Vital to keep youngsters interested

Five girls will be flying the flag for Waikato at the national secondary school championships in Hamilton.

The event, which involves singles and pairs competition, runs from Sunday to Tuesday at the Hillcrest and Hamilton City Bowling Clubs and will feature 72 students - with 12 having qualified from each of the country's six regions.

Waikato is part of Region Two, which also includes Counties-Manukau, Thames Valley, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne/East Coast and Hawke's Bay.

Putaruru College's Everest Finch, who won the junior girls' bowler of the year title at this year's Waikato secondary school sports awards, will compete in the girls' singles, while Hamilton Girls' High School's Terina Walker and Paige Fitzpatrick and Tokoroa High School's Nicky Proffitt and Ashley Kimberley will take part in the girls' pairs.

Last year the Region Two side had just seven representatives at the national tournament but punched above their weight to claim some second and fourth placings.

From 9am on Sunday there is section play at both venues, followed by post section play on Monday, before Tuesday's semifinals (from 9am) and finals (from 12.30pm) at Hamilton City.

Usually seen as being a game reserved for retirees, these youthful bowlers are turning stereotypes around.

"This is what starts rejuvenating the game of course," said Gary Braithwaite, coach of the Region Two team.

"The game is dying . . . we're all getting older. And with this coming up now it's absolutely wonderful. The talent is getting bigger and better."

The national secondary school championships have a strong history of developing top level bowlers, such as current Black Jack singles player Shannon McIlroy, who is playing at the world championships in Adelaide. McIlroy won three consecutive national secondary school titles from 2002 to 2004.

Fellow Black Jack Mandy Boyd also blitzed the championships with titles in 2008 and 2009.

An added incentive this year is that a New Zealand side will be selected to play Australia later in the season.

Waikato Times