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VANDALIA – Mulberry Grove senior Jennifer Potts will become the third local individual in recent years to bowl for an NCAA college.
Potts signed a National Letter of Intent last Wednesday, committing to bowl for the University of Central Missouri for the next four years, joining former Vandalia High Schoolers Josie and Jessica Earnest as NCAA-level bowlers from the area.
“They contacted me,” Potts said of the Earnest sisters, who went to Vanderbilt University. “I kind of wanted to go there, but Central really sealed the deal when I went there for a visit.”
Potts plans to major in speech pathology, and because Central offers that program, it made her decision a little easier.
It didn’t hurt that Central Missouri has been selected for the NCAA bowling championships for nine straight years.
“It’s a small school, and I really like the coach and girls there,” Potts said. “Coming from a small school, that’s what I wanted.”
Potts said she is only high school bowler in Mulberry Grove, and she frequently travels to Vandalia Bowl to practice.
That is when she isn’t traveling throughout the country for tournaments.
The farthest she has traveled was to Las Vegas for the Jr. Gold Championships, but she was unable to secure a spot on Jr. Team USA while there.
Otherwise, she stays mostly in the region, having traveled to St. Louis, Chicago and Wisconsin, among other places, throughout the years.
And it all started because of a friend.
“I went to a birthday party (at the bowling alley), and I really enjoyed it,” Potts said. “After that, I just started bowling in leagues, which led to tournaments and things like that.”
Her first league season came when she was in the third grade, and her average that year of 34 seems paltry compared to the 189 she currently holds.
She strives to record at least one game better than 200 each time she bowls, and her high three-game series of 723 shows that she is capable.
Her high scratch game is 279, but she did have a 299 during practice and said she was pretty upset when only nine pins fell on her third ball in the 10th frame.
She began using a fingertip ball and throwing a hook shortly after she got her start, and in her second season, she discovered that she had some talent.
“The first year that I really started (seriously) bowling was in the fourth grade, when I qualified for the Pepsi (youth state championships),” Potts said. “I went up there for my first big tournament, and I walked away with third.”
Her biggest adjustment going into college bowling will be bowling as part of a team instead of as an individual, but she is confident that she can make a smooth transition.
UCM falls at NCAAs
The University of Central Missouri did not make it to the final day of this year's NCAA Championships.
The Jennies lost twice last Friday in the double-elimination round.
No. 7 seeded Central Missouri fell to No. 2 Nebraska, 4-0, and No. 6 Arkansas State, 4-3.
*The original version of this article incorrectly stated that the University of Central Missouri was a Division I school. UCM is a Division II university. We apologize for the error.