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Teen battling juvenile arthritis shoots 834 series

There are times when Kelsey Muther's 17-year-old body makes it difficult for her to bowl, and last Wednesday night seemed to be one of those times.

Muther, a senior at Topeka High, was preparing to bowl in the Youth Trio League at Gage Center Bowl that evening, but the juvenile arthritis she has been battling since second grade was acting up.

"My arthritis hurts in my joints, and my ankles were kind of hurting that night, so I asked my dad to work them out before I started bowling," Muther said. "If anything, he felt like he made them worse because he made them pop.

"So I went into league that night and I was in a lot of pain. I just started bowling and I was like, well, I'm starting to bowl okay, maybe something good might happen tonight."

Good? Make that great.

Muther, who only 11 days earlier had rolled a personal-best 753 series in a tournament at Gage Bowl North, shot 288-287-259 — 834 to post what is believed to be the second-highest series ever rolled by a woman in Topeka. Only Maggie Crawford's 860, bowled seven years ago at North, tops Muther's series, which ties for 15th overall in the city among men and women.

"I never even thought about 800 until about the eighth frame of my third game," said Muther, who is bowling in a tournament in Las Vegas over the holidays. "I don't try and calculate anything in my head, cuz when I do, that's when I start blowing things. I try not to think about it until the very end."

It's the same approach Muther uses when she's stringing strikes and nearing a perfect game. But after she'd started game one with 10 strikes and needed only two more for a 300, her concentration was broken by a well-meaning bowler on the adjoining lane.

"I get up and throw my 10th ball and happen to strike, and he's like, 'Wow, you already threw a perfect game. Awesome!' " said Muther. "I was like, 'No, you need 12 strikes,' and he's just like, 'Oh, I'm sorry.' So I messed up in the 11th frame because I'd gotten a little interrupted."

Muther, who already had a perfect game on her resume, made another run at 300 in game two, but fizzled again on the 11th ball when "something just was a little off." Game three included the front seven strikes and two more for a total of 29.

"When all I had to do was pretty much just bowl my 10th frame, I just knew I had my 800," said Muther, who plans to attend Wichita State next fall and try out for the bowling team. "I just felt like I'd finally accomplished one of my biggest goals. It was pretty fulfilling."

By Steve Thompson
The Topeka Capital-Journal