Even though the school sports seasons are over, many athletes choose to compete over the summer in their respective sports. That was no different for Penn Yan’s Kari Ayers and Anella Tillman as they competed in the 2019 Junior Gold Championships in bowling held in Detroit, Mich., in July.

The competition is billed as the nation’s largest youth bowling competition. It is an annual tournament in which the “top male and female youth bowlers in the United States,” compete, according to its website.

Ayers, a standout bowler for Penn Yan Academy’s team, has participated in the event the past three years in Cleveland, Dallas, and this year in Detroit.

“It’s way different than what you see in high school bowling,” said Ayers’s mother, Tracey. “The oil patterns are different. It can take 20-30 pins off kids’ averages.”

Kari had to qualify in the Youth Bowlers Tour in order to compete in the Junior Gold. That means travel on weekends, which can be challenging. However, the tour and Junior Gold can earn participants scholarships for higher education.

During the Junior Gold Championships, “each age division goes to four different bowling centers,” Tracey explained. Making things more interesting, each bowling center has lanes with different oil patterns that the competitors are not aware of before they bowl, which affects the ball’s reaction. Bowlers have to adjust on the fly. “It’s brutal,” Tracey explained.

After four days of bowling, she was in 107th place, but put together a nice run to finish in 21st before the cut to 64. She dropped to 26th as she was able to make the cut to 32. Kari improved her position back to 21st but missed the cut to 16. Anella (whose parents are Heather and Chris Tillman), competed in the U12 division and finished in 30th place. Quite impressive for two kids from Penn Yan.

“It is different than high school,” Tracey emphasized. “It’s rigorous and challenging.” But because of the opportunity for national exposure and scholarship money, Tracey believes “It’s worth pushing them a little farther.”

Anella received coaching help from Mike Johnson, while Kari (whose father is Rick) received help from professional bowler Doug Kent, the previous owner of Brock’s Bowl & Pizzeria.