Nakoa Fukushima was 10 when his mom decided he would take up bowling.
He went along for the ride, keeping older sister Jana company. Makoa had fun and still does when he practices at the Naval Station. His high score is already 166, though mom, Leinani, says his regular scores aren’t quite close to that.
Jana Fukushima? In one year, the Mililani junior went from novice bowler to Hawaii state champion.
“Oh my goodness. I don’t know what to say,” Fukushima said when a reporter approached her for an interview.
Ask her about the oil patterns used at the Billy Tees/HHSAA Bowling State Championships at Hickam Bowling Center on Thursday and Friday. Fukushima will shrug. In fact, even though the lanes at Hickam are said to be much drier than anywhere else on Oahu — one bowler said they have more traction than the lanes in Lihue — they didn’t have an adverse effect on Fukushima.
“It was OK. I’d miss my spot and still get a good outcome. If I did that at Schofield, it wouldn’t be as good,” she said.
When she began bowling a year ago, it was like the beginning of The Natural. In the months since, she has rolled a 231 game at practice. On Thursday, her six sets included a 200 game: 142, 202, 197, 134, 147, 178. By the time the girls were done, it was past midnight thanks to a two-hour delay earlier. The boys competition ran long, and then the machine that applies oil to the lanes broke down.
On Friday, Fukushima was consistent: 160, 156, 167. With a 1,487 total, she finished ahead of Campbell’s Anuhea Morales-Snelson (1470), Pearl City’s Christine Madrona (1442), ‘Iolani’s Seobeen Chang (1439) and Moanalua’s Jazmyn Lazo (1410) to win it all.
Much as Fukushima is squeamish about media attention, she wanted to give a shout-out to her Naval Station coach, Carol Hirokane.
“She helps me out on my free time. She taught me how to bowl,” the junior said. “I used to bowl just for fun. Nothing serious. I joined Naval Station junior bowlers. It was the first time I traveled.”
When Fukushima says “traveled,” she’s not talking about mainland bowling tournaments.
“It was the first time I traveled to other bowling alleys,” she clarified.
Now, Nakoa might see more of his big sister.
“She bowls with me,” he said, before quickly adding, “when she’s not with her friends.”