A WALK WITH A HAWK ... FEATURING: VALENTINA COLLAZOS
Sept. 20, 2012
PRINCESS ANNE, Md. – For many student-athletes, the transition from high school to intercollegiate athletics is an extremely difficult challenge. Aside from the jump into a new sports arena, student-athletes are also faced with a separation from their families. This can often be a difficult pill to swallow, particularly for the student-athlete that is thousands of miles away from home.
For senior bowler Valentina Collazos, her steps in donning a Hawk uniform may be as difficult as they come.
She grew up in a bowling family that spent hours upon hours at the bowling alley. Her family spent a lot of time together and her father supported her by spending a majority of his time watching his daughter bowl.
He was her biggest supporter and biggest fan.
Collazos was set to arrive on the collegiate scene in 2007 after a phenomenal junior career in her home country of Colombia. The 5’2 righty played four years with the Colombian National Youth Team and was a two-time Colombian youth champion. She was a Valle’s State Champion for three years and won two silver medals at the Central American Youth Championships in 2007.
The stage seemed set for a move to America. It was a move that would take her career to a new level; an opportunity for her to take steps towards her dream of bowling professionally.
Everything seemed perfect.
But then it all changed.
Her father became sick and needed endless amounts of medical attention for survival. The family rallied by the elder Collazos’ side and Valentina decided she could not leave him just yet. She needed to be there and help take care of him. She decided to stay back and put her bowling career on hold. It was a decision that she does not regret to this day.
After a long and courageous fight, her father would succumb to his disease and passed away in 2009. His death left a tremendous void in her life.
“The hardest adversity for me was losing him when I was only 19 years old,” said Collazos. “I had to get used to not being able to see him or talk to him after every practice. It was definitely hard.”
Despite losing her father, Collazos’ relationship with her mother and brother grew. The connection between the three became closer and she continued having positive relationships with her friends. The whole process helped Collazos realize that every day is a new day.
She has been blessed with a supportive group of friends throughout her life, including UMES teammates Tatiana Munoz and Anggie Ramirez. Collazos has also benefitted from her friendships with former UMES bowlers, Martha Perez and Maria Rodriguez. The five all grew up bowling together in Colombia and still remain friends to this day.
It was her relationship with the four that helped bring her to UMES.
“It was kind of a group effort,” said Perez. “We wanted to improve the team and knew Valentina would be a great fit for the program here.”
After committing to UMES last season, Collazos was set to be one of the team’s top bowlers. The coaching staff immediately fell in love with her bowling technique and form. It looked as if the next two years were Collazos’ chance to keep the NCAA and USBC titles in Princess Anne.
Enter: Adversity, Round Two.
The NCAA determined in the fall of that year that she would be unable to participate in action because of certain rules and regulations. For many, the hit would be a killer. But for Collazos, she used the time to improve.
“It was pretty hard,” said Collazos. “But every time the girls left for a tournament I could only think it was a tournament closer to the time I could go bowling with them. I had to be prepared for that day.”
It was here where she learned that the key to success is to sacrifice a little of your comfort to practice harder every time. She also used the extra time to concentrate on her studies. The Business Administration major was one of four UMES bowlers named to the 2012 MEAC Commissioners All-Academic Team.
As for this season, she has already been cleared to play.
Her addition, along with seven returners, one freshman (Kristie Lopez) and 2012 NCAA Championship Most Outstanding Performer T’Nia Falbo, should be more than enough to help the Hawks in their quest for a fourth NCAA Championship and fifth National Title in women’s collegiate bowling.
“I am now working harder because the moment I’ve been waiting for five years is finally here and the season is about to start,” said Collazos. “My second family (bowling team) is ready and I’m looking forward to nothing less than some rings.”
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