Pleasure Ridge Park junior Michaela “Kayla” Payne is a standout bowler for one of the state’s top programs.
As a freshman she finished fourth individually at the state tournament while helping the Panthers to their third championship in only the fourth year the sport was sanctioned by the KHSAA.
Last season Payne rolled her way to the Region Three title, but PRP failed to qualify for the state tournament as a team.
This season Payne, who is averaging 214 a game, wants to lead the Panthers back to the state championship.
Q: How and when did you start bowling?
A: I was 3 years old when I started. I went to leagues with my dad (Jeff) and I watched him and a lot of his friends bowl and I just picked it up from there.
Q: What do you like about bowling?
A: It challenges me every day. It’s something different every day and it’s fun.
Q: How does it challenge you?
A: The shots that you have to make, the different oil patterns, the mental (aspect) is a big, big part of it … because there’s no defense to bowling. It’s all offense.
Q: Your coach says you work hard. How often do you practice?
A: I usually bowl five to six days a week. School practices are usually from 3-5:30, but sometimes I stay after and practice more. We only practice three days a week, but I come in on Mondays sometimes and every Friday. I have a league on Saturday. Sundays are my day off, unless there’s a tournament.
Q: What’s your high game?
A: 299. I bowled it November of my sophomore year at Kingpin (Lanes). It was a match against Bullitt East and I didn’t really know how many (strikes) I had in a row until one of my coaches (said), ‘You’ve got this.’ And I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ and I look up and I’m like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ I had 11 in a row and then (left) a 4 pin.
Q: Did you get nervous at the end?
A: I didn’t really get nervous until the last three balls. I was fine until then because I was busy cheering. I didn’t realize what was happening until I looked up and was like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to roll a ball now.’ I was really nervous my last ball which is, I think, why I pulled it.
Q: What was it like to be on a state championship team as a freshman?
A: Amazing. I think that team was the greatest group of girls I’ve ever bowled with, ever. We were so close together. Our anchor, Keelyn (Cox), I looked up to her a lot. I think she helped me realize that high school bowling was bigger than just a lane and a practice. It was a lot of fun, too.
Q: What are your goals for this season?
A: My goal for this year, for our team, is to win state again, of course. My personal goal, I would really, really love to be state individual champion and finally get my 300. That would be great.
Q: What’s that going to take?
A: Hard work and dedication. I’ve just got to stay passionate about it. I think the biggest thing would be keeping my mental game strong, because I have problems with that sometimes.
Q: Is bowling something you want to do in college?
A: I’m considering it. I think it’s a big choice because I’ve got to look at the academics and education side of it, too, but I think I want to. I’m definitely looking and touring schools.
Q: What do you do in your spare time?
A: I play violin and piano. I like to hang out with friends a lot, (and) bonfires are my favorite thing. I love to watch gymnastics, it’s one of my favorite sports to watch, besides bowling.
MICHAELA PAYNE UP CLOSE
School: Pleasure Ridge Park.
Student-athlete: Kayla, who has a 4.4 GPA, says her favorite subject is history.
Family: Kayla, 16, lives with her mother, Becky; younger sister, Katie, 14, who is a freshman on the PRP bowling team; and younger brother, Cody, 10.
PRP coach Julie Nichelson says: Kayla’s an extremely talented bowler. She came in with a lot of skill and just really pushes herself to be her best. Last year, one match, she was one pin away from a perfect game, which was real exciting. She’s determined to get there again, and she’ll get her perfect game at some point. In the classroom, (she’s) a dream student, straight A’s, works hard, has big goals for herself.