Leaving on a high note
Despite setbacks, Mickelson clinches title for Huskers
CANTON, Mich. -- Sometimes, the Hollywood story comes true -- complete with drama.
For Nebraska senior Kristina Mickelson, Saturday night’s national championship match was a microcosm of her season. Mickelson was injured just before the start of the season after she cracked her right elbow in a car accident. At times, Saturday may have seemed nearly as painful.
Mickelson, who averaged 225 in Thursday’s qualifying round, entered the seventh and deciding game of the national championship match with just two strikes. To be fair, she had only one open frame, a missed 3-10 split in the ninth frame of the first game. Still, by her own admission, things just weren’t right as the eight-counts and nine-counts started piling up as the match got more and more intense.
“I was doing what I wanted and it wasn’t working,” Mickelson said. “Then I would make an adjustment and something would go wrong, then I would focus on that and fix it, then something would go wrong the next time.”
While her Huskers stayed in the match, even her head coach, Bill Straub, was running out of things to try to get his veteran player lined up on an increasingly difficult lane condition.
“It got to the point where we were looking around going, ‘What color ball should we try now,' ” Straub said. “We were going through all the ball choices hoping, hoping that the next ball would be the right one.”
There were clues early in the final game that they were closing in on a solution, most notably a 10-pin leave in the fourth frame. Then came Mickelson’s turn in the ninth frame.
Mickelson stepped to the approach, her team working on an improbable four-bagger, with a chance to put away the national championship on what would be her final shot as a collegiate player. Bang -- 10 pins fall into the pit. Mission accomplished. Cue the tears.
“It’s my dream come true,” a weeping Mickelson said. “After everything I’ve gone through with the accident and fighting my way back, my final collegiate shot is a strike? It clinches the national championship? I can’t ask for anything more.”
Her roommate, anchor bowler Liz Kuhlkin, said even though Mickelson’s clinching shot was a strike, the fact that it was her last shot leaves her and her teammates feeling a little bit bittersweet.
“She’s an inspiration to all of us, she really is,” Kuhlkin said. “We’re gonna miss her. She’s like a third coach.”
As much as they’ll miss her, the feeling is mutual for the departing Mickelson.
“I want another year to spend with my team,” she said. “That’s all I want.”