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April 13th, 2002: Coca-Cola State Final at AMF Davie Lanes
Games/Series (6 games): 153, 156, 144, 213, 202, 200: 1,068
First 3 games: 153, 156, 144: 453
Second 3 games: 213, 202, 200: 615
Series average: 178
For YABA bowlers, the Coca-Cola Youth Bowling Championships is the highest
level -- the biggest of all tournaments. The best from all over the place
go to compete for the right to be called "the best of them all." Whether
that right is a big scholarship, a 300, or a coke machine (ok, maybe not
the machine), it tests the limits of anyone who dares to challenge the
best of them all.

This makes state tournaments seem tiny in comparison.

My entry to the Coca-Cola State Final came through the boys scratch division.
At Coquina Lanes, I was the only qualifier from my division. Everyone else
were in the four other handicap divisions. However, I wasn't the only one
from the great state of Florida to qualify in the boys scratch division.
This would turn out to be the biggest test of my bowling career.

The boys scratch division: With the six game, six lane-pair format, early
projections would put a 1,350 (225 average) at the top of the list. After
all, the super-tough lane conditions would make this estimate logical.

As I warmed up, one thing was clear. Not only did I come here to win,
I came here to shock the world. This would turn out to be a truly
monumental task for every challenger. There's no margin for error. This
isn't for the weak of heart.

I would start on lanes 31-32 in this 32-lane facility known as AMF Davie Lanes.
Then, after every game, I would move to another pair of lanes. I would be on
17-18 for game 2, 19-20 for game 3, and so on. Enough with the talk, now on
with the scores.

Game 1: After missing the easy 7-pin early in the game, I said that this would
be the last spare attempt that I would miss. Unfortunately, that didn't help
me very much. In the later stages of the game, I got 2 strikes in a row, and
I got pumped up. Too bad it didn't last very long. Splits hurt me big, not
just in this game, and I wound up with a 153.

Games 2 & 3: As this game (and the next) went on, I started to notice some
things. One thing is that I didn't strike very often. Another is that when
I didn't strike, I would either leave a split (which I would always miss), or
an easy spare attempt (which I would always make). Things started to get ugly,
and game 2's 156 and game 3's 144 both were not very good results. I needed to
do something to get back on track.

Game 4: With some advice, I regrouped and made some modifications to my approach
and my shot. The advice would prove to work wonders. The midpoint of Game 4 saw
me in the middle of getting 5 strikes in a row, something that I haven't done in
a very, very long time. I wasn't very shaken up after the 5-in-a-row streak ended.
I would end up bowling my first 200+ game in over 6 months, and I would love every
moment of it.

Game 5: Before the start of this game, a quick look at earlier results from this
tournament would show that I wouldn't place last. The lowest scoring bowler
averaged less than 100. But, first looked to be out of reach, so the only thing I
could do is finish strong. This game didn't have the "flair" of what happened in
the 4th, but timely striking (which is rare) allowed me to bowl another big game.
This time, it was a 202, with one open frame and a late 3-in-a-row streak blowing
the 200 door wide open.

Game 6: Fatigue and lane conditions proved to be major factors late in this series.
But, I wasn't fatigued and I had the lane conditions down perfectly. In this game,
and in the previous two, I was getting good breaks and I actually added my only
split conversion of this series by converting the 3-10 midway through. I added
yet another 3-in-a-row streak, and it was just enough to finish the series in style.
Final score: 200. It's the first time I've ever bowled three 200's in a row.

Summary: To say that I didn't try would be wrong. Looking at the first three games
reminded me of the 2001 State Tournament. In the 4th, 5th, and 6th games, I was
outstanding. I did everything I wanted to do. I wasn't to be denied. When looking
at the series as a whole, I wish that my 1st-3rd games matched my 4th-6th games, and
add 50 to each of the six games. Yeah, I would have loved to average 255 and advance
without a shadow of doubt, but then, I've got to take the hard fact that I didn't
advance. I'm not looking at this as a failure, but as a greater desire to excel.