Patience has never been Jessica Earnest’s strong suit.
For years, people have been telling the VCHS senior bowling standout that her day in the sun was coming soon.
‘But I didn’t want to hear that,’ Earnest said. ‘I wanted it now. I am very impatient.’
So after placing eighth last month at the 11th annual Junior Gold Championships in Detroit, Earnest was distinctly out of her element.
One of her biggest dreams was within reach, as she placed high enough to be considered to represent the United States in international competition as a member of the elite Junior Team USA.
But she’d have to wait sit through an hour-and-a-half awards ceremony to see if she made the cut as one of four at-large selections.
‘At first, I didn’t really have a good feeling,’ said Earnest. ‘I told Mom, ‘I don’t think I’ll get picked.’
‘Then during the closing ceremonies, they did all the other awards first. I was like, ‘Can this go any slower?”
But, alas, the words Earnest had been longing to hear came booming out of the P.A. system: ‘From Vandalia, Illinois…’
‘I screamed loud,’ Earnest said.
Earnest knew either she or her sister, Josie – who placed 10th in the tournament – had made Junior Team USA. And she was going to be happy for her sister if she did, indeed, make the team for a fourth time.
But, instead, the younger Earnest sister’s time had finally come, as she was named to Junior Team USA for the first time.
‘I didn’t walk to the stage – I sprinted,’ Earnest said.
Now that the sense of excitement has worn off a little bit, Earnest is overwhelmed to be representing her country.
‘It’s an awesome feeling,’ Earnest said. ‘Until you’ve been there, you can’t explain it.
‘It still hasn’t sunk in yet.’
Earnest, 17, has been going to the tournament since she was 12 and has competed in the event three times prior to this year.
Her previous best finish was 32nd two years ago, and she followed that up with an extremely disappointing finish in the mid-90s last year.
‘I bowled awful last year,’ Earnest said.
But Earnest set out to make sure that didn’t happen again, regaining her confidence by winning the Chris Barnes Tournament in November, in addition to working on her game with Josie this summer.
‘Just her being around helps,’ said Earnest of her older sister, who was named NCAA Player of the Year after her sophomore season at Vanderbilt. ‘She’s somebody I completely look up to.’
Earnest also credits her dad, Larry, for getting her prepared for this year’s Junior Gold Championships, as well as a visit to a Detroit-based bowling center that specializes in breaking down and perfecting its clients’ bowling form.
‘They tape you from all angles and break your game down,’ Earnest said. ‘It’s extremely accurate. If you’re off and not consistent, it’s going to tell you.
‘Within a month, Josie and I were both improved. It helped a lot.’
The Junior Gold Championships, held July 6-11, featured a field of nearly 1,500 of the best youth bowlers in the country competing for $100,000 in scholarships and spots on Junior Team USA.
Its demanding format included 18 games of qualifying over three days at Sunnybrook Lanes, Sterling Lanes and Century Bowl.
The qualifying field was then trimmed to the top 107 boys and 57 girls who competed in 12 games of semifinals on July 10. The top 16 boys and 16 girls then took part in 16 games of round-robin match play Friday at Sunnybrook Lanes.
‘The whole week is just crazy, seeing people I haven’t seen in almost a year,’ Earnest said. ‘But you have to focus on what you came there to do.’
Earnest did just that, starting out extremely strong. She found herself in the top-four early on, before sliding just enough at the end of the tournament to cause some worries about her Junior Team USA prospects.
‘I knew I had a good chance, but I wasn’t sure,’ Earnest said.
But Earnest did indeed make the cut. And, fortunately, Josie still has a chance to join her on Junior Team USA by either finishing in the top two at the upcoming Team USA Adult Trials or garnering an at-large selection.
Considering she’s made the team three times already, doing so in 2005, 2007 and 2008, her chances seem pretty good, which would make her younger sisters breakthrough all the more sweet.
‘Josie and I live for bowling,’ Jessica Earnest said. ‘That’s one of my lifelong dreams, to be teammates with my sister and represent our country.’