By BRETT MARSHALL
Youth will be the major theme for the Garden City Buffaloes boys and girls bowling teams when they take to the Thunderbird Lanes in Wichita on Friday for the Class 6A regional tournament.
The Buffs will have just one senior on each of the boys and girls teams — Juan Ramirez Jr. and Vicki Newell — to lead the youth corps of bowlers for coach Kip Nichols.
The girls will compete at 10 a.m., with the boys to follow at approximately 1 p.m.
“They’re young enough that they really don’t understand the gravity of this kind of tournament, and that can be a good thing,” Nichols said Wednesday as the team was already on the bus headed to Wichita early due to inclement weather. “We’ll get an extra day of practice in as a result of the administration understanding how important it was for these kids to get here and be prepared to compete. We couldn’t have done it without their support.”
There will be 11 girls teams and 10 boys teams competing for the top three spots and six additional individual qualifying spots to advance to the state tournament on March 1 at North Rock Lanes in Wichita.
In addition to Ramirez, the Buffs’ boys team is comprised of junior Theron Kells, sophomore Braden Davidson and freshmen Tristan Funk, Mickey Bridges and Ethan Yardley.
“If the boys show up and bowl the way they’re capable, we’ve got a good opportunity to qualify,” Nichols said.
The GCHS coach expects Wichita Southeast to be the team favorite, followed by Maize and Wichita Northwest.
“We’ve had success when we’ve bowled some of these teams in Wichita, so we know we can compete,” Nichols said. “We’ll have a better idea about lane conditions once we practice.”
On the girls side, the Lady Buffs are represented by Newell along with juniors Amanda Deihl and Brittany Palomino, sophomores Alexa Hemmert and Jensen Strasser, and freshman Emma Stoecklein.
“We’ve got a hill to climb, but these girls have shown that they are gamers, and I expect them to compete well,” Nichols said of his girls. “We’ve seen scores from them at times that show they can be pretty good, and we’ve seen scores that don’t seem so favorable.”
Nichols said Wichita East was the likely favorite to capture the regional team title while defending 6A state champ Maize, hit hard by graduation, would still be competitive.
Teams competing include Derby, Dodge City, Haysville-Campus, Maize, Wichita East (girls only), Wichita North, Wichita Northwest, Wichita South and Wichita Southeast.