Burton Gepford expects his first event as Free State High’s bowling coach will be a challenging one for his team.
The Firebirds will play host to Lawrence High and 10 other programs at the Free State Invitational, beginning at 8:30 this morning at Royal Crest Lanes.
Gepford, who took over the FSHS program this past summer after leading Kansas University’s club team the past two years, couldn’t help feeling a tad wary about the season opener. After all, practice just started on Tuesday.
“Good news is that this is the same scenario for the other 11 schools that will be competing,” the new coach said.
Though Gepford is new to the program, he has two senior leaders with state-tournament experience from last season returning for the boys team: Jordan Jump and Chase Taylor. Among those expected to contribute for the FSHS girls are seniors Emily Reno and Hannah Stegall and sophomore Bri Martin.
The Firebirds’ first-year coach said everyone is ready to begin the season.
“We’re just excited overall, because we have some freshmen who have come in with great potential,” Gepford said, noting the girls’ Jordan Gentry and the boys’ Matthew Eagle.
The bowlers are happy to play host to the first event on the calendar, too. Gepford said a 12-team tournament should be more telling than a quadrangular or smaller-scale event.
“It’s nice,” he said. “This will give us a picture of where we’re at compared to the other 11 teams that are competing.”
Veterans return for LHS
The returning bowlers at Lawrence High hope to replicate and build upon a 2012 season that featured numerous personal bests.
Third-year coach Paula Bastemeyer said LHS has a nice mixture of experienced rollers and new bowlers. She said it can be easy to forget about the basics in the heat of competition — things such as timing, ball speed, approach, release and follow-through.
“The new bowlers remind us of the need to focus on these fundamentals,” the coach said.
The veterans who will help the youngsters overcome their inexperience include seniors Austin Bennett and Connor Daniels, as well as junior Tre Sexton — all of whom represented the LHS boys at state last season after the Lions won a regional championship.
Lawrence’s girls have a number of returning varsity regulars, too. Junior Kierstan Warren placed 15th at state last year and seniors Rebecca McNemee, Ami Harvey and Zoe Reed return, too.
Bastemeyer said both Lions squads have potential impact varsity newcomers, as well. She pointed to junior Allie Crockett and freshman Miranda Krom for the girls, and senior Dustin Hauptman and freshman Triston Decker for the boys.
Though coaches couldn’t work with the bowlers until Jan. 1, Bastemeyer said all of the Lions rolled practice games on their own time in December, and she can tell they’re excited to get the season started today at the Free State Invitational.
“A lot of the kids turned in more than the 12 required games,” the coach said, adding some had 20 or more.