In the darkness is where she finds herself. She takes a deep breath and closes her eyes to get there. It is in that space where All-Dade bowler Catherine Gutierrez became a District 16 champion. The Goleman High School senior has been team MVP for three season and captained the Gators, who won five consecutive district titles.
When she opens her eyes, Gutierrez lifts her purple and blue “strike” ball from her hip and rips it toward the pins with all of her power. She stays in her statuesque stance until the first pin pops. That hereditary focus and concentration has traveled overseas and cross-country to rest safely in the shoes of Gutierrez.
“My family has always bowled,” Gutierrez said. “When they first got here to the U.S., they bowled for fun. It’s a tradition. I had this passion and love because we would do it every single week. When I joined in high school my passion grew more. I realized I’m not that bad and I can get better if I have support and some help.”
Gutierrez started bowling at 8 years old. Her mother and grandfather, who defected from Cuba to California in 1971, taught her the game that she would grow to love. Those same mentors have never missed a game in her Gators career.
The Gators were undefeated for three consecutive seasons behind Gutierrez, who had a 180 average her senior season.
“Catherine is extremely passionate, dedicated and absolutely loves the sport of bowling,” Gators coach Debbie Perez said. “When she started in ninth grade she would occasionally go with her family just for fun, but she became addicted to the game. She decided that she would try her best and she has become a very passionate bowler.”
Gutierrez maintains a 4.8 GPA and plans to attend Miami Dade College for two years before transferring to FAU, where she plans to bowl again. But bowling tournaments and leagues along the way to becoming an Owl are just a small part of her big dream.
“I definitely plan to make it into bowling as a professional,” said Gutierrez, who has a career-best game of 249. “I am definitely not going to give up.”
Six Gators placed in the top 10 in District 16 this season. Gutierrez is the first female athlete in Goleman history to be All-Dade for three consecutive seasons.
“It’s not just her,” Perez said. “This was our whole team. I’m very proud of it and I think it’s remarkable. They have been together for four years as a team and this is their senior year and their best year. Not only did the girls finish district champions and undefeated, but Catherine finished girls’ district individual champion. She had both titles.”
Gutierrez won the district championship by just 10 points. Her 450 series bested a 440 series by American’s Briana Futch.
“I thank my mom and grandpa for all of the dedication that they have in supporting me,” Gutierrez said. “Without them I wouldn’t be able to get to the bowling alley or not feel bad when I fail. They always say I will learn from this. Everything is an experience. I really appreciate them from the bottom of my heart.”