Two Topeka area bowling programs are looking to return to the state tournament.
Last year, Seaman won the 5-1A men’s and women’s state titles. Washburn Rural’s women’s team finished third for the third straight year and the boys narrowly missed making the cut for the state.
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The sailor remains hungry
After becoming just the third program to capture boys’ and girls’ state titles last year — and the first school 5A — Seaman must replace some top talent as he works in new faces for bigger roles.
“Two 6A schools had done it, but no 5A school had ever done it,” said coach Bob Benoit. “We’re the first in history to do that. I don’t think the kids really understand what they’ve done, what they’ve accomplished. I think right now they’ve become a little apathetic because of what they’ve done.
“I’m trying to explain to them how important it is right now, that everyone is looking at the boys and girls, because of what they’ve accomplished.”
Benoit says the team is getting better at focusing on the present and heading in the right direction. The results so far also confirm this.
The girls made a perfect start to the year, finishing first in their two quads and first in the Free State tournament.
Makenzie Millard and Kaitlyn Evans’ graduation left a big gap, but four bowlers from last year’s team return in senior Katie Price, junior JaeLinn Thetford, junior Cheyenne Turkin and junior Kayla Mize.
Price has already begun filling that void, shooting a schedule record 750 series (223-248-279) at the Free State tournament that surpassed Millard’s record. Her early success, according to her and Benoit, only came from focusing on having fun with the sport.
“Oh my god, that was amazing,” Price said in his record-breaking streak. “I knew I had it in me. I haven’t been able to do it this year, I guess having fun is the key part of it, like, ‘What the heck why am I not doing it until now?’ “
Freshmen Claire LaDuke and Laci Cole are two newcomers to the university.
“Once she settles down and gets over the nerves of being in the spotlight and all the big meetings that we went to, she’s going to be really, really good,” Benoit said of LaDuke.
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The boys won their first two quads and placed fourth out of 19 teams at the Free State tournament.
Zander White and Ethan Burns were two of the best bowlers in the team last year and returned as seniors this year.
“It was pretty cool right now, but even if it’s okay, we’re not trying to live in the past, we’re just trying to focus in the moment,” Burns said during rehearsals last week. “By repeating, I mean just getting a state title in your high school career is great, but repeating would be incredible.”
Even White has his motivations.
“Some people think it was a fluke,” White said. “You always have something to prove. We just have to go out and do it again.”
With a fairly young squad, Benoit says he wants them to set a good example.
“I’m the backbone right now,” Benoit said of White and Burns.
Senior Braxton Moore and sophomore Dominic Figueroa are two new starters to the university after last year’s JV bowling. Sophomore Alex Prescott and young Riley Parkhurst also return.
“We have a men’s team as good or better than last year,” said Benoit about the potential of this group.
The girls have finished third in state for the past two years and are supplementing returning talent this year with bowlers moving into bigger roles.
The boys just missed out on qualifying for state as a team last year, but they return five seniors to lead the charge this year.
The girls had won two of their four quads and placed third in the 19-team Free State tournament to start the year.
Kaitlyn Doyal was last year’s first player and only senior and juniors Claire Ireland and Gabby Martinez are stepping up to replace Doyal’s production and leadership.
“It made me want to learn more and how to cheer up our team because we lost one of our veteran players last year,” said Ireland of how he motivated her last season. “I’m trying to help motivate the team to get us where we need to be.”
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Newcomers to the varsity lineup include junior Hailey Beyer, sophomore Ashley Billups, and sophomore Elizabeth Poling.
“Our goal is, again, with this group of girls, we can do it and we can compete,” said coach Jo Ricard. For (assistant coach) Steve (Peoples) and I, it’s about making strides every single day along the way.”
By placing first in three of his four quads and third at the Free State tournament to start the season, the boys are starting the season off strong.
Senior Josh Hammons, the only state qualifier last year, said this group is motivated after barely missing out on state as a team last year and returning five of the six starters.
“As a team, we’re more motivated than ever because we know what we can do,” Hammons said in training last week. “To fall so hard during regionals, it hit us pretty deeply.”
Ricard added that last year he should have motivated those returnees.
“We practice spares every day with our guys,” Ricard said. “I say, ‘Every single replacement you practice should mean something more than it has had in the past. You don’t want to be in this situation again. What are you going to do about it?’
“We don’t want to be in the situation we were in last year.”
With Elders Geo Peoples, Walker Thompson, Reece Godby, Austin McIntosh and Hammons, understanding with this group will be key.
“We never talked much (in the offseason), but we all knew we wanted that state title,” Hammons said. “In the offseason, I’ve seen a lot more guys go out there and train and hit hard.”
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