Kiara Smith is a senior on the Evergreen Park girls bowling team. She advanced to the state tournament last year as a junior. The Mustangs were dominant last season, winning the South Suburban Conference title. The boys and girls bowling season started recently, but a conference meet is not included in its schedule. Smith hopes to continue bowling in college and then professionally.

What’s your bowling background?

“Bowling is in my family. I started bowling when I was 5, so I’ve been bowling the last 12 years. My uncle used to bowl; my grandma, my mom bowl. It runs in the family. I bowled at Bluebird Lanes a lot. When I was little, I wasn’t super-good, but I was decent.”

What do you love about the sport?

“It’s my sport because when I first started, I didn’t understand why I was bowling. As I got older and started learning about the lanes and the pins and stuff like that, different types of balls, I started having more fun. Bowling is really a mental game. It’s completely mental; you can’t get frustrated. It’ll throw you off, even looking at other people’s score. You meet new people, coaches, just everybody.”

What did it mean to advance to state last year?

“I was super-happy. I was excited. I was so happy that I was able to make it to state. I wish we could have gone as a team, but I wanted to represent the EP girls bowling team there. I was bummed out that I didn’t do that good.”

You bowled a 222 game at state. How did that feel?

“I found a rhythm in the beginning. I kept it and didn’t lose track of it.”

Happy to have your senior season?

“I’m very happy and excited to have a season. I truly thought we weren’t going to have a season when everything went on pause and we didn’t hear anything until a month or two later. I was bummed out that we wouldn’t have a season and that I wouldn’t have a senior season. I’m happy, even though the season’s short, and we can’t do stuff we normally do, like tournaments.”

Do you want to bowl in college?

“I’m actually looking at schools to continue bowling in college. I want to go on to play in the Professional Women’s Bowling Association (PWBA). It’s a career, if possible. I want to be good as a women’s bowler and play on the PWBA.”

Ever bowl 300?

“I don’t have a 300. I’ve been trying so long. My highest game is a 260-something. I’m getting up there. I’m trying.”

What are your goals for the season?

“All five of us, we want to bowl 1,800 over 2 games, so 900, maybe 950 for every game we’ve had. We want to go undefeated. We tried last year but ended up losing one dual. Individually, I just want to keep getting higher so I can do well in college.”

Did you bowl during the pandemic?

“When we started with COVID in March, everything was shut down, so we weren’t able to do anything. Around late June, bowling alleys started opening up, so I was able to get out and bowl, do some tournaments. I was still able to bowl even though I hadn’t bowled for two and a half months.”

What do you do in your free time?

“Either do schoolwork, listen to music, watch TV or hang out with my mom.”

What kind of music do you listen to?

“Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, Ceza, Drake, Jeremih, all of them. I like hip-hop and R&B singers.”

What would your walk-up song be?

“I think I’d pick probably ‘Monster,’ by Nicki Minaj and Kanye West. The song is so uplifting and makes you feel so good when you go out there, not nervous.”

Did you play other sports growing up?

“I started doing track in sixth grade. I did hip-hop dance class for a little, too. I’m figuring out if I can do track this spring.”

What’s your go-to pizza?

“Pizza Hut. I’ve always liked its food. It has good pizza, and the crust isn’t too thick. It’s nice and crispy. I do pepperoni, sausage and bacon.”

What’s your favorite movie?

“‘Black Panther,’ I really liked ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ too. I like the Marvel movies. It was crazy how the ending went. It was great, the whole movie.”

How shocking was the news of Chadwick Boseman’s death last August?

“Oh my god, I saw a couple of my friends posting on Snapchat, and I had to look it up. I thought there was no way it was real. I had to look it up for myself. He was so young. I was so ready for the next ‘Black Panther’ movie. I’m happy his sister in the movie will still be in it. It should still be a really good movie.”

Are you on social media a lot?

“I’m more on Snapchat and TikTok. I have Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. That’s where I post my bowling stuff. I post stuff on Snapchat and TikTok, too.”

White Sox or Cubs?

“I’m a Sox fan. My whole family roots for them.”

Who’s your funniest teammate?

“Probably Jessalynn Torres. She’s very energetic and happy and always knows how to have fun.”