It’s not three strikes and you’re out for a pair of Castlegar youth bowlers. In fact, it’s quite the opposite — Summer Merwin and Carys Rodgers have gone undefeated for two provincial bowling championships in a row and now they are headed to the 2022 Youth Bowl Canada National Championships.
The first time the girls won the provincial championships in the under-11 age category was in 2020 — they were just eight years old. The pair were supposed to head to nationals in the spring of that year, but COVID-19 hit and the tournament was cancelled.
The girls are now 10 and ready to bring their youthful excitement and enthusiasm to the national stage after their second provincial win.
The team will be leaving in just a few days, but they are taking advantage of the time they have to try to hone their skills by squeezing in after-school practice sessions at Castle Bowl, their home alley.
Summer and Carys started their bowling careers at the ages of four and five.
“I was not good when I first started, but I really liked it,” Carys said.
The team is coached by Brenda Zoobkoff. She and the girls have a noticeably strong connection, one that started before the girls could walk, let alone throw a bowling ball. Zoobkoff’s day job is running a daycare, and both girls have fond memories of time spent there during their early years.
With so much success at such an early age, one has to wonder if the girls heard fairy tales involving bowling shoes instead of glass slippers at the daycare.
When asked what their favourite part of bowling is, Summer quickly says, “Strikes.”
Outgoing Carys says, for her, its meeting people.
Carys has scoliosis and wears a brace most of the time, so she also says the exercise is good for her and helps to keep her flexible.
The girls have adopted team mascots — top-hat-wearing Tom the Giraffe and his two kids. They serve to bring them good luck and give them something to invent hilarious stories about — after all, they are only 10 years old.
Tom was beside them as they won game after game during the 2022 provincials.
“When it got to game six I started thinking, ‘Wow, we could actually do this again,’” said Carys.
But Zoobkoff wanted to keep them focused on the balls that were in their hands at that moment and didn’t let them know that they were poised to win the tournament until their last balls of the last game.
Winners of each game are determined by the combined score of each team. The highest scoring team gets one point and the team with the most points at the end of the 10-game tournament wins overall.
The nationals will take place July 9 to 12 in Oshawa, Ont., and the girls say they are very nervous, realizing they will be facing a different kind of competition.
“We were just talking about how we could be like ‘we’re provincial champions’ but the others there will be like ‘so are we,’” joked Carys.
If you would like to cheer the girls on from afar, scores for the tournament will be posted live on youthbowl.ca.
Several other youth bowlers from Castlegar also made it to provincials: Sophie Smith and Khloe Kristian took the bronze in the Bantam Girls division, a Junior Boys team came in fifth place, Bantam Boys Singles bowler Sawyer Skavlebo came in fifth, Junior Girls Singles bowler Brianna Zoobkoff took bronze and Morgan Stoutenberg came in sixth place in the SeniorSingle Girls.