Middle-school students Aliyah Alleyne and Kristina Catoe got involved in bowling as a hobby.
It didn’t take long before the sport became something more than a frequent family outing.
That devotion has made Alleyne and Catoe, both from Mooresville, two of the region’s top junior bowlers, and put them on the national stage.
Alleyne and Catoe finished among the top eight in their age group at the U.S. Bowling Congress’ (USBC) Junior Gold National Championships, July 11-17 in Dupage County, Ill., just outside of Chicago.
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Catoe, 12 and a rising eighth-grader at Langtree Charter Academy, finished third in the girls under-12 division, while Alleyne, also 12, and a rising seventh-grader at Langtree, advanced to the championship match, eventually finishing as the runnerup in the girls under-12 division.
“It was my first time bowling in (the USBC Junior Gold Nationals), and I was a little shy,” Alleyne said. “I really didn’t know anybody or anything. But I wanted to concentrate on my bowling, even if I didn’t know how things worked or anything.
“I was scared at first and didn’t think I could do it, because there were a lot of older people competing and they were really good, but it all worked out.”
Catoe, competing in the USBC Junior Gold Nationals for the second time, and Alleyne were fourth and fifth, respectively, after four qualifying rounds. Through 16 games, the duo were separated by just 10 pins, with Catoe rolling 2,711 (a 169.44 per game average) while Alleyne rolled 2,701 (a 168.81 per game average).
That sent both bowlers on to the match play championship round, with Alleyne and Catoe’s first match against each other. Alleyne would go on to win the two-game set 352-348, while Catoe dropped into the consolation bracket in the double-elimination match play round.
The two would face each other again in the semifinals. And again, Alleyne would win a close two-game set over Catoe, 366-360. That sent Alleyne on to the girls under-12 finals.
“I didn’t do that good the first game, but I found my mark in the second game,” said Alleyne, who lost in the final to Amanda Naujokas of Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y., in a two-game set 383-324. “I really couldn’t see on the lanes where my mark was, so I chose a different mark.”
While Alleyne and Catoe are still in middle school, both are thinking ahead to their futures, and how bowling can factor into it.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I always wanted to be a professional,” Catoe said. “I also want to go to college, and be on a bowling team there. I haven’t started thinking about what I want to study yet. All I know is that they’ve got some pretty good college teams at Texas, Tennessee and Maryland. I’m already starting to think about what I want to get my degree in, and what classes I’m going to need to take in high school.”
Bill Kiser is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.