Guam bowling has been making huge strides in the past five years, gaining recognition on an international stage and seeing growth at the local level.
Over the past year, the island's top bowlers have been steadily honing their craft, competing in local monthly tournaments and testing the waters at the international level.
It's been a good year for the island's bowlers, said coach Jay Leon Guerrero, who will also be representing Guam at the 55th QubicaAMF World Cup in Palembang, Indonesia slated for late next month.
To close out the year, the bowlers will take part in the World Cup, the 33rd Asian Intercity Championships in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and the 20 MILO Cup Junior All Stars in Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia.
The contingents aiming to represent Guam have been grinding it out this summer, testing their mettle against some of the best bowlers in the Asia-Pacific Rim. Ensuring that they perform well in November is priority.
The goal, Leon Guerrero said, is always to "represent Guam to the best of our abilities and each contingent is capable of doing big things."
33rd Asian Intercity Championships
At the intercity championships, the teams heading out are a good mix of veterans and fresh talent – all of whom are eager to see how they measure up against overseas competition.
Slated for Nov. 12-20 in Vietnam, the tournament will feature city teams in Asia including Hong Kong, Manila, Busan, Kuching, Singapore, Brunei, Kowloon, San Juan, Paranaque, Padawan, Ho Chi Minh, Happy Valley, Jeju, Bandar Seri Begawan, Pasay, and New Territories. Each team will play four events for medals: singles, doubles, team and all events master.
Historically, the island has performed well at the intercity championships, he said, ticking off a gold medal and a record at the tournament.
"(JD) Castro and (John John) Ada along with myself and Duane Camacho won gold in the team event several years ago in Malaysia under Team Tamuning," said Leon Guerrero. "We still hold the team record for total score."
For Charlie "Mama Char" Catbagan, the intercity championships can't come soon enough.
Catbagan says he lives for the off-island competitions.
"There's a huge difference," Catbagan said, stressing the local tournaments are tough but the familiarity with the local competition makes it less stressful. "Off island tournaments are fun but it really tests your ability as an athlete."
Something a lot of people don't realize is that bowling requires a lot of stamina, Catbagan said.
"We have tournaments where you have to bowl six to 12 games. And OMG, it's exhausting – mentally and physically,"Catbagan said. "So keeping up with your physical training is an issue for me.
"I blame my parents for (picking up bowling," Catbagan said. "I was 10 years old and I’d always went with them to the bowling center. So naturally they were like 'You wanna bowl?' ... At first, it was just for fun but then it got serious. So, here we are ... 16 years later."
20th Milo Junior All Stars
The junior team will cut their teeth at the 20th Milo Junior All Stars, set for Dec. 7-13. The roster reads like a Who's Who in youth bowling with Jeremiah Camacho and Noah Taimanglo paving the way.
Despite their youth, the young bowlers have years of bowling experience at the local and international levels and all have several titles to their resume already. Led by Camacho and Taimanglo, they will be joined by Evan Duenas, Frank Manibusan Jr. and Naiyah Taimanglo.
The youth event features 15U and 21U divisions. Camacho punched his ticket to this event via scholarship after placing second in the Fukuoka Storm U22 Open in August.
Four of the male athletes were part of the youth national prospects that placed fourth at the Asian Schools tournament earlier this summer in Hong Kong. Duenas and Naiyah Taimanglo will compete in the U15 event, while Camacho, Noah Taimanglo and Frank Manibusan Jr. will play the 21U.
"The junior team is on the right path – (already) doing big things in Asia and eventually in the world scale," Leon Guerrero said. "The youth team almost made history by winning the first medal for Guam at the Asian Schools tournament (18U). I expect all of them to throw lots of strikes and continue to make Guam proud."
For Camacho, winning the silver at the Asian intercity still sits high on his resumé.
"(My top achievement) is winning silver with my teammate in the Asian intercity tournament because I won it with one of my best friends and we grew up watching those tournaments," he said, adding placing second at the U22 Fukuoka Storm this past summer in Japan comes in on that achievement list as well.
The youth movement will continue thanks to a big push at the interscholastic sports level. The Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam announced that 10-Pin Bowling will be an official 4th quarter sport.
"This is big news for Guam bowling to help promote the sport," Leon Guerrero said. "We are looking at the high school league to being the foundation to attract talent that will eventually represent Guam."
Bigger than the local bowling, Leon Guerrero said he is setting the bar higher for his young athletes.
"My ultimate goal is to also have a handful of our players to earn college scholarships through bowling – an all-island champion looks very good on a resume, just as it does for golf, basketball and tennis," he said.
Qubica World Cup
Leon Guerrero will get to his chance, along with Maria Wood, at the Qubica World Cup. Taking on the world's best, the tournament features more than 90 male and 70 female athletes – all of whom were crowned their respective country's champion.
Leon Guerrero, along with the other members of the Guam team, say they are looking forward to seeing the grind come to fruition as they put their skills on display against the region's best.