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Young Florida bowler gets taste of state tournament
Perez had started the district tournament with back-to-back 198 games then responded with a career-high 288 to capture the individual title and reach the state tournament for the first time.
Not a bad accomplishment for the seventh-grader from St. Andrew's School in Boca Raton. Perez, 12, said his goal was to make match play and he had set scoring goals for himself based on the scores from last season.
The following week at the state tournament, Perez finished 17th in qualifying, missing match play by one pin but gaining valuable experience.
"It was really exciting," Perez said. "Because it was my first big tournament, I was admittedly nervous. While I did bowl really well - 846 for four games - I threw a few really bad shots and it cost me making the cut."
Perez has made big strides since he started bowling at age 7. His grandfather convinced him to try the sport and Perez said he did better almost every time he went bowling, so he stuck with it. His parents saw USBC Gold coach Michael Nyitray giving lessons at Brunswick Margate Lanes and approached him about coaching Perez.
Nyitray said Perez is "just starting to learn about the more advanced aspects of bowling; so I think we're only scratching the surface of his talent. In fact, he's been shooting in the high 600s for only a few months."
And having to face older players in his high school league was never an issue for Perez, who would sometimes practice with senior high school bowlers and adult bowlers.
"The age (of fellow competitors) wasn't what was intimidating; it was the skill level of the really good bowlers," Perez said. "Trying to keep up with the really high scores can sometimes seem impossible. But every once in a while, I shot a big game and they have to come chase me. That, I like. I hope to do more of that next high school season."
Perez was averaging about 180 during his Saturday morning league at Brunswick Margate Lanes, though he says he has been consistently averaging 200 lately. And while the idea of some day bowling for a collegiate team seems intriguing, Perez still has a few more years to consider that option.
"Since I have five more years of high school bowling, I would love to win a state title," Perez said. "I know I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I love to bowl and my family supports my bowling. I take lessons at least once or twice a month and I have a great relationship with my coach. As I get better, my coach helps me set new goals and that's what I focus on."
By Terry Bigham