a youth bowling director at Silver Hills Bowling Lanes.
Brown, from Northeast Washington, was obviously the darling of the audience. She was the only local bowler to reach the quarterfinals.
Sato and Won said they were excited to come to the Nation's Capital because they have little competition at home. Sato had the tournament's high average at 211 and Won carried a 197. CAPTION: Picture, Cheryl Brown is the proud and happy owner of a bowling title. By Ken Feil - The Washington Post