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Comets top returning bowler switches to left hand

Comets top returning bowler switches to left hand
Press photo by John Burbridge
Charles City junior Claire Girkin was the Comets’ top female bowler last season. Shown here bowling right-handed, Girkin will start this season bowling left-handed while recovering from shoulder surgery.

By John Burbridge

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CHARLES CITY — In basketball, it’s beneficial to have a nice crossover dribble.

In bowling, only one hand is necessary — unless you’re seven-time PBA Bowler of the Year Jason Belmonte, who employs a two-handed release.

Charles City junior Claire Girkin is more of a traditionalist, meaning she uses a one-handed release. And that one hand has been fairly effective during her bowling career with the Charles City Comets girls team.

Last year as a sophomore, Girkin led the Comet girls with a 177.45 average while recording the team’s highest two-game series (451) of the season.

To note: Girkin is a right-handed bowler.

But now this season, Girkin has switched to her off hand.

“It happened during softball season,” Girkin said of her sustaining an injured right shoulder that eventually needed surgery.

Girkin was hitting .471 with a home run and had a 3-2 pitching record before her softball season was nixed.

She was due to be a returning letter-winner on Charles City’s volleyball team, but had to sit out the whole season.

But to sit out the subsequent bowling season for Girkin — who comes from a strong bowling family as her older sister Baili Girkin recently finished a successful collegiate bowling career with Waldorf University — was out of the question.

So what do the best bowlers do when faced with adverse conditions and/or situations? They adjust.

“I’m still not allowed to lift much weight with my right arm,” Girkin said, “so I started bowling left-handed.”

“And she just might make the varsity team,” Charles City bowling head coach Doug Bohlen said.

If anything, Girkin may have the ideal coach for switching over to southpaw due to necessity. Due to right shoulder problems of his own, Bohlen bowled left-handed during an adult season and still managed to post weekly high scores.

“It’s just trying to match what I did with my right arm,” Girkin said. “Hopefully, I can heal enough to switch back to right later in the year.”

While bowling left-handed, Girkin recently rolled a 198 game in youth league play.

Charles City’s boys and girls teams lost 11 seniors from last season — most with the boys team that advanced to the Class 1A Boys State Championships, where they qualified for the eight-team elimination bracket before losing to Louisa-Muscatine in the first round.

Among those returning from last year’s state lineup for the Comets is sophomore Keaton Ross, who averaged 176 last season.

“Keaton has worked all summer with (former Comet state bowling medalist Kaleb Ross) to really improve his game,” Bohlen said.

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