Two young bowlers from the Peninsula Strikers are setting their sights on playing against national players this summer in Indianapolis at the Pepsi Youth Championships.
Mason Yamada, 15, and Tasha Waterbury, 18, have qualified for the tournament thanks to top finishes in the Alaska Pepsi US Bowling Youth Championships on Monday through Wednesday in Wasilla.
“It’s feels pretty good, it’s different, so I’m excited, nervous, and anxious,” Yamada said.
Yamada made it to where he is today in come-from-behind fashion.
Playing in the “Scratch” tournament, Yamada used no handicap.
As a seventh seed in the bracket system the tournament used, Yamada lost in the first-round matchup with second-seeded Jacques Kaune.
However, he proceeded to win the consolation bracket, beating out Kaune, who had lost in the third round. Yamada then beat Jayson Robarge in two games to win the tournament, with scores of 362 and 364.
“It was a long tournament, a whole day,” Yamada said. “I started terrible, I couldn’t find anything, but I hit a spare, fought my way back up, and finally I was able to throw it the right way. It was tough, a learning experience.”
Yamada said the amount of time he has put into bowling is what gave him an edge.
“Putting in the hours of practice, learning from your mistakes, getting better, all you can do is push forward,” Yamada said. “Learn to forget about the bad shots, and move on to the new ones.”
Yamada, already an eight-year veteran of the sport, said this will be his first time traveling out of state.
Yamada’s younger brother, Marcus, nearly made the trip as well in the under-11 age class. Diagnosed with leukemia, the younger Yamada says his brother inspires him and wishes he could play outside of the state as well.
“I like to do this, and I hope I can go to tournaments, too,” he said.
During the tournament, Yamada had a high score of 198, in his second game. However, he came up short, finishing sixth.
Tasha Waterbury had an easier time qualifying than Yamada did.
As the No. 1 seed in the bracket tournament, Waterbury had narrow victories in the first two rounds, outscoring her opponents by a combined score of 12.
From there, she made it to the championship match, winning over Mariah Schiefer 385-331.
“It’s very intimidating, because playing scratch means you’re bowling against the best players in Alaska, but when there’s a shot that’s competitive, it makes it a lot more fun,” Waterbury said. “Getting into the brackets, I start shaking and it’s really intimidating, but you need to keep going.”
Waterbury knows that even though a player could fall behind early, all it takes is a few good bowls to catch back up with the leader.
“If you make a mistake, it’s important to remember that it’s not very hard to make up those games,” she said. “It’s just a case of reminding yourself that it’s OK and you can get back.”
Waterbury and Yamada both won a $500 scholarship to go along with their wins.
Kathy Waterbury is one of the organizers of the team, and said the participation this year has been fun for the players.
“These kids are great, they just like having fun, but also are competitive,” Waterbury said.
Other high performers from the Peninsula Strikers include Tori Askin and Josh Liedes, playing in the Scratch division, Joseph Childers, Morgan Bilyeu, Brandon Farrell, Devin Miller, Trey Nicholson, Nicholas Wehrstein, James Childers, Ernie Childers, Emily Axtell, Kaylee Wehrstein, Amber Nicholson and Mikayla Miller.
The new season will start up in September.