Before a single pin was knocked over this season, the Eisenhower boys bowling team was told that its run was over.
The team had graduated its foundation, five seniors that had won a state championship and finished runner-up in their time. The assumption was the threat of Eisenhower had graduated along with them.
“That’s all we heard since last year,” Eisenhower senior Tristen Sowers said. “ ‘You guys aren’t going to qualify. You guys aren’t going to make it out of regionals.’ ”
And nothing the Tigers accomplished during this season indicated they would be capable of winning a state championship Friday morning at Northrock Lanes. No major victories. No crazy team scores.
But what did accompany Eisenhower to the lanes was a desire to prove itself, one so intense that the Tigers rode it to the Class 5-1A championship on Friday. Their winning score of 2,749, five pins better than Circle, was by far the Tigers’ top score of the season.
The run that was supposed to end this season was extended under coach Brian Adelgren, who has now directed Eisenhower to two state championships and a runner-up finish in its three years of existence.
“They heard the expectations were lower,” Adelgren said. “People were saying they weren’t going to be good this year. I think it motivated them. It drove them to want to prove people wrong.”
Only junior Zach Jayne possessed varsity experience entering this season, as Eisenhower transitioned three returners to the varsity level and inserted two freshmen in its lineup.
It made for an inconsistent season, but one that always held the promise of something great. Adelgren immediately grew fond of the team because they accepted that they weren’t ready to compete at the highest level right away and went to work in practice to ensure they were ready when the time came.
And when the opportunity presented itself on Friday, Eisenhower did not hesitate. The Tigers strung three straight 900-or-better games together after feeling fortunate to do that just once in a tournament during the season.
“They have improved more from Day 1 than any of the teams I’ve worked with in the last eight years,” Adelgren said. “And that’s something they should be proud of.”
This even came with Jayne, the team’s top bowler, never cracking 200 and never having his score used.
That’s because the five other bowlers, the same ones that were told they weren’t good enough, came to his rescue. Freshman Brandon Gile and junior Trentin Dyer were consistently brilliant, as neither dipped below a 226, and finished fifth and sixth, respectively, with series of 719 and 717.
Another freshman, Bryce Runyan, collected a medal (15th) with his 645 series and Patrick Chambers and Sowers, both seniors, followed with series of 635 and 604.
In the end, the cloud of doubt that surrounded the team unified them and created a bond unique to the members of the team. They will have this moment of triumph together forever.
“Whenever we see each other after this down the road, this will be the first thing we talk about,” Sowers said. “It won’t be, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ It will be, ‘Remember winning state in 2014?’ ”
Like father, like son — Being the son of now-retired PBA bowler Justin Hromek, Circle sophomore Jerod Hromek was destined to become a bowler.
“I basically grew up in a bowling alley,” Hromek said. “I was in there all the time.”
That lifestyle paid dividends on Friday, as Hromek pieced together his most consistent series of the season — games of 247, 289 and 237 – to win individual honors at the Class 5-1A tournament with a series of 773.
Circle, behind Hromek and Jalob Cockrum, who took fourth with a 723 series, finished five pins in second place behind Eisenhower for the team title, despite posting the second-highest score of the day, at 956, in the third and final game.
“I’m glad that our team took second because that’s what I came here to do,” Hromek said. “That was my goal, to get a team trophy.”
At Northrock Lanes
Team scores – 1. Eisenhower (Gile 719, Dyer 717, Runyan 645, Chambers 635, Sowers 604, Jayne 558) 2,749; 2. Circle (Hromek 773, Cockrum 723, Treweeke 617, Carvell 589, Liby 571, Blaha 541) 2,744; 3. McPherson (Morey 725, Frazier 708, Reed 623, Hartzell 606, Helmer 566, Mitchell 518) 2,712; 4. Salina Sacred Heart 2,588; 5. Kansas City Turner 2,477; 6. Emporia 2,447; 7. Bishop Carroll (Morgan 663, Gunther 633, Simons 543, Rogers 524, Hampton 522, Schmidt 522), 2,417; 8. Leavenworth 2,391.
Individuals — 1. Jerod Hromek, Circle, 247-289-237–773; 2. Ryan Franzen, Salina Sacred Heart, 247-236-258–741; 3. Joel Morey, McPherson, 226-265-234–725; 4. Jalob Cockrum, Circle, 230-236-257–723; 5. Brandon Gile, Eisenhower, 246-226-247–719; 6. Trentin Dyer, Eisenhower, 236-245-236–717; 7. Carl Frazier, McPherson, 289-191-228–708; 8. Matthew Romero, Kansas City Piper, 203-258-234–695; 9. Ashton Bigger, Topeka Seaman, 256-181-246–683; 10. Tanner Clovis, Salina Sacred Heart, 203-213-257–673; 11. Angus Morgan, Bishop Carroll, 246-192-225–663; 12. Brockman, Newton, 212-229-213–654; 13. Justin Cochran, Topeka West, 213-180-257–650; 14. Dallas Dunn, Salina Sacred Heart, 191-244-212–647; 15. Bryce Runyan, Eisenhower, 262-185-198–645; 16. Jonathan Oberg, Wichita West, 234-200-210–644; 17. Isiah Rowland, Kansas City Turner, 172-253-212–637; 18. Patrick Chambers, Eisenhower, 188-233-214–635; 19. Jamel Gunther, Bishop Carroll, 223-186-224–633; 20. Jesse Babcock, Leavenworth, 227-214-187–628.