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Prep bowling: Valentine signs with Culver-Stockton

Apr. 26—OTTUMWA — When you win a state championship, it's a safe bet that several colleges are going to come knocking.

Katelin Valentine had options when it came to deciding where she might like to bowl collegiately next year. The Ottumwa senior, however, stuck with the school that had been recruiting her the longest.

"There were a few schools that reached out to me, but Culver-Stockton was the first one," Valentine said. "No one else has compared to Culver-Stockton. Ever since I met the girls and the team, it's felt like home."

Valentine will be on her way to compete at the NAIA school in Missouri after officially signing her letter of intent last week at Champion Bowl. Fittingly, the Ottumwa senior was joined by Bulldog teammates Megan Prado and Olivia Moughler as well as parents and coaches that have been part of Ottumwa's bowling family for several years.

"To see the other bowlers come out and support a teammate that's going to go on and give it her best shot at the next level speaks a lot about our program," Ottumwa head girls bowling coach Doug Techel said. "The seniors bowled together on our team for the past four years and look what they've accomplished."

Those accomplishments were out in front of the table that Valentine signed her letter of intent on. Four trophies collected over the past four Iowa High School State Bowling Tournaments, including two Class 3A state team championships with the most recent being won this past February after and having to settle for two runner-up trophies over the past two years.

"Getting so close the previous two years before this season and not getting what we wanted really gave us the drive to go out with a bang," Valentine said. "There are times when it's still pretty unbelievable to think about everything we've accomplished together and how we all came together. We meshed so well. When you look back on it, there's no doubt about how we were able to finish out winning a state championship."

Valentine, Moughler, Hannalee Songer and Brooklyn Welch all finished off their four years as Ottumwa High School bowlers as part of the program's 11th state championship team. Besides the accomplishments earned competing for the Bulldogs, many of those Ottumwa seniors have grown up together bowling in youth leagues at Champion Bowl developing a shared bond through the sport for several years.

"We've grown so much as a team as well as individuals over the years," Valentine said. "Being able to bring everyone together and celebrate our successes makes it more meaningful."

Valentine will joining a Culver-Stockton team that qualified for the USBC Intercollegiate Team Sectionals earlier this season, led by a pair of bowlers from another top southeast Iowa program. Keokuk teammates Rachel Moore and Jasmine Saunders both shined this season for the Wildcats with Moore earning first-team all-conference and Heart of America Athletic Conference newcomer of the year honors while Saunders was named a second-team all-Heart bowler.

Valentine is very familiar with both bowlers. It was those relationships that helped make the choice to sign with Culver-Stockton even easier.

"There are a few of the girls on the team that I bowled with in middle school. It's going to be cool to see us come together for the next four years," Valentine said. "It was really important to find a team where I felt like I fit in with the girls and got along with them."

Having competed for state championships each of the past four years, Valentine certainly brings plenty of experience of competing at a high level to Culver-Stockton. Besides the high school state tournaments, Valentine has also competed in several major youth tournaments in and out of the state before high school.

"Back when I started doing the state youth league tournaments, there were a lot of noises I had to start getting used to while I was competing," Valentine said. "Bringing that experience into the state high school tournaments, it gets to a point where the big atmospheres don't scare you as much."

That poise by Valentine helped her become a vital piece of Ottumwa's run to the 3A state title earlier this year. The Bulldogs posted the top score during qualifying for bracket play at state, rolling six strikes to open the tournament, before avenging their 2022 state title loss to Dubuque Senior with a 3.5-1.5 win in the semifinals followed by a three-game sweep of Iowa Alliance Conference south division rival Des Moines Lincoln in the state finals.

"We talked a lot during the year with Katelin about how some of the breaks weren't going her way," Techel said. "I kept telling her she was going to save her best for last and she bowled extremely well at state. She just had to believe in herself. When the biggest spotlight was on her, she came through."

Techel has no doubt that Valentine will continue to shine at Culver-Stockton. The Wildcats finished third in the Heart of American Conference championships and 18th in the USBC Intercollegiate Team Sectionals.

"It's like one chapter is closing and another one is starting for her," Techel said of Valentine. "She'll be a great asset for Culver-Stockton. Katelin's always been willing to listen and learn. It's going to be exciting to watch her compete at the next level.

"It's really exciting," Valentine added. "It's something I've dreamed about doing since I was really little. Getting to see it actually happen is exciting overall."

— Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.