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athlete of the week
Health scare can’t stop Spanish River bowling star Ayla Helmle
Special to The Post | USA TODAY NETWORK
BOYNTON BEACH — Spanish River bowler Ayla Helmle added to her collection of medals this season, but her junior year of bowling very nearly ended before it started.
Helmle’s tumultuous season, one that has become all about overcoming adversity, makes her recognition as Athlete of the Week from The Palm Beach Post all the more special.
Helmle was diagnosed with orthostatic hypertension after experiencing vertigo-like symptoms in her first match of the year — symptoms that were bad enough to send her to the emergency room after the match.
'I was bowling and I was just feeling really light-headed,' Helmle said. 'Everything around me was spinning. I knew I probably shouldn’t bowl but at the same time I was like, ‘but I’m here to bowl, and I want to bowl. I don’t care what I shoot this game as long as I’m bowling.’'
Doctors told her bowling was a bad idea, citing the frequent motion of going from sitting to standing at the alley as being a trigger for the light-headedness.
'I was like, ‘No, bowling is my life. This is the most important year for me, and I have to keep doing it,’' she said.
And as competitors do, Helmle found a solution.
'At every single match, I stood for two and a half hours straight. That kind of gets you tired after a while,' she added with a laugh.
The season as a whole has been quite the journey, and although the numbers aren’t in the same realm as last season’s record-breaking averages, Helmle has found satisfaction in the trials and triumphs.
'I knew my average for that season was not going to be good — but I was like, ‘You know what, postseason, let’s focus on that . . . states, counties, districts,' she said. 'So I used that entire season to practice and build up my strength and show everyone that, ‘Yeah, I did have a bad season, but let me show you guys what I can do in the postseason.’'
She ended up being the only female bowler to medal in all three events, taking home a third-place finish at county competition, second place at districts, and sixth place at state. Her sixth-place finish at state was one of the county’s best in the event over the past decade.
Looking back, it’s been a season that has affected her identity within the sport she loves.
'When you’re known for something, it’s scary thinking, ‘OK, what happens if I lose this? What are they going to know me for?’' she said, expressing her concern about not living up to the record set during her sophomore season.
But instead, her identity has soared, as Helmle has taken on leadership roles in her community, working with people in Miami to start up a tri-county tournament to bring in youth bowlers.
'I was elected to be on the Florida State Youth USBC, so I’m using that as an advantage to push my tournament to help the youth.'
'Us, right now, we’re the future of this sport,' she said.
Athlete of the Week: Spanish River bowler Ayla Helmle Alex Peterman/Special to The Post
Copyright (c) 2022 Palm Beach Post, Edition 12/
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