By DEREK CLARKSTON
Dustin Swearingin was not pleased when his mom signed him up to compete for a spot at the Junior Gold Championships — the biggest youth bowling tournament in the nation.
“I was actually pretty mad at my mom for signing me up because usually the people signed up have high averages,” Swearingin said.
He has no reason to be mad at his mom now.
Swearingin qualified for the prestigious tournament at this year’s Alaska USBC Youth Association State Tournament by rolling an average of 214 in his events — singles, doubles and team.
Swearingin, a rising Kodiak High School sophomore, left earlier this week for Junior Gold Championships that start on July 11 in Dupage County, Illinois.
“I’m pretty excited,” he said. “Not very many kids that I know have had a chance to go bowl in something big like this.”
This is the same tournament that the three Bormuel brothers — Jason, Jerish and Jacque — competed in 2012 and that Germain Jimenez qualified for in 2013.
More than 2,000 bowlers will be competing in Chicago, while Swearingin will be inserted into the U15 Boys division. A high finish could earn Swearingin scholarships for college, or a spot on Junior Team USA. He is just hoping for a good showing.
“I just want to go there and bowl my best and hopefully be able to compete against these other national bowlers,” Swearingin said.
Swearingin started bowling five years ago, however, it was just recently that he has seen a spike in his average. He finished this year’s league youth season with a 191 average, up 40 pins from the previous season.
He credited his coaches and practice for the improvement.
“It was fun molding him, because he has turned out to be an exceptional bowler,” said Ruth Hentges, one of his first bowling coaches. “He has really settled down and is making us mighty, mighty proud.”
Swearingin, who also plays baseball, has found his niche on the lanes. He said he would like to bowl in college just like former Kodiak resident Jacques Kaune, who just completed his junior season at William and Penn College in Pennsylvania.
“It is always a constant challenge,” Swearingin said. “When you are bowling against other people they are always moving the oil around, so it is never going to be exactly the same.”
The lane conditions in Chicago will be a challenge for Swearingin. The lanes will be bathed in oil, which is much different than what he encounters at Tropic Lanes.
“My ball won’t hook as much,” said Swearingin, who is taking three bowling balls with him — two 15-pounders and one 16-pounder.
The tournament ends on July 17. While in Chicago, he also plans to be a tourist with his dad and aunt. His aunt, who owns fencing company Northwest Barriers, is sponsoring him.
“It is going to be a fun experience,” he said. “I’m going to learn a lot of stuff while I’m there.”
Derek Clarkston is a staff writer at the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact him at (907) 486-3227.