When she’s met with a moment of disappointment, the first instinct Rose Ugbinada has, like many people, is to be critical of herself.
But the part that comes next — the resolve she has upon realizing those negative thoughts aren’t helping, then refocusing that energy into something positive — is what separates Ugbinada from her peers.
Ugbinada, the Fort Vancouver senior and The Columbian’s All-Region girls bowler of the year, had a couple instances in her final season with the Trappers that reflected her mental toughness.
First, in an early December match against Hudson’s Bay, Ugbinada was on the verge of bowling her first 300 game with nine straight strikes. But as she released her 10th ball, she knew right away it wasn’t going to be a strike. Instead, a 4-5 split was left standing.
At first, Ugbinada was upset with herself, on the verge of tears. Then she picked up the ensuing spare and was determined to finish strong. A strike on the final ball gave Ugbinada a 278 pin score.
“I was like, ‘Finish it the way you want to finish it, not be upset about the way it could’ve been,’” Ugbinada recalled.
That was the beginning of the season. She brought the same mindset to the end of it, the Class 2A state bowling championship on Feb. 4 at Narrows Plaza Bowl in University Place, as she finished second place individually with 838 pins.
After opening the four-game series with a 193 and 225, she bowled a 163 during a third game marred by some uncharacteristic misfires.
All that remained in her high school bowling career was the fourth game. Although the last one was still weighing on her mind, once again, Ugbinada confronted her negative thoughts and pushed through.
“I just decided, however it goes, it goes, but try,” she said.
Ugbinada opened with three strikes, then after picking up a spare in the fourth frame, tallied five more strikes in a row on the way to a 257 pin score, her highest of the day, to secure second place.
“She’s just gotten really good at staying in the moment,” Fort Vancouver coach Julie Pagel said, “staying focused and not getting too far ahead of herself, just focusing on one frame at a time.”
While Ugbinada has built herself up mentally in those moments, she also credits the support she’s had along the way.
First are her Fort Vancouver teammates and fellow competitors from around the tight-knight Southwest Washington bowling community.
Then there’s Pagel, who describes her own role as a motivator and cheerleader as much as a bowling coach.
Pagel first saw Ugbinada bowl as an eighth grader at Gaiser Middle School, and could see her potential almost immediately. So much so, in fact, that Pagel wasn’t shy in telling Ugbinada as a freshman at Fort that she believed Ugbinada would probably be the best bowler ever in school history.
“Whether or not this was smart, I don’t know, looking back,” Pagel said.
“She really struck me as an athlete. She played other sports, she really wanted to win (and) she struck me as super focused, even as a ninth grader. I think her ninth grade year she bowled a few JV matches at the beginning and then she’s been varsity ever since.”
It was high praise from a coach of a program that produced two All-Region girls bowlers of the year in recent memory: Lauren Heying (2015) and Kelcee Humphrey (2011). Those words left an impression on the humble freshman.
“If she thought that, then maybe other people thought that, so I was like, ‘OK, let’s try and get where she thinks I can be,’” Ugbinada said. “And I hope that I made her proud, and I hope I got there.”
Perhaps most important, though, is the support Ugbinada has from her dad, Daniel Ugbinada, whose positivity and spirit not only for Rose, but all bowlers, led the Fort coaches to nominate him for a sportsmanship award at state..
He’s a mainstay at just about every match, even some practices, but leading up to the start of this bowling season, health issues prompted several hospital stays and kept him from attending a few matches, including the 278 game against Hudson’s Bay. Knowing her dad, she understood he was upset not being there.
“The only matches he’s ever missed is when he was in the hospital, and even then he’s apologizing, saying ‘sorry I can’t go, wish I could come out,’ ” Rose Ugbinada said.
Not long after, however, she was surprised to see him show up for another match after getting out of the hospital.
“Even though he wasn’t healed all the way and he showed up at one of my matches,” she remembered. “(I said), ‘You’re supposed to be at home resting,’ and he’s like, ‘I know, but I couldn’t miss it.’ ”
When Ugbinada finished her last game at state, she walked to her dad in the crowd and shared a long hug. That’s when the finality of the moment began to set in.
“I don’t even know how to describe it because I didn’t even realize it was my last match or my last ball until I walked up to him and he started crying … and then I almost started crying,” she said.
After high school, Ugbinada is leaning toward attending University of Alabama Birmingham and joining the women’s bowling team. She knows the school is a long way from home and her family, but she’s determined to stick with it.
“I know a lot of people get homesick and scared and want to go back home,” Ugbinada said. “Especially with my dad and his health condition, I’m afraid I’m going to want to leave and come back. So my goal is to stay.”
Then comes the ultimate goal: Ugbinada is all but certain she wants to compete in the U.S. Open with the hopes of bowling professionally.
“I want to get on TV with this,” she said. “I know that’s a weird reason, but I know I want to.”
Rest of the All-Region girls bowling team
Lilly Bash, Prairie
The senior was the 3A state champion and she was selected as the 3A Greater St. Helens League co-player of the year.
Addysen Case, Skyview
The freshman had a 182 average, was the 4A GSHL player of the year, won the district title and placed fourth at 4A state.
Emily Strehle, Kelso
The junior posted a 195 average, was 3A GSHL co-player of the year, the 3A district champion and a 3A state runner-up .
Kierra Wilcox, Evergreeen
The junior posted a 181 average, was the 3A district runner-up, an all-league pick and placed 11th at the 3A state tournament.
KyleeJo Wisinski, Columbia River
The freshman was an all-league selection, placed third at 2A district and fourth at the 2A state tournament.
Karley Wold-Hayes, Prairie
The senior had 186 average, was a first-team all 3A GSHL pick, placed sixth a district and fifth at the 3A state tournament.