By John Bombatch
FAIRBORN — Like a lot of 12-year-olds, a very quiet spoken Natalie Hanson would’ve preferred to receive her state championship jersey without all the fanfare.
But John Martin, the Director of the Ohio United State Bowling Congress (USBC) Youth Association, was in town to present the Baker Middle School soon-to-be seventh grader with her Ohio Pepsi Tournament State Champion shirt, and Hanson’s friends from the Bowl 10 youth leagues were on hand, Thursday afternoon to recognize her accomplishment.
“It’s just an honor to even get this,” Hanson said, moments after receiving the golden State Champion jersey with her name on it from Martin.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s kind of embarrassing for me to be recognized like this, but I’m glad that I won the shirt. It feels good.”
Hanson finished as the top scratch bowler in her 12-under age group out of 78 entries, during the Ohio Pepsi Tournament which was held at the Columbus Square Bowling Palace this past May. According to ohioyouthbowling.org, Hanson rolled games of 184-152-152 for a 488 series.
Bowl 10 manager David Flemming said Hanson is believed to be Fairborn’s first youth bowler to win the Ohio Pepsi tournament and advance to the national tournament. Hanson had won a state title when she was 10 years old, but was too young to compete in the national tourney at that time.
“She’s been the high average youth bowler for her age group for several years now,” Flemming said. “It’s kind of a rule of thumb that, if you’re averaging 10 pins per each year of your age, you’re doing pretty well. She’s been ahead of the curve in that respect. Her average ranges from 175-180 these days. We’re all really proud of her.”
Hanson currently has a 178 average. She said her high game has been a 268 and her best sanctioned three-game series score was a 623.
She will now compete with 130 12-under bowlers from all over the country, including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, in the National Junior Gold Pepsi Tournament, July 18-23 in Indianapolis, Ind. It’s estimated that more than 3,500 of the nation’s top youth bowlers will be on hand for the four-day event.
Martin said the Junior Gold tournament’s championship round for each youth category will be broadcast on CBS Sports.
“She did really well at the state tournament and I’m very proud of her,” said Natalie’s mom, Lori Ratliff.
Natalie said bowling is a way to have fun with her family.
“And you can beat your parents!” Lori chimed in with a laugh. Hanson just sheepishly smiled. She’d much rather be knocking down pins with her friends than standing around answering questions and receiving accolades.
“I’m a little nervous (about the national tournament). I’ve been in a national tournament before, but not with that many people. I’ll just work to keep rolling games around my average, and to practice, practice, practice,” she said.
“Practice makes perfect.”