CEDAR RAPIDS — Anna Warkel is a bowler. That’s what she does and that’s what has gotten her through the toughest year of her family’s life.
Last week at Cadillac Lanes in Waterloo, the Cedar Rapids Jefferson junior followed a 245 with a 268 for a final score of 513 — her first plus-500 series in competition and good enough to capture the Class 3A state title.
“When I got done bowling, I was crying,” Warkel said. “I’d never thrown a 500 before and to do it at state was crazy.”
Warkel’s junior season had its ups and downs, especially with her father, Dan, dying unexpectedly last October at age 54.
Warkel’s mother, Christine Knight, surprised Anna with a framed photo of her with her father — so he could sit with her during competition, starting with the Mississippi Valley Conference tournament, where she won the individual division title.
“She brought that to the MVC meet as a surprise and then I bowled super, super good,” Warkel said. “He was definitely my No. 1 fan.”
Warkel began bowling at age 4 when her mom worked at Lancer Lanes and May City Bowl.
She started on bumpers, but had bigger plans.
“I wanted to be like the big dudes that threw it so fast and made it hook,” Warkel said. “I wanted to have my own ball and shoes and do it all myself.”
Warkel knows all about the mental side of the game, breaking out of a slump before the championship portion of the season.
“I have lots of superstitions,” she said with a smile. “I have worn the same socks since the conference tournament. I have taken them off, but I hide them from Mom so she can’t wash them.”
While Warkel was surprised to win the state title, she saw it coming ... so-to-speak.
“On Monday and Tuesday, I had the same dream — that I had won state,” Warkel said. “It’s funny, because when it happened, I was doing all of the same things from my dream. I told everyone if I won, I’d cry and that’s exactly what happened. I didn’t think it was going to happen, because there were so many good people there.”
While Warkel’s title will expand the reach of her reputation, the junior bowler already is a staple in local houses.
“If I walk into a bowling alley, lots of people I don’t know will stop to tell me that I’ve bowled well,” Warkel said. “A lot of my mom’s friends read the paper and then she puts it on Facebook and then everyone’s talking about it.”
Not only was her phone blowing up all day following the state meet, her face was on the Jefferson video board outside of school when she arrived.
“When I came to school, the first person I saw said congrats and after four or five people, it started to hit me that I’m a state champion,” she said.
Warkel planned for her career to go down this path.
“When I was a freshman, I decided I was going to set records while I was at Jefferson,” said Warkel. “That was my goal.”
As for next year?
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“Do it again next year,” Warkel said. “I feel like a lot of people are going to want to beat me. I’ll just have to do what I do and know that when I get in those bad times, those bad times make the good times even better.”