Katie Maher always wants more. Her instincts demand more goals, more achievements, more challenges. And when all other wells run dry, it’s this inner drive for constant self-improvement that helps guide the former star Ottumwa bowler to ever greater heights.
“I always look for trying to do better than what I did,” said Maher, who was inducted to the Iowa Youth Bowling Hall of Fame in 2011. “What can I do to be a better bowler? a better teammate? I always want to keep moving forward and be the best bowler I can be.”
Maher, a former standout for the renowned Ottumwa girls bowling team and sophomore on the Midland University bowling squad, has made a seamless transition from high school to college bowling. In her freshman campaign at Midland, an NAIA school in Fremont, Neb., she rolled a team-best average of 192.3 in 78 games and notched three top-five finishes. Her season was good enough to garner her a NAIA all-American selection — the only other Warrior bowler to accomplish this feat was Midland men’s bowler Perry Crowell. Not bad for someone who at one time didn’t even plan to bowl in college.
Maher’s season helped the Warriors snare second place at sectionals, which earned them a spot at the NAIA national tournament, where they placed fourth. It was a fine season by any measure, and Maher was pleased with the results. Still, her instincts push her to seek something grander her sophomore season.
“Out of the gate, I set a lot of goals I wanted to meet, and in my opinion, and my coaches opinion, I met all of my goals last year,” Maher said. “I just keep setting higher bars for myself as the year goes on.”
Setting goals, achieving them, and then finding the next mountain to scale is Maher’s modus operandi. Sure, she welcomes the success. In fact, she’s genuinely satisfied with herself — and her team — as long as she knows she put 100 percent into whatever challenge she’s decided to pursue. What Maher doesn’t get is complacent, she won’t allow herself that luxury.
While a lot of this perpetual motivation comes from within, much of it is out of respect for her parents, Tom and Sue Maher.
“They are a lot of the reason that I push myself because I want to be the best person I can be,” Maher said. “I want them [her parents] to be able to say I had a really good kid.”
Despite what on the surface looks like an effortless transition, Maher said bowling in college is much more difficult than bowling at the high school level.
For example, Maher said, while in high school she only bowled on a house shot oil pattern, while in college she bowls on a sports shot pattern, which requires a greater degree of accuracy.
“One of the toughest things you will ever do bowling is the sports shot,” she said. “In the sports shot you literally have one or two boards to miss, and if you miss you are brutally penalized or you won’t strike and you won’t hit the pocket.”
The need to constantly hit her mark with pinpoint accuracy, along with all the poise and concentration such shots require, take a lot out of the her.
“At the end of the day after a meet, I just want to eat, shower and go to bed,” Maher said. “I’m so mentally and physically drained.”
And nothing had prepared her for the unmitigated pressure she felt during the national tournament.
“That was the biggest thing I’ve ever been a part of,” she said, “I was bowling on television; there’s so much pressure. People who were watching me could see me shaking, I was so nervous.”
And, unlike the symphony of sounds that undergird the atmosphere at your typical bowling alley, at the national tournament, Maher had to bowl in silence.
“I would rather have noise,” she said.
As her bowling career has progressed, Maher has continued to test herself in high-pressure situations. Recently, she competed in the team USA individual bowling trials in Las Vegas.
“You bowl five days on five different sports shots,” Maher said. “That was one of the biggest tournaments I’ve ever bowled in.”
Maher, who said she didn’t get serious about bowling until the year before high school, said she grew up watching her sisters Morgan and Amanda, Tara Gooden and the late Lisa Caldwell bowl for Ottumwa High School and she decided that it was something she wanted to pursue.
It turned out to be a wise decision, as Maher racked up all-conference and all-state honors throughout her momentous career at Ottumwa. The pinnacle of Maher’s career as a Bulldog came her senior year when she captured the Class 2A individual state championship with a final tally of 699.
After high school, she had a decision to make: attend the University of Iowa or continue her bowling career at Midland. It took a trip to the Midland campus and a day observing practice to convince Maher that the NAIA school would be a good fit for her.
“I was like ‘this is something I really wanted to do,’” Maher said. “My dad really loved the campus, too. As soon as we left there, he was like ‘I really want you to go there,’ and I was like ‘I really want to go there, too.’”
Once her college career ends, Maher said she wants to bowl on PBA tours and compete in some of the big women’s bowling tours. But no matter where life takes her, one thing is for sure: Maher will find new goals to pursue and new obstacles to conquer.