Hannah Kjeldson doesn’t consider herself much of a bowler.
“I’m OK, I guess,” Kjeldson said. “I just think it’s fun, because it isn’t really about winning or losing.”
Kjeldson’ humble self-assessment doesn’t sync up with her record, however.
The Kenai 11-year-old only started bowling last year, but that didn’t stop her from winning the 11-and-under division in the Pepsi United States Bowling Youth Championships in Anchorage in April, where she bested 49 girls to earn a first-place trophy and $600 scholarship.
Maybe it was her attire.
“I was kind of nervous because I was the only one wearing the uniform you were supposed to wear,” she recalls. “Everyone else was wearing jeans.”
Since overcoming wardrobe embarrassment and taking the state tournament, Hannah has moved on to bigger things. This month, she will travel with her family to Eagan, Minn., to compete for some of the $70,000 in scholarship money to be awarded at the Quibica International Family Tournament.
“I’m really excited to go to Minnesota,” she said.
Hannah and her father, Ken, are set to compete in the family-youth division of the tournament after winning the March regional and June 4 state qualifying competitions at Alaska Lanes in Kenai.
According to Ken, a lifelong bowler who coached Hannah and others for the Peninsula Bowlers youth bowling group, his daughter’s willingness to be teachable plays a big part in her success and the success of any young bowler.
Another Peninsula Bowlers competitor, 11-year-old Madison McMahill, took second place at the state tournament, right behind Hannah.
“Once (kids) do something they’re taught to do and do it correctly, they see it works and realize, ‘Hey, this is actually pretty good to know,’” Ken said.
Ken said Hannah already has developed the stance necessary to be a good bowler.
“For her first year of bowling, I think she’s done really well,” he said.
Ken said if the pair play in Eagan as well as they did at the June 4 tournament, they would start match play in fourth place, based on the 2005 division results. For the three games in the qualifying tourney, Ken bowled 596 and Hannah bowled 327.
“(After winning in Kenai) the pressure’s off in a way, but the pressure’s kind of on, too,” he said. “We’re just going to do our best, but I think we’re gonna do pretty well.”
The tournament, which runs July 20 through 22, is just a small part of the trip south, however.
Ken and Hannah’s trip is paid for, thanks to their win, but Hannah’s 16-year-old brother, Kyle, and mother, Judy, will come along for what will become a five-day family vacation.
“We’re all looking forward to the Mall of America,” Judy said, referring to the Bloomington, Minn., shopping center that is the largest in the United States.
Shopping in a few of the behemoth center’s 400 stores or catching a ride on a roller coaster in its indoor theme park is sure to be a highlight, but the trip also will give them a chance to visit a site with more familial significance: Judy’s hometown of Sioux City, Iowa.
“Ken and the kids have never seen the place where I grew up,” Judy said.
The lesson of the Kjeldson family’s bowling tale is simple, as far as Hannah sees it.
“More people should bowl,” she said. “Basically, anybody can do it if they just concentrate.”
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