Natalie Jimenez stands outside Rowland High School after winning athletic and academic scholarships to the University of Central Missouri. (Photo by Gina Ward / Courtesy of Rowland Unified School District)

One could say that Natalie Jimenez bowled over the competition. That's why the Hacienda Heights bowler is going to the University of Central Missouri on athletic and academic scholarships.

"We are very excited to be adding Natalie to our program," said head coach Ron Holmes. "Natalie is a tremendous addition to our team and will make an immediate impact."

Which is saying something for a team that regularly places first or second nationally in intercollegiate athletics.

"This year, they ranked second in the country. Nebraska was number one," explained the recent Rowland High graduate.

Jimenez should boost Missouri's chances for returning to the top slot. The 17-year-old is currently ranked first in the nation among young women competing in USBC Sport Bowling.

The local bowler was selected to the 2009 California All-Star Team. The 10-pin powerhouse was also named as one of the nation's top 50 high school prospects by "Bowler's Journal."

"It's not about power, it's all about accuracy," claimed the local lefty. "I win because I'm the most consistent bowler with a high average."

Indeed, Jimenez has a career high game of 300, a high series of 776 and a sport league average of 201.

Her steady play won Jimenez the 2008 California Pepsi Championship, as well as the state's Scratch All-Events Championships in 2006, 2007.

While many amateur bowlers swear by their lucky bowling balls, Jimenez noted

that she owns five balls of different colors and bands. The brown-haired bowler throws a 15-pound ball.

"Sometimes I talk to the ball, saying `I want a strike!"' Jimenez laughed.

Guess a little English does help every once in a while, even if our favorite bowler hooks her balls.

Maybe it's all genetics. Her father, Joseph, is a tremendous bowler. He's working on his silver certification in coaching.

In fact, the proud father coached both his daughters from a very young age. Natalie began when she was only 3-years-old.

"I had to keep getting better just to stay ahead of them," Joseph Jimenez explained. "But Natalie has been very dedicated to her bowling and she's worked hard to get where she is today."

He remembers his daughter was 14-years-old when she first beat him in 10-pins.

Bowling is a family activity, he said, with everyone competing in tournaments on weekends.

"My wife, Tommie, got us started on bowling. Her parents always enjoyed the sport," Joseph said.

His oldest daughter Samantha is also a top-ranked woman bowler. She won the Star of Tomorrow Scholarship Award from the California USBC Association in 2008.

"I always wanted to beat my older sister, so I worked hard to improve," said Natalie Jimenez.

The Rowland Raider trained under professional bowler Tennelle Milligan of Costa Mesa.

"She taught me how to play the lanes. I learned a lot from her experience," the young bowler said.

Natalie's bowling improved dramatically under the pro.

All the training and tournaments paid off when the University of Central Missouri invited Natalie to study at the college located 35 miles from Kansas City.

"I really like the small town atmosphere. There's too much pressure when you go to a big school," she said.

Who knows maybe it'll be the perfect place for another perfect game.

richard.irwin@sgvn.com

(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2801