Qualifying wrapping up at Junior Gold

INDIANAPOLIS - After back-to-back years of strong performances at the North Pointe Junior Gold Championships presented by Brunswick, Thea Aspiras of Chesapeake, Va., is once again lingering near the top of the leaderboard.

Thea AspirasThe Norfolk State junior finished 37th last year in Las Vegas and sixth two years ago in Indianapolis. After 15 games of qualifying, she sits in 14th place in the 20-and-under division with 2,897 (193.13 average) and is again in position for a big finish.

"I'm making the best of it and doing everything I can to make it to the top," said Aspiras, 20, who is competing for the final time in Junior Gold. "I'm not letting anything hold me back. I'm going to put everything I have practiced to work this week."

Aspiras has her sights set on earning a spot on Junior Team USA for the first time and said her experience competing collegiately at Norfolk State has helped paved the way for her success.

"Bowling in college put me in a different point of view," Aspiras said. "It's encouraged and prepared me to block out what is going on around me, so I can handle anything. It has really helped me a lot."

The U20 girls are led by Kara Mangiola of Rochester, N.Y., with 3,063, while Natalie Goodman of O'Fallon, Ill., is second with 3,049. The U20 boys were still wrapping up their 15-game totals late Wednesday.

In the U15 girls division, Ashley Dunn of Palmdale, Calif., leads by a wide margin with 3,035 as they wrapped up their 15-game totals Wednesday morning. The U15 boys were also finishing late Wednesday.

After 15 games, the field will be cut to the top 150 in the U20 boys, top 81 in the U20 girls, top 32 in the U15 boys and the top 24 in the U15 girls.

Those who advance will bowl five additional games before the cut is made to the top 64 in the U20 divisions and top 24 in the U15 divisions for five final games Thursday night. On Friday, the top 16 in each division move to the double-elimination match-play bracket.

Automatic Junior Team USA spots will be awarded to the top two boys and top two girls in the 20-and-under division after 25 games of qualifying. Additional automatic spots will be given to the winner and runner-up after bracket play in the 20-and-under division. If one or both of the finalists in the bracket already earned a spot through qualifying, the automatic spot becomes an at-large selection.

The National Selection Committee will select two boys and two girls from the match-play field, with all bowlers, including 15 and under, eligible for at-large selection. The final eight spots - four boys and four girls - on Junior Team USA will continue to be determined at the USBC Team USA Trials.

Bowling fans will be able to watch the competition live from Junior Gold on BOWL.com's BowlTV starting Thursday at 8 a.m. Eastern. Coverage will continue until the champions are crowned Friday afternoon.

TOURNAMENT OF AMERICAS BIDS AT STAKE FOR 15-AND-UNDER BOWLERS: The top age-eligible bowlers in the U15 boys and U15 girls divisions will earn automatic spots to compete in the 15-and-under division of the Tournament of Americas in 2013.

The National Selection Committee will also select one additional boy and one additional girl, regardless of Junior Gold division, who are age eligible to compete in the Tournament of Americas 15-and-under division.

The Tournament of Americas is the oldest annual international tournament in the American Zone. The invitational competition for countries of PABCON (Pan American Bowling Confederation - the American Zone of World Tenpin Bowling Association) has four divisions for men and women based on age divisions.