By: Jen Russon
You could say that Katarina Hagler, a seventh grader at Coral Springs Charter School, rolls a little differently than most kids her age. Bowling a 191 this season, puts her at the highest average in the county.
She’s a highly valuable player on her school’s team, the Panthers.
At the Florida High School Athletic Association’s bowling team championship at Boardwalk Bowl in Orlando, Hagler’s high score of 221 was key in capturing the first bowling state title for her school team.
Her coach, Nelson Martin Jr. said that it’s rare to find such a focused player.
“She is my fourth female ‘Bowler of the Year’, and my youngest,” he said referring to her award from the Sun Sentinel. “I am so proud of Katarina and her accomplishments, and can’t wait to see what else the rest of her high school career holds in store,” said Coach Martin.
She’s been playing the sport after she was old enough to hold an eight-pound ball.
“I started when I was three. From that point on I loved bowling, and I’m still doing it to this day,” she shared during her six-minute interview with the Sun Sentinel that she was a one-handed bowler, and that she most enjoys the sport when it’s a baker game.
I’m less nervous when it’s not all on me [to win],” said Katarina, who is instrumental in helping her team get a good read on lane conditions.
Remarking on the Panther’s November victory at the Orlando state competition, Katarina said it was all about the teamwork.
“We held each other up, we cheered each other on, and we did good and we got each other all the way to states,” she added.
Katarina mother, Tammy said that since winning the Sun Sentinel Best Bowler title, it has been a whirlwind for the family. Their only child was invited to city hall, where the entire Panthers team received recognition from Coral Springs City Commissioner Joy Carter.
Although she has many years until college, Katarina has indicated that she one day hopes to be accepted into McKendree University, a school in Illinois that is well-known for its athletic programs, most notably bowling.
“I’ve always admired Shannon O’Keefe, the coach of the women’s bowling team at McKendree,” said Katarina . “I’ve met her before.”
The Hagler family lives in Ramblewood where Tammy works in insurance and Tommy is a chef, aren’t even bowlers said Katarina.
“My mom is working at trying to learn, so she can practice with me,” she said.
Tammy said her daughter has come a very long way since first bowling as a tot at Sawgrass Lanes. In those days it was called bumper bowling, and Katarina would meet a few Panthers teammates there before their paths crossed at Coral Springs Charter School.
“This accomplishment would not have been possible without the amazing school, and Coach Martin taking a chance on a middle schooler,” said Tammy, adding with a smile, “this team of girls have all been so supportive.”
Jen Russon is a freelance writer and English Language Arts teacher. She has published two novels to Amazon Kindle and lives in Coral Springs with her family.