Four seasons of state-sanctioned bowling have come and gone without a Lawrence High boys team qualifying for the state tournament.
LHS coach Tom Birt is fairly certain the fifth time could be the charm.
“I’ve got high hopes,” Birt said.
Birt has reason to be confident. The Lions appear primed to make their first serious run at state as a team. They showed just what they’re capable of Wednesday, days before the regional meet in Wichita begins this weekend.
Lawrence defeated Free State High, 2,607-2,343, as all four of the Lions’ top scoring bowlers rolled 600 series in the two teams’ dual meet at Royal Crest Lanes. On the girls’ side, Free State evened the score, downing Lawrence, 2,114-1,556, to earn a split in the battle for the World Company Cup.
“It was probably the best we’ve done all season,” said LHS bowler Ben Wyatt, who led the charge for the Lions. “Hopefully it’ll carry over.”
Wyatt rolled the day’s high series with a 682, which included a near-perfect score in his second game. Wyatt began that game with five strikes, and he ended it with six strikes. Only a nine and spare in the sixth frame kept him from the 300. Instead, he had to settle for a high game of 279, the second-best individual round of his career.
Wyatt received a standing ovation from the spectators seated behind the lanes.
“It kind of hit me after that game,” Wyatt said of his pursuit of perfection. “I wasn’t really thinking about it in the middle of the game because I didn’t know what I would do at the end.”
Wyatt started his final game with three straight strikes, pushing his strike tally to 14 in 15 tries.
Tanner Kilmer closed with a 247 to finish his three-game series at 675 for LHS. Chad Boyd and Tyler Bailey rolled 636 and 614, respectively, to help the Lions run away with the dual.
The Firebird boys, meanwhile, struggled. Not a single bowler finished with a 600 series. Andrew Schoneweis rolled the high Free State series with a 596. Joe Vannicola followed with a 590. The Firebirds’ usually reliable No. 1, Rob Wagner, rolled the fifth-best varsity score at 556.
Vannicola tried to remain upbeat about the situation.
“Maybe our morale is down,” Vannicola said. “There’s nothing we can do except for laugh about this meet because we definitely lost.”
Free State coach Anita Carlson said she didn’t know why her boys team had such trouble. But she hoped it would be fixed in time for regionals.
“They just didn’t have rhythm at all today,” Carlson said. “And no consistency. And it was across the board.”
For the girls, Free State exacted some revenge on a Lawrence team that dominated the Firebirds just days ago at the Sunflower League meet. There, LHS finished second and FSHS eighth.
Free State’s No. 1 bowler, Christina Picicci, continued her recent hot streak. One week after rolling a career-high 636 series, Picicci bowled a 557 to finish with the high girls series on the day. Despite the slight dropoff, Picicci still is bowling well above her 513 average.
“I feel like that was a really good day,” Picicci said of last week. “But I still feel like I did really well today.”
Megan Bastemeyer nearly surpassed Picicci, rolling two 200 games en route to a 545 series.
“In my tenure, we have never beaten Lawrence High,” Carlson said of her girls varsity team. “This is a big deal for us.”
Lawrence’s No. 1 bowler, Alexah Gudenkauf, led the Lions once again, rolling a 516 series. Gudenkauf said she has noticed vast improvement from her teammates this season.
“I’m just really proud of everyone for doing their best and putting their all into it,” Gudenkauf said. “That’s all that we can do.”
Both teams begin their quest for state berths this weekend at a nine-team regional meet in Wichita.