HELSINGBORG, SWEDEN — When the introductions are being made at the 2022 International Bowling Federation’s Under 21 World Championships on Tuesday, Vanderbilt Commodores will comprise three-quarters of Junior Team USA.
Mabel Cummins, Paige Peters and incoming freshman Victoria Varano along with Jillian Martin of Stow, Ohio, are representing the United States in the nine-day tournament that brings together the best junior bowlers in the world.
The championship features singles, doubles, team and mixed-team (countries have both girls’ and boys’ teams) competitions that extend through June 29. The singles event starts the event.
Hall of Fame professional Kelly Kulick is the head coach of the United States team, although with such a Vanderbilt flavor to the squad, Commodore coaches John Williamson and Josie Barnes will also travel to Sweden.
Cummins, a three-time All-American, is the only member of Junior Team USA with any international experience, having bowled in the Tournament of the Americas, PABCON and the Junior Worlds in Detroit in 2018 and Paris in 2019 as a five-year member of the United States junior team. She won doubles gold with Kamerin Peters, Paige’s older sister, in Paris.
“The international sport shots are generally a bit harder than the NCAA patterns,” Cummins noted, recognizing her likely leadership role. “We’re all going to be a bit nervous but I’ll tell my teammates to try to relax and do what they know how to do.”
Peters, who was the NCAA Rookie of the Year as a Vandy freshman, has gotten sage advice from sister Kamerin.
“Kam and I kinda think alike,” Paige said, “and the way she put it is that it’s an experience and it’s different but you have to treat it like any other tournament. If you start over-thinking it’s not going to end with the best result. Kam tells me to stay calm.”
Peters has also talked to her Vanderbilt coaches about the proper mindset.
“I was talking to coach about it,” Paige continued. “I’m nervous but I think that’s to be expected. I think it means I care about it. They are good nerves that I can turn into excitement.”
Varano doubtless has received similar advice from her older sister, two-time NCAA Player of the Year and professional star Danielle McEwan.
The USA team gathered at bowling’s International Training and Research Center in Arlington, Texas, to practice and bond before flying to Sweden for the official on-site practice Monday. While the foursome has never bowled as a unit, Cummins expects an easy transition.
“We are very familiar with each other,” Cummins said. “Obviously I’ve bowled a lot with Paige at Vanderbilt and I also bowled with her sister Kam. Paige and Victoria are well acquainted coming from the Northeast. I’m from the upper Midwest and that’s where Jillian comes from so we’ve bowled in some of the same tournaments.”
Peters agreed, noting long-time associations with both Varano and Martin through junior bowling. Peters admitted to some surprise at being chosen for this opportunity.
“Honestly I was surprised,” she modestly said. “There is so much talent on our entire junior team, they could have picked practically anyone else that was on our team and the result would be just as good with the next person. So it was surprising that I was picked.”
Kulick is making her head coaching debut although she was an assistant coach in Detroit in the 2018 championship. Cummins was excited that the professional star was elevated to the head coaching position when previous junior coach Brian O’Keefe became the coach of Team USA.
The tournament will be the first since 2019 as the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellation of the event in 2020 and 2021.
Peters has never been in Europe and looks forward to gaining more than bowling experience.
“I’m excited to experience the culture difference,” she said.