Last weekend, at a noisy, crowded Southern Bowl in Greenwood, a group of seven Jackson County girls made school history.
On Saturday, one of the youngest members of Indiana High School bowling, Seymour, will make its first state appearance as a team.
Following a fourth-place finish in the first-round of team scoring, bowling 24,126, the Owls girls bowling team defeated Alexandria 298-292 in the step-ladder to place third at semistate.
In their second round of the step-ladder, the Owls fell to powerhouse Madison 295-245.
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“We had spurts at semistate,” Owls coach Shannon Kelly said. “We were weak at the end and almost weren’t in it, but we fought through and did what we had to moving forward. After the first step-ladder, we couldn’t pick up a spare.”
Of the eight teams at the tournament, the top-four made state.
In their seventh season, the Owls will face stiff competition at Cooper’s Sport Bowl in Anderson for state.
The league, which formed 16 years ago, has a number of teams from Northern Indiana with long-tenured programs.
“It’s kind of hard to gauge,” Kelly said. “The teams from up north bowl on the same oil pattern that we do, but the surface was different. Their scores were considerably higher than ours because of that. The teams up north have been going since the beginning, 16 years ago, so they have big programs. We’re still kind of getting the word out.”
Seniors Jess Hoevener, Angela Pelfrey, Trista Phillips and Kearstin Ruddick have reached the pinnacle of their bowling careers.
“I’ve been basically telling them to keep their heads up, to keep smiling and keep going,” Ruddick said of encouraging the younger teammates. “When we get down we start bowling really bad. If we can keep our heads up we usually do pretty well.”
Last season, the Owls made the semistate but fell just short as a unit.
Up to this point, the Owls boast a sectional title and South Central Indiana Conference championship and a second-place regional finish on top of semistate.
“I think that the biggest thing that has helped us this year is having four seniors — we’ve never had a team with four,” Kelly said. “The seniors have been together for so long. They know each other really well, they pick on each other and its a good team.”
The Owls finished 12-3 during the regular season. One of those losses came against Madison — who placed second at semistate last weekend.
“This year has been good and bad,” Owls assistant coach Andy Ruddick said. “Its been more stressful because the girls are competing at a higher level. Its a little more nerve-racking the further you get because the room for error is so small.”
On top of team play, sophomore Hannah Kaufman will compete in the singles tournament starting at 9 a.m.
Last weekend, Kaufman garnered second place with victories against Noblesville’s Rachel Wise (215-169) and Centerville’s Alexis Cox (168-162).
In the finals, Kaufman finished close behind Avon’s Devin Elmlinger in a 181-175 loss.
Since last weekend, the Owls have hit the lanes hard in preparation.
All three Owls coaches agreed that one facet will determine their placing at state: their ability to make spares.
“A lot of it is hitting your marking, hitting your spares,” Ruddick said. “Spares are a huge reason why we made it to state. The teams there, they don’t miss. You can’t miss those spares because you can’t give up those 10 pins.”
Despite the outcome at state, Phillips perhaps said it best, “In the end, we’re like a little family.”
Angela Pelfrey, 12
Jess Hoevener, 12
Kearstin Ruddick, 12
Trista Phillips, 12
Kylie Jones, 11
Hannah Kaufman, 10
Madison Brackenmyer, 9
What: Indiana High School Bowling
When: Saturday (singles tournament at 9 a.m.; team tournament at 1 p.m.)
Where: Cooper’s Sport Bowl, Anderson