Bowling: Kanemoto looks to reclaim Junior Gold title

The learning never stops for Sierra Kanemoto.

“In college, you’re always bowling on a harder shot, so I’ve learned so much,” the Wichita State junior said. “But there’s so much more I have to learn about bowling. It’s always changing.”

The Riverside bowler — who recently returned from Junior Team USA camp — will try to reclaim her U20 championship title at the 2016 Junior Gold Championships. Competition starts Monday in Indianapolis with more than 3,300 youth bowlers, the largest field in the tournament’s 19-year history, vying for titles in the U12, U15 and U20 divisions.

“I don’t like to reflect on the past because I don’t want to put more pressure on myself,” Kanemoto said. “Anything can happen and anyone can beat anyone, but knowing that I’ve done it before does help my confidence.”

Kanemoto, 20, feels ready to compete after making some adjustments to her game at the Junior Team USA camp. Participants were put through the paces with fitness examinations and in-depth analysis of their game, even donning spandex bodysuits to measure their consistency.

“It was intense but it was also a lot of fun,” the Stebbins High School graduate said.

Kanemoto has mixed feelings about this year’s Junior Gold Championships, as it will be her last.

“I’m kind of sad, but also excited,” she said. “The competition seems to get tougher every year, the kids start so young and are so competitive.”

More than tournament titles are on the line. The top four boys and girls in the U20 division after 26 games of qualifying land a spot on the 2017 Junior Team USA, if they are age-eligible. The U20 winner and runner-up after bracket play also qualify to the team. The top age-eligible male and female bowler in the U15 divisions after qualifying rounds earn a spot on the U15 developmental team.

Kanemoto isn’t the only returning champion. Danielle Jedlicki of Murfreesboro, Tenn., returns in the U15 girls division. Three former champions move up a division this year — Tom Hankey of Massachusetts, the U15 boys champion in 2015, is now in the U20 division, and U12 champions Amanda Naujokas (New York) and Spencer Robarge (Missouri) will now compete in the U15 division.

Competitors in all divisions will bowl 16 qualifying games over four days before the field is cut. Bowlers in the U20 and U15 divisions will bowl an additional five games before a second cut is made to a maximum of 64, and those making the second cut will bowl another five games to determine the 16 bowlers for match play.

In the U12 division, after the initial cut, competitors will bowl an additional four games before the field is cut to the top eight for match play. Match play for each division is a double-elimination bracket to determine the TV finalists. The finals will be taped for national broadcast on CBS Sports Network.