Perfect moments in sports do not happen very often. A perfect 10 in gymnastics, a no-hitter in baseball, a hole-in-one on the golf course — these are all rare occurrences. Vanderbilt senior bowler Brittni Hamilton had her perfect moment — a 300 game — at the Prairie View Invitational on Feb. 4.
A perfect score is rarely seen in collegiate bowling, and it was the first time in program history a Commodore bowler accomplished the feat.
“It’s like any level of perfection in any sport … you see it start to develop,” Vanderbilt head coach John Williamson said. “It seems like every weekend someone throws four or five in a row to start and then they get tripped up. You start watching the demeanor of the group as seven, eight and nine happen. People try not to jinx it or draw attention to it.”
|2004||Jennifer Viens||New Jersey City|
|2004||Tina Peak||Central Missouri|
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“I’ve never seen one happen in college and I’ve heard of very few,” Hamilton said. “I’m not sure I’ve heard of one in NCAA competition since I’ve been at Vanderbilt. It’s definitely something that doesn’t happen very often, especially in collegiate tournaments.”
It was not a new experience for Hamilton, a native of Webster, N.Y., but it was special for her to share it with her teammates and coaches.
“I’ve done it before but not in college,” Hamilton said. “It never gets easier – that’s for sure. We were really focused as a team and focused on winning the match. I wasn’t really paying that much attention to how many strikes I had in a row. I realized it in the ninth frame. It was extremely exciting when it happened, especially to have my whole team behind me like that. To experience it with them was pretty amazing.”
Hamilton rolled her first 300 as a sophomore in high school – about the time she started taking the sport a bit more seriously.
“I started bowling more tournaments against better competition and I was doing well,” Hamilton said. “That’s when I heard about people from our area going to school for collegiate bowling and finding out what the top programs were.”
Hamilton’s arrival in Nashville made an immediate impact for the Commodores, while she garnered National Rookie of the Year and All-America honors in 2009. She also earned All-America honors as a sophomore and junior and last season became the first bowler to be chosen as Vanderbilt’s Female Athlete of the Year.
“She has an ability to repeat shots,” Williamson said. “She always puts herself in a good position to repeat shots. She’s got a leadership quality about her that the girls look up to. She’s in the leadoff spot on our team. She’s very consistent and reliable, which is what our team needs.”
In addition to her collegiate success, Hamilton has also been a constant in the amateur bowling community, earning a spot on the Junior Team USA three times. Last year, she posted a fourth-place finish at the 2011 Team USA Trials to automatically qualify for Team USA.
“It is great experience and I try to learn as much as I can from the other bowlers and coaches,” Hamilton said. “I’ve gotten to travel around the world for Team USA. I was able to go to Columbia and Finland, and they are definitely memories that I will never forget.”
While she is now too old to qualify as a Junior and did not finish high enough at Trials in January to make the 2012 squad, Hamilton is planning to keep trying after graduation from VU.
“I’m planning on taking a year off of school and concentrate on bowling and compete in a lot more tournaments and see how I rank,” Hamilton said. “I want to take advantage of that while I can. Then, I want to return to school to get my graduate degree in sports administration.”
For now, Hamilton is enjoying her last few weeks as a collegiate bowler, and encouraging fans to come out and check out the sport.
“Collegiate bowling is a lot different than what people think about bowling,” Hamilton said. “A lot of people just think it is something fun to go do on a Saturday afternoon when they’re bored. It’s a lot different than the professionals, as well. You have teams of seven or eight people and there is a lot of cheering. It is loud and energetic and a lot of fun to watch. People don’t realize how intense the competition is and how good the bowlers are out there. We’ve heard from a lot of people that how they view it changes completely after watching a tournament.”
Vanderbilt is currently ranked No. 7 in the NTCA poll after a runner-up at the NCAA championship last year. Hamilton and the Commodores are hoping make another run at a national title, but first to have good showings at their final two tournaments in order to qualify for the NCAA championship that will take place on April 12-14 in Wickliffe, Ohio.
“We had been searching for our identity, and over the last couple weeks I think we’ve figured out who we are and what kind of team we can be,” Williamson said. “Hopefully, we’ll get an invitation to the national championship. When you get there, pretty much anything can happen and we just want that opportunity.”
“We definitely have a lot of potential and a lot of confidence that we can make another run like we did last year,” Hamilton said. “I wouldn’t count us out of it … for sure.”