When the PWBA Wichita Open began Thursday at Northrock Lanes, 17 bowlers with ties to Wichita State were in the field.
Entering Saturday’s stepladder finals round of eight, only Clara Guerrero was left to carry the Shocker banner.
A 2006 WSU graduate in international business, Guerrero said she’s still excited to return to town.
“It’s always very nice to be back, and definitely to bowl good on these lanes where I came so many times when I was living here,” Guerrero said. “It’s very emotional to bowl great here.”
Guerrero made it to the Group B stepladder final, losing to Liz Johnson 237-236. Johnson and Group A winner Juliana Franco earned spots in PWBA Players Championship on June 21-25 in Green Bay, Wis., as did match play leaders Li Jane Sin and Siti Rahman.
Guerrero, who came to WSU from Colombia and now lives in Austin, said her showing in this year’s tournament was an improvement from last year.
“I made it to the top 32 (in 2016), but I was a little short to make the top-12 cut,” she said. “This has been my best performance here so far.”
Her best 2017 showing came at Fountain Valley, Calif., where Guerrero entered stepladder play as the top seed in her group but lost to reigning PWBA Player of the Year Johnson in the final.
Guerrero has been bowling since age 9, and it didn’t come easy.
“When I started, I wasn’t very good; I didn’t have a lot of talent,” Guerrero said. “So I had to work very, very hard.”
An agreement between her parents and her coach resulted in a three-hour daily practice after school, she said.
“Even before I did homework, and that definitely allowed me to get better and better, and then I fell in love with the sport after that,” she said.
She said she heard about WSU from countrywoman Sara Vargas, who was at the school at the time.
“One of my Colombian teammates was already here, so she was a help to be able to connect with the coaches,” Guerrero said.
“At that time, coach (Gordon) Vadakin was the USA coach, and we met in Japan bowling the World Games. We talked for a little bit – I didn’t know much English, so it was hard to communicate, but he knew who I was. I decided with my parents that it was the right time for me to come to the United States. But Sara Vargas had a lot to do with it, telling me how great it was bowling in the States, how great the coaches were. That made the decision much easier.”
Despite the constant travel, Guerrero said she has grown comfortable with the tour lifestyle.
“With the travel, (bowling) is a career that has fit my life the best,” she said.