SPRING HILL — Bowling has always been a big part of April Trezise's life.
Her father, Art Trezise, used to work in a bowling center, and her mother, Debbie Trezise, has competed on the lanes for most of her life. A ball has been in April's right hand since she was at least 7 years old.
As April grew up, the sport became more and more serious for her. A competitive spirit at heart, she couldn't help but take on the challenge of getting better every time she put on a pair of bowling shoes and tried to knock down the pins.
All the work has paid off. April will take her first step onto the national stage this month, competing in the United States Bowling Congress Youth Open in Indianapolis.
Born May 6, 1990, in Pittsburgh, April's family moved to Spring Hill when she was 13. She was talented at many things, so her rise in bowling was more steady than meteoric.
At Nature Coast Technical High School, she was the starting center on the Sharks' girls basketball team. During her four years, she helped lead the program to a 93-23 record and four state playoff appearances. But she never let another athletic focus stray far from her mind.
"Bowling kind of came in late in high school when they started up (a team)," April said. "The school treated it like a club, but I still took it very seriously."
Anyone who watched her on the lanes in school could tell. In her two seasons competing in the Florida High School Athletic Association-sanctioned sport, April seized the opportunity.
As a sophomore in 2006, she came in second place to Eustis' Stephanie Moore at district with a 642 series and qualified for the state meet, where she placed 43rd with a 713 pin total over four games. The following season, April struggled at district with only a 515 series, but she still managed to qualify for state. Her experience paid off at Boardwalk Bowl in Orlando, where she placed 21st overall with a score of 734.
Her big game and tournament experience has helped her in pressure situations, and now 20 years old, April is in her third year at Saint Leo University. She continues to compete in youth leagues, in her final season of eligibility.
On May 1, April made her way to Ormond Lanes in Ormond Beach to the USBC Pepsi State Youth Championships. The tournament is a Florida qualifier for the national championship in Indianapolis. Top bowlers at the state and national events are eligible for scholarships in their divisions.
This was April's sixth and final time entering the tournament. She had never advanced past the state level before, but for the first time in her young career, her average was up over 200 entering the tournament.
"I thought I had a pretty good chance this time because it was scratch," she said.
She began the six-game series with a 268 game, and while many would take that with a boost of confidence, April insisted she was on an even keel. She bowled a 157 in her second game, but stayed collected enough to average a 210.5 (1,263) for the tournament.
"I just wanted to stay calm and keep up the same mind-set," she said. "I managed to adjust. I stuck with the same ball the whole time, and it paid off."
The score was good enough for second place in the state, behind only Jennifer Boisselle of Orlando (1,275). April earned a scholarship of $350, and could earn much more on her trip to Indianapolis, where the national competition begins July 9.
The state is providing her with some funds for winning, but she is expected to pay for her own airfare and hotel accommodations. Hernando County Youth Bowling coordinator Sue Winnegar and Spring Hill Lanes have worked together over the past month to help get more donations for April's trip.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her," Winnegar said. "In the past, kids qualify for these tournaments and the parents can't afford to take them."
Besides scholarships, April is also looking forward to competing in front of the plethora of college coaches who will be on hand in Indianapolis. She may earn an invitation to play for a travel team or even transfer to a different college for her final year of eligibility if she bowls well enough.
The toughest part is going to be the preparation. April works five days a week at Spring Hill Lanes and goes to school two others. It is difficult to find time to practice between studying, going to class and work, but she knows she has to if she's going to become a top-notch bowler.
"You never know how the shots are going to be at different (bowling centers)," she said. "I have to keep working hard and practicing different shots."