Schalmont High School graduate Liz Kuhlkin’s roller-coaster season took a major swing in a new direction this week.
Kuhlkin, who will be a senior on the Nebraska women’s bowling team this fall, was named to the Junior Team USA four-person all-star squad that will compete in the World Championships this August in Hong Kong.
Kuhlkin’s up-and-down campaign included severe illnesses to both her mother and her bowling coach, Bill Straub, but she was able to battle through adversity and helped the Cornhuskers to a runner-up finish in this season’s NCAA championships. She was the MVP of the 2013 national championship team and was hoping her team could repeat this year, only to have her hopes dashed.
Now, the two-time All-American will represent her country in one of the most prestigious events in the sport.
“I found out Monday, 1:30 in the afternoon, that I made the traveling team,” said Kuhlkin. “Initially, I thought the team was chosen based on a camp that all the Junior Team USA members attended this summer. When I got to camp, the coaches made it clear that it was not just the camp that would make the difference in being named to the team. They said a lot of things would be used to choose the team. They said your past performances would be taken into consideration, what kind of accolades and pressure situations you’ve been involved in, and your ball motion compared to other players. I guess they liked what they saw in me.”
Kuhlkin said all four Junior USA Team members are right-handers.
“I’m so grateful to being named to this team, and I’m looking forward to it,” said Kuhlkin, a two-time USBC national average leader as a scholastic bowler for the Sabres.
“There is a a little sense of nervousness, though. I’m not the biggest fan of planes. I don’t like flying at all, and this is a very, very long trip. They said it will take 17 hours. This will also be my first time out of the country. It’s definitely a first step for me. There’s obviously a little nervousness, but other than that, I’m very excited for the opportunity to represent my country. Not many people can say they wore USA across their back.”
Kuhlkin, who has six perfect games and two 800 triples on her resume, including a high of 835, can’t wait for the trip.
“This is almost like a breath of fresh air for me, considering everything that’s happened in 2014. It’s almost like a turning-around point in the year for me. It’s definitely going to be quite an experience. I will have to learn all about the culture of a completely different country. I definitely will have some memories from this trip that will last a lifetime.”
One unusual part about making the team is that none of the USA Team members will be able to practice together all summer.
“We don’t get together until we go there,” Kuhlkin said. “Other teams in the World Championships, like Korea, Singapore and Malaysia, spend the entire year together. This is their job. They spend the whole year in a house together and bowl year-round. We just get five days together, and we won’t see each other until August.
“My coaches told me what they want me to work on this summer, and it will be a challenge. But it should be a fantastic trip, and I’m really looking forward to it.”