It’s amazing how sometimes an accomplishment that seems so extraordinary in the moment winds up paling in comparison just months later.
Reflecting back on where his unexpectedly hectic 2012 all began, Marshall Kent would’ve been more than satisfied if his January victory in the Team USA Trials had in fact been his top accomplishment of the year.
After all, winning that prestigious event wasn’t on his radar. Kent had gone to Las Vegas simply looking to gauge his skills against the best amateur bowlers in the country.
“I went in with no expectations,” said the Yakima bowler, who was back home for the holidays. “I had a free entry fee so I wanted to go and get the experience.”
Kent got that — and a few extra perks.
That Vegas victory became more than just a fine story to regale family and friends with. It was the catalyst for a globe-hopping, whirlwind year in which Kent, among other things, captured gold, silver and bronze medals representing Team USA in two international events, nearly won the biggest amateur event in the world, and won an event on the European Professional Tour.
“I got a little more out of it than I thought,” he said with a laugh.
Oh yeah, as a freshman at Robert Morris University, where he’s studying business management, Kent also become the first bowler to sweep the national college awards — earning men’s most valuable player and rookie of the year — in addition to being named first-team all-American and academic all-American by the National Collegiate Bowling Coaches Association, and being selected men’s player of the year by the Bowling Writers Association of America.
“I’ve been enjoying the whole experience. I have to admit it’s nice walking into a tournament and having everyone know me,” he said, smiling, “but I’ll try and make sure my head doesn’t get too big.”
Yet it’d be perfectly understandable if the recently turned 20-year-old requires a slightly larger hat size given all he accomplished in 2012 — much of it because of his victory in the Team USA Trials.
That win earned him berths in the U.S. Open in February and last month’s World Cup in Poland, and a spot on Team USA for the Pan American Bowling Confederation Championships in August, with the West Valley High graduate turning in strong showings each time.
In the U.S. Open, Kent made it to the round of 24 in the 394-man field before falling short of the televised finals. At the PABC Championships, Kent was part of the gold-medal winning team and earned a silver in trios. In the World Cup, where he was the lone U.S. representative in the men’s draw, Kent was the top bowler throughout qualifying before falling to Malaysia’s Abdul Malek Syafiq Ridhwan in the final.
“It was bittersweet because I bowled well the whole week,” he said of the World Cup.
Kent added to his medal haul in the World Youth Bowling Championships in late June and early July in Bangkok, Thailand, as part of Junior Team USA. There, Kent won five medals, earning gold in singles and team, silver in doubles and all events, and a bronze in masters.
As if that wasn’t enough, Kent and a couple other bowlers from the United States traveled to Europe in September on a bowling vacation. In addition to visiting Germany, Poland, Austria and Czech Republic, the group competed in European Bowling Tour professional events in Slovakia and Russia, with Kent winning the Russian Open, becoming the second-youngest person to win a EBT event.
Kent said all this success — remarkable if referencing an 11-year span, let alone 11 months — had its genesis in that unexpected victory in Vegas.
“It gave me the confidence that I knew I could compete at that level,” said Kent, who was no stranger to national events, having won the Junior Gold Championship in 2010 and finished fourth there in 2011.
That improved confidence has paired neatly with physical and mental improvements he made since arriving at college.
“I was a full 6-2, 140 pounds when I got there and after seven months, I was 175,” he said, referring to his freshman-year conditioning program. “College bowling has also helped me with the mental side. That’s been the biggest improvement for me.
“I’ve learned a lot about my game and what I need to do to improve. The pressure increases as tournaments go on but now, I’m more calm in those situations.”
Keeping a cool demeanor amid all the attention and acclaim has also helped Kent, who doesn’t care to tout past accomplishments.
“This has always been a dream of mine,” Kent said of competing at the sport’s top levels. “The dream has definitely been accelerated, so now I have to set new goals.
“It’s nice to take time to look back and enjoy the feeling but I’ve got to keep looking forward.”
That process had already started and now that the calendar has turned over, Kent is keenly focused on what lies ahead, starting, of course, with the USA Team Trials next week. As defending champ, Kent knows things will be different this year, but he’s trying to approach the event as he did 12 months ago.
“Like last year, I’m going in with no expectations. I’m not going to let the defending champion thing take me over,” he said, adding that’s what happened after making Junior Team USA the first time. “I let the pressure get to me (that time). Now, I can’t feel the pressure as much.”
Although Kent understands there is pressure to meet or exceed his 2012 accomplishments, he said it’s not going to keep him from enjoying the ride.
“It’s fairly overwhelming because it’s really been just a couple of years since my name got out there ... but I’m doing what I love to do and it’s basically paid for college,” he said. “There’s no words to describe it.”
There are, however, plenty of medals and trophies to tell the story.