Team USA took gold in bowling this year at the Pan American games with the help of a former Striking Knight. The winning margin of 200 pins was the work of Stefanie Johnson ’06 ’08MA and her bowling partner, Shannon O’Keefe.
“I couldn’t believe our margin,” says Johnson, who majored in criminal justice and earned a master’s in communication from UCF. “I wasn’t even aware it was that large until the judges notified me once the games ended. I was shocked, excited and incredibly proud.”
Johnson’s journey to July’s Pan American games in Lima, Peru, started when she was just six. She continued playing for fun throughout her adolescent years. And by the time high school graduation came around, she knew that bowling was her calling. Johnson, who grew up in Miami, had bowling friends from around the state who were heading to Orlando to play on UCF’s new bowling team, the Striking Knights.
“[Striking Knights was] like a little family, and we were good at what we did. Bowling fueled us, and in turn we fueled each other.” – Stefanie Johnson ’06 ’08MA
“I joined the Striking Knights when they were brand new,” says Johnson. “We were like a little family, and we were good at what we did. Bowling fueled us, and in turn we fueled each other.”
After graduating from UCF in 2006, she began her career on Team USA as a professional bowler. It took more than a decade of hard work and practice to qualify for the Pan American Games, but 2019 was the year she not only qualified, but emerged the No. 1 qualifier in the U.S. This was a dream come true for Johnson. who never wavered in her faith that she’d one day play in the games.
“This is the greatest opportunity to be given,” Johnson says. “The accumulation of hard work, love for the game, and remaining positive is what has pushed me forward. It is what inspires me to represent our country in Lima.”
Earlier this summer, Johnson and O’Keefe set off for Peru, where they played 12 games over two days. Johnson handily beat the other teams with an individual record for the highest six-game block.
Since the Pan American Games, Johnson has competed in a number of Professional Women’s Bowling Association events, including the recent World Championship games in Las Vegas.
“This has been a huge year for me and Team USA,” says Johnson. “UCF helped facilitate the love I have for bowling. I look back and am glad to see how much I’ve grown as an athlete.”