RENO, Nev. - Megan Kelly of Dayton, Ohio, got off to a strong start at the 2012 United States Bowling Congress Women's Championships by rolling a 299 game during her team event. Her success continued in doubles and singles as she grabbed the lead in Scratch All-Events and teamed with Team USA member Shannon Pluhowsky to move into first in Scratch Doubles on Thursday.
Kelly finished her team event with a 723 series and added 770 in doubles and 675 in singles to finish with a 2,168 all-events tally to surpass previous leader, Sharon Aronson of Turlock, Calif., by a single pin. Pluhowsky added 694 in doubles to help the pair to a 1,464 total. Christina Kinney of Las Vegas and Erin Lenahan of Meadow Vista, Calif., took the lead earlier in the day with 1,403.
Kelly, a 28-year-old right-hander, needed 20 pins in her final frame to move ahead of Aronson. After leaving a 4 pin on her first shot, she covered the spare and put herself in a must-strike situation. She wasn't sure of the exact score she needed, but she knew the importance of the shot.
"I knew that I had a chance, but didn't know the numbers exactly, so I was really just trying to strike on every shot," said Kelly, who made her ninth USBC Women's Championships appearance. "I didn't throw the first one as good as I wanted. Before the fill ball, Shannon came to me and said, 'You need to strike right here. You need them all.' It's great to know that you need it and to just go up there and do it. It's the best feeling in the world. It's what the sport is all about."
Kelly has worked relentlessly on her game over the past few months and couldn't be prouder that the extra effort has paid off.
"I've worked so hard on my game in the last four or five months," said Kelly, who is the daughter of USBC Hall of Famer Linda Kelly. "To come away with these titles would mean everything, especially after everything I put into it. And to win doubles with my best friend would just be over the moon."
During doubles, Kelly and Pluhowsky pushed each other all the way into the lead. They know many of the world's top female bowlers are in Reno for the 2012 Bowling's U.S. Women's Open, which starts Friday at the National Bowling Stadium, and likely will hit the lanes for the Women's Championships while they're in town, but they are confident in the numbers they posted.
"We were just trying to beat each other and stay consistent," said Pluhowsky, who owns two Women's Championships titles and came in as the defending Scratch Singles champion. "When you give them a number, they try a little harder. After this week, we'll have a pretty good idea, and if it holds up, it'll be great. And to win with your best friend is always fun."
Pluhowsky added 707 in singles and 655 in team to finish with a 2,056 all-events total.
Several bowlers who had success at last year's event in Syracuse, N.Y., bowled well again at the 2012 tournament. Lenahan and Joey Biondo of Carpentersville, Ill., both made runs at perfection Thursday, too.
Lenahan, who rolled a 300 game at the 2011 tournament, was looking to become the first bowler in 93 years of Women's Championships competition to shoot multiple perfect games on the championship lanes. This time, though, she only knocked down seven pins on her final shot and finished with 297. Biondo, a 2011 Diamond Team champion (Eagles Edge Pro Shop of Des Plaines, Ill.) started off her team's title defense with 11 consecutive strikes before a 7 pin on her final offering left her with the third 299 game of the 2012 event. Betty Brooks of Lakewood, Calif., owns the only perfect game of this year's event, and her 300 was the 16th in Women's Championships history.
Women's Championships competition will continue Friday morning, before sharing the one-of-a-kind Stadium with Bowling's U.S. Women's Open until June 26. The championship round of the U.S. Women's Open will be broadcast live on four lanes that will be specially-installed underneath the famous Reno Arch. The broadcast will air July 3 at 8 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2.
Presenting sponsors for the 2012 USBC Women's Championships are Circus Circus, Eldorado Hotel Casino and Silver Legacy Resort Casino in Reno, Nev. Other sponsors include Harrah's Reno Casino, official brackets sponsor, Kegel, official lane maintenance provider, Humana, official registration sponsor, Steltronic, official scoring system, and supporting sponsors Storm Bowling Products, Nationwide Insurance, Sands Regency Casino Hotel and Atlantis Casino Resort and Spa and MyBowlingVacation.com.