Video by Billy Mann | CatchMark
WHITEHALL — Most high school athletes can only dream of competing at the collegiate Division I level. Whitehall Senior, Karli VanDuinen has dedicated her life to making that dream become reality.
The all-state caliber athlete has dominated in both golf and bowling throughout her high school career. However, it is the latter that landed her a scholarship to Arkansas State University next Fall.
In September, VanDuinen verbally committed to ASU after a 3,600-mile road trip in which she visited multiple schools. She narrowed down her choice based on her immediate connection with the city, campus, coaches and future teammates.
“I just went off my gut feeling,” said VanDuinen. “I really like the coaches and the girls, and the atmosphere was just my kind of vibe.”
The dual sport standout excelled in both the fall and winter athletic seasons in 2020. Her heightened performance across the board presented a unique challenge as the senior was preparing to make her move toward the next level. Although it was no easy task, VanDuinen had to determine which sport she would prioritize during her senior year at Whitehall.
Trusting her instinct and following her heart illuminated the path that VanDuinen would pursue. “Bowling is my true love,” said Karli. “The passion I have for that sport is way different than golf, so I just followed my heart in that aspect of things.”
Photos by Scott DeCamp, Zach Zweigle and Jesse King | CatchMark
After signing a letter of intent to bowl for the ASU Red Wolves in November, VanDuinen shifted the entirety of her focus to her true passion. This meant her Winter season will be crammed with not only high school events, but traveling to compete on a state and national level as well. VanDuinen will bowl on the Michigan Junior Masters Association Circuit for another season.
In reference to a hectic schedule, VanDuinen said, “Its really all over. I’m going to Vegas this upcoming month and to travel and balance everything can be hard, but its very worth it.” She competes mainly on an individual basis, but recognizes many familiar faces from past experiences.
The Whitehall senior is excited to bowl for one of the top programs in the country after she graduates. The Red Wolves have made the NCAA Championships 13 straight times and were runner-up to Nebraska last season in the national championship.
For now though, VanDuinen is focused on leading her high school team to their third-straight regional championship. She bowled a high game of 230 last year to drive the Vikings to a regional victory and hopes to do the same again this season.
Individually, she was a top-eight finisher in the MHSAA Division 3 state finals in 2020 and is striving to improve that in her final shot as high school athlete.
Despite a bit of a slow start thus far in the 2021 season, VanDuinen is as focused and motivated as ever. The star bowler began the season with scores in the high 100 range, but most recently dialed in and knocked out a 221 on Dec. 15.
In addition to her high school career, Karli has aspirations of being a member of the U.S. Junior Olympic bowling team. She won eight titles on the Michigan Junior Masters Association Circuit last year and will put her best foot forward this year in light of achieving her ultimate goal.
As an exceptional student and athlete, VanDuinen credits her success to developed mental toughness. “I’ve been mainly focused on my mental side,” she said. “I feel like that separates me from a lot of people because that’s always been an important mindset of everything I do.”
“If you don’t have a good mental, you’re not going to be able to succeed if it’s physical.”
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