CLINTON, Iowa - With the Iowa Class 1A State bowling tournament beginning today in Des Moines, a well-known favorite in the girls' division is none other than incoming Ashford University roller and defending champion Katelyn Tharp of Eldridge.
Tharp is coached by her mother at North Scott High School, Marie, and one of her teammates, Kaelyn Dierickx, also has committed to the Saints.
Tharp was recently featured in the Quad Cities Times high school blog, QC Varisity, focusing on her quest for back-to-back state titles. Enjoy the following story from Aaron Brenner:
When bowling fans pack Plaza Lanes in Des Moines today for the Iowa Class 1A state bowling tournament, at least one top contender won't be fazed by the spectacle.
"There's a lot of people and it's loud," North Scott senior Katelyn Tharp said. "For some people, I guess it would be tough. I personally don't mind the excitement going on behind me. I can usually tune it out."
The defending 1A girls champion, Tharp has beaten adversity before. She was born with phocomelia, a rare congenital defect that has given her an abbreviated right arm for life.
"It's not a big deal," in bowling, Tharp said, but her softball fielding has long been affected. For many years, she mimicked former White Sox pitcher Jim Abbott by using a left-handed glove to catch and quickly removing it to throw the ball.
When Tharp grew older, manufacturing companies Mizuno and Wilson each designed a specialized glove she can wear on the right-hand side.
"Softball has probably been the biggest challenge for me, just because having to catch the ball and throw it," Tharp said. "With this new glove, it's been a challenge to switch over, but it's definitely made me faster."
Tharp began bowling at age 4 and has been a three-year captain for the Lancers, coached by her mom, Marie.
"It's hard, because you've got to be the coach, but you want to be the mom, too," Marie Tharp said. "I went through that last year when she was the No. 1 seed, and all I could do is stand there and watch."
Bowling isn't Marie's only influence on her daughter. Tharp had many of her childhood birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese on East Kimberly Road when her mom and older sister, Mandy, worked there. Now Tharp, in her final year of high school, helps birthday parties go smoothly as a showroom attendant, occasionally dressing up as the mousey mascot.
"We schedule someone to be Chuck E., but if nobody's there, it's whoever is free," Tharp said. "You just try to make your motions speak for you and be as active as you can."
A regional team and individual champion, Tharp will be going for her second state individual championship and the Lancers' first team title in school history. She made no secret which one means more.
"Yes, I want to win individually again, but also bringing my team with me, that was kind of upsetting last year that we couldn't do that as a team," Tharp said. "I would like to get North Scott into the first-place spot."