GCHS girls team claims second at 6A state

GCHS Athletics

Whitehurst finishes ninth for boys

All season of the 2021 bowling campaign, Garden City High School coach Kip Nichols had said his young and somewhat inexperienced team of girls had exceeded his expectations.

On Friday, March 5, the girls squad had one more chance to do just that – and they did so in a big way by claiming the second-place trophy of the Class 6A state tournament at Northrock Lanes in Wichita.

Yes, they didn’t overtake the Campus Colts’ team, which was highly favored to win its fourth consecutive team title. But the Buffaloes threw a major-league scare into the top team in Class 6A.

At the end of the competition, which consisted of the traditional 3-game American 10-pin format and then four games of Baker (bowlers roll 1 frame at a time and not consecutively), Garden City had totaled 3,287 pins (2525 in the 10-pin and 762 in the 4-game Baker format) with Campus just 60 pins in front at 3,347 (2606 in 10-pin and 741 in Baker).

In the process, three of the girls finished in the top 10 of the individual competition, with sophomore LilyAnn Leeper leading the charge with a 654 series, good for a fourth-place standing. She had games of 217-215-222 for her best performance of the season.

“The lane conditions set up well for her and the other girls,” Nichols said of his squad’s effort. “We bowl in a lot of different houses and see a lot of different lane conditions, so I think we were able to adjust better than many of the teams.”

For Leeper, it was a day to remember as they upped their 2020 performance that resulted in a third-place trophy and did so with four new members of the varsity.

“I feel really good about what we did,” Leeper said in a telephone interview. “We were all in a good mood and we found the shot. When the season started, honestly, I didn’t think we’d even get to state. So this is pretty exciting.”

Junior Holly Bridges, the Buffs’ top bowler most of the season, took sixth with a 638 series that came on game of 178-268-192. Sophomore Brooke Ptacek was next in eighth with a 621 series, rolling games of 172-236-213. Freshman Hope Resendiz, who had won the regional tourney the week before, placed 12th to earn a top 20 medal after shooting a 594 series (180-229-185). Rounding out the team scores were Rileigh Carr at 533 (190-169-174) and Jaelyn Grim with a 480 series (155-188-137).

“The girls had a great day by throwing a lot of strikes,” Nichols said. “There were two or three times were Lily strung together six or seven strikes. The girls just really found the right chemistry and focused. I couldn’t be happier or more proud of a group of girls.”

The chase to overtake Campus took on its own personality during the morning games. In the American 10-pin Campus opened with a 795 to GCHS’ 765. Then, the Buffaloes rolled a school-record team game score of 948 with Campus hanging tough at 903. In that game alone, Garden City used scores of 215 (Leeper), 268 (Bridges), 236 (Ptacek) and 229 (Resendiz).

“It was really something to watch the girls that game,” Nichols said of the team’s record-setting performance.

In the final game, Campus rolled a 908 for a 2606 total with the Buffs standing at 2525 after a final 812 score. In the four-game Baker series, Campus scored 741 while GCHS cut into the lead with a 762 on games of 234-157-192-179. That left the Buffs 60 pins shy of a team that had beaten them the week before by several hundred pins.

Individually, Campus’ Piper Reams claimed the state title with a 715 series while Olathe North’s Skyler Valdez was second at 694 and Campus’ Dakota Lennen was third at 666.

The good news for Nichols and the Buffaloes is that Campus will graduate a few seniors while the entire six-person Buffs’ squad will return for the 2022 season.

On the boys’ side, Kaden Whitehurst and Kaden Strasser competed for the individual title, which had been won in 2020 by Whitehurst during his sophomore season.

This time, though, Whitehurst placed ninth with a 663 series on games of 259-192-212. Strasser did not place among the top 20 medal-winners, shooting a 571 on games of 192-191-191. Wichita Northwest’s Brandon Bonta took top honors with a 788 series and Campus’ V-Thoon Thanasouk was second at 713. Whitehurst had won a year ago with a 759 series.

The Buffs’ boys’ team, which did not qualify in the altered-qualifying format this year, graduates just one bowler and with Whitehurst as the anchor for his senior season, the 2022 campaign indeed looks promising.

Wichita Northwest took team honors with a combined total of 3,387 while Wichita Heights took second at 3,354 and Olathe South third with 3,330.