WEST NORRITON — Four years is a long time to just wait and wish, but Emily Kinsey's bowling ambitions have finally come to fruition.
After a spectacular showing at the regional tournament, Kinsey is among 24 bowlers — 12 from the East, 12 from the West — to successfully vie for a spot at the individual state tournament at North Versailles Bowling Alley on Friday, March 14.
At Regionals, Kinsey bowled a five-game series of 1042, good for an average of 208. After the first game Kinsey was surprised to see herself notched in the top spot with a 247 game.
"I didn't think I was good enough to make it through,' Kinsey said. "I thought the cut would be much higher. The girls from this region are so phenomenal. They bowl their butt off.
"To be included with them is an honor.'
After the initial shock of seeing herself atop the stands, Kinsey dropped her average in the second and third games. Norristown bowling coach Candy Johnson talked to Kinsey and helped put the young bowlers' mind at ease.
"I just reminded her to keep breathing,' Johnson said. "Two other girls (from Norristown's team), Katie Ferry and Crystal Rose, they really helped each other. They made it easy to have a little fun.'
Kinsey during the first three games slipped from first to fifth to fifteenth. But with the support from coach, parents and her two teammates, Kinsey recovered and nestled herself into the eighth spot. Once she learned that she was one of the dozen players selected from the eastern region, Kinsey couldn't hold together her emotion.
"I did cry, honestly, I cried out of happiness,' Kinsey wasn't ashamed to admit. "I was the only player from the team who made it. Overall I'm pretty happy because I kind of wanted to do this my whole career.
"I never planned on it, but I always hoped.'
Coach Johnson has known Kinsey since she was young girl, and since the bowler joined the squad as a freshman, has coached her with care and due diligence.
"When she came to me, I knew she was already a strong bowler — she had potential as a freshman to qualify,' Johnson said. "To go to regionals and finish in that top 12 is really a feather in her hat.'
What has changed throughout Kinsey's career is her willingness to turn to Johnson for support. Coming from a bowling family, Kinsey relied heavily on her caregivers for advice, but as of late has found comfort in confiding in Johnson.
"I think we have a really good relationship,' Johnson said. "I try to look at it as an outsider — she's bowling the game, I'm not — I can only observe. She needs to use her own judgment.'
At the state tournament, Kinsey will only be permitted to talk to her coach, no one else. If her mother wants to offer a snack to her daughter during the match, the transaction must be done with Johnson as the intermediary. It is a strict engagement.
"Our parents are allowed to come, but you can't talk to them or anyone but the coach,' Kinsey said.
To add to the pressure, during the course of bowling six games each bowler must switch lanes after each game. For instance, if Kinsey starts on the first and second lanes, she'll be on the third and fourth lanes in the second game and so on. It's a different setup than the typical match high schoolers play, but Johnson thinks Kinsey is up to the challenge.
"I think it's challenging as a bowler, but it evens the playing field,' Johnson said. "They can't set into a groove. I think she'll be very competitive like that. She's one of those people who can change her approach.'