The Junction City Lady Blue Jays trailed early in the Class 6A State Bowling Tournament in Wichita Thursday before turning their scores around to take second place by two pins over Garden City.
One goal coach Brad Adams said the team had at every meet, was bringing home hardware to show others what they are doing on the lanes — the girls accepted that challenge and are bringing home a Kansas State Runner-up trophy to be placed inside a case at the school.
“It's about time,” Adams said. “It's bittersweet. It was a great, great day — both sides. You know boys finished fourth, and did an excellent job all day long, girls had that day today. We came in here we didn't figure we could beat Campus. Campus is the best team in the state. They deserve to win this. But I'm gonna tell you what, we passed a lot of people today, the girls are excited, I'm excited ... everybody's excited.”
The team started off slow managing to pull together a 797 and 793 scores after the first two games.The scores kept them close to the top of the leaderboard, but far enough outside to keep them from grabbing a trophy for their efforts.
“They started a little bit slow and just kept going up, up, up all day,” Adams said. “The best game we had was our third game, and that's the best one game that we have shot all year. Same as a boys, started out slow, but we came into four games of baker's and all we had to do is hold it together — and we did more than hold it together. We didn't settle for where we were at. We threw out some scores right there that we have not consistently done — we've done it a few times — but not consistently, and we put them all together today.”
Playing their matches against other teams who placed third at their respective regionals, the Lady Blue Jays were not favored to move much throughout the day. They took that as a challenge and with Haysville-Campus bowling a few lanes to their right, they were able to keep tabs on stronger competition.
Savannah Adams led the team with a series, career and day high score of 772. Her score was 13 pins higher than the top bowler of the boys competition earlier in the day — Garden City’s Kaden Whitehurst who threw a 300 game during the event.
“She was solid all day long — 264, 241 and then she came back with a 267,” Adams said. “It was a huge boost to the team when we can take an extra 60 pins a game. You know that way we don't have to worry.”
Adams was backed by Olivia Oliver’s 538 series. Oliver started the day with a 201 game which included six strikes and two spares. Two open frames, first and 10th, kept her from scoring higher. Oliver began the second game with two strikes and a spare before closing the game out with three open frames for a 154. She was able to recover in her final game and shoot a 183 which found her striking out the 10th frame allowing her to build momentum heading into bakers.
Brooke Swango saw her scores increase throughout solo competition after her nerves settled down. Swango opened with a 159 before hitting a 181 and a 194 to close out. Swango hit 13 strikes in her three games on her way to a 534 series.
Cassidy Eschliman finished fourth on the team with a 522 series. She stayed consistent through her games hitting a 171, 180 and a 171. Eschliman’s 12 strikes and 11 spares kept her mid-pack but propelled the teams scores throughout.
After two games, the Lady Blue Jays were nine pins out of second place. The third game pin count propelled them to second place behind Campus trailing the Lady Colts by 82 pins, but over the Garden City squad by 20 pins.
When it came time for the team to shoot together in bakers, Adams told the team they just had to maintain to finish in the top-3.
As team totals were announced, the Lady Blue Jays huddled together, with their boys counterparts, and waited to her their name called. When the fourth place team, Olathe North, was called the pressure mounted. When Garden City was announced as the third place team, the girls relaxed knowing they were a top two team and the room erupted as the Blue Jays faithful fans heard their team named called as runner-up.
The excitement of the finish is something Adams hopes the team takes with them heading into the off season as the team will be losing two seniors — Adams and Eschliman.
“I'm going to miss two senior girls, so we're gonna have a little rebuilding next year,” he said. “And I know there's a couple girls that are coming up. So, I'm gonna have four juniors next year, they're gonna have to step up and be the leaders — all four of them at same time. We're at four leaders next year, and they're gonna have to show these young kids what this is about.”