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On a roll: University's Dodson, Oviedo's Leonard are all strikes
As a high school athlete, two words mean more than any others: State champion.
Bowlers Mathew Dodson of University and Julie Leonard of Oviedo earned that rare distinction by winning individual honors at the state tournament at Boardwalk Bowl in Orlando earlier this month. They are our picks for the All-Central Florida bowlers of the year.
Here's a look inside their seasons and what made them so special.
*HIGHLIGHTS: The Oviedo junior lost one game in the elimination round on her way to a state title.
*BY THE NUMBERS: 232 -- Leonard clinched her state championship by beating Timber Creek's Kaleigh Harp 232-158 in their final match; 3 -- Leonard started bowling in the third grade after watching her brother; 815 -- Leonard's four-game total at state, which qualified her fourth for the elimination round.
*IN HER OWN WORDS: "This experience has been surreal. Getting calls from friends and family, a championship ring and having my name on the announcements at school, it's crazy and exciting. . . . I didn't even look at my last ball [a missed split]. I just threw it and turned around to celebrate with my team."
*OUTSIDER'S VIEW: "She and her teammates bowled really well and it was obvious that their support helped her." -- Harp
*WHAT FUTURE HOLDS: After setting a goal just to qualify for the final 16 at state, Leonard will return as a senior ready to try to defend her state title. The Lions also will look to improve upon their second-place team finish in both boys and girls.
*HIGHLIGHTS: The University senior won the individual state championship while averaging over 250 for the two-day tournament.
*BY THE NUMBERS: 300 -- Dodson bowled a perfect game in the qualifying round at the state tournament; 2 -- The number of perfect games bowled by Dodson this season; 4 -- The state champion began bowling at the age of 4.
*IN HIS OWN WORDS: "Bowling the perfect game at states really boosted my confidence. . . . I've wanted this since I was a sophomore, and I wasn't sure if it was real when I first had won."
*OUTSIDER'S VIEW: "He really picked his team up when we played them." -- Timber Creek's Justin Mandell
*WHAT FUTURE HOLDS: Dodson is looking to continue bowling at the college level and is considering Florida State and Webber International in Babson Park. The Cougars standout will continue to bowl seven days a week between leagues and practice.
ALL-CENTRAL FLORIDA TEAM
Julie Leonard, Oviedo*
Kaleigh Harp, Timber Creek
Julie Wright, Winter Park
Amanda Kovac, Colonial
Jordan Knowles, Daytona Beach Seabreeze
Amanda McMullen, University
Alyssa Stephan, Hagerty
Rachel Moore, Port Orange Atlantic
Elizabeth Walters, Seabreeze
Kelly Begnoche, Seabreeze
Rachel Sather, Cypress Creek
Tabitha Moore, Eustis
Pauline Harris, Winter Park
Heather Benton, Seminole
Jacqueline Wilhelm, Tavares
Abigail Edwards, Lake Mary
* Bowler of the year
ALL COUNTY TEAMS
*BOWLER OF THE YEAR: Jacqueline Wilhelm, Tavares -- District 4 champ averaged 166 on the season.
*OTHER NOTABLES: Elizabeth Allen, Tavares; Vanessa Colburn, Umatilla; Gena Howe, Groveland South Lake; Christina Vroman, Tavares
*BOWLER OF THE YEAR: Kaleigh Harp, Timber Creek -- Wolves anchor finished second at state finals.
*OTHER NOTABLES: Renetta Kleiser, Wekiva; Danielle Merena, Cypress Creek
*BOWLER OF THE YEAR: Alyssa Stephan, Hagerty -- finished with the second-highest average in the Seminole Athletic Conference behind Julie Leonard.
*OTHER NOTABLES: Amber Torres, Hagerty; Jeannine Curovic, Lake Howell; Ashley Malmstrom, Oviedo; Allison Jessee, Oviedo; Kelsey Burr, Oviedo
*BOWLER OF THE YEAR: Jordan Knowles, Seabreeze -- finished sixth in state in only her third year of bowling competitively.
*OTHER NOTABLES: Marissa Giles, DeLand; Amy Schwartz, Daytona Beach Mainland; Tori Driggers, DeLand; April Klarich, Mainland; Erin Carlick, Seabreeze; Chelsea Richards, DeLand