In his 17 years of coaching bowling at Southeast, David Koch has had his fair share of contenders. The boys team, which finished dead last in the City League this season, was not one.
But this year’s team had motivation none of its predecessors had. It is Koch’s final season before retiring and five of the six bowlers on the team are seniors that were potentially bowling their last time.
“We knew if there was ever a day to pull something off, it would be today,” Southeast senior Matt Torres said. “We knew it was (Koch’s) last year and he’s given so much to the school and to our program, so we figured we should probably give something back to him.”
Five of the six on the team posted their season-best series and Southeast catapulted to the state tournament by finishing in third place in the team standings on Thursday in a Class 6A regional at West Acres with a team score of 2,607, nearly 300 pins higher than their previous best.
Kaleb Johnson (696) placed fourth overall. Kali Nash (545) also qualified individually from the girls team.
“This is a team that nobody thought could make it, so we just came out relaxed with nothing to lose and we just had fun,” Johnson said. “I feel like we are kind of like the Bad News Bears.”
For Koch, it was the perfect send-off.
“This is pretty special,” Koch said. “I think part of it was we were on the outside lanes, away from the big boys, so we could just bowl our game and have a good time and not worry about what everyone else was doing. This is a very nice surprise.”
Change of plans for South girls — The South girls team went through visible stages during the process of finding out they were going to the state tournament.
“We were very surprised at first,” South coach Darren Colburn said. “And then after that, it was just excitement. Then it was kind of like, ‘What do we do now?’ because we’ve never been in this situation before.”
South snagged the third and final team berth to the state tournament on Thursday with a team score of 2,233, 21 pins more than fourth-place Garden City. Alexis Shear (654, third) and Cassie Edgar (623, fifth) led the way.
Hours after the tournament, Colburn, who is in his seventh season coaching at South, was still trying to figure out the last time, if ever, the girls team had qualified for state.
“We’re definitely excited about it,” Colburn said. “We always knew we had the potential to do it. We were really close this whole season, so it was nice to see all of that hard work pay off at the end.”
Northwest boys win again — The most dominant boys and girls team this season in Class 6A continued their torrid pace, as the Northwest boys won the team title by 287 pins with a team score of 2,897 and the Campus girls won the team title by 311 pins with a season-best score of 2,614.
Northwest freshman Gabe Alvarez won individual honors with a season-best series of 785, which included a 299 in his first game, while the Grizzlies placed all six bowlers in the top 12.
“Every shot I was throwing felt good and that 12th shot felt really good, too,” Alvarez said. “It just didn’t fall down. It kind of equals out since I won and then we won as a team. It was pretty cool to do.”
Senior Lane Stanberry was third with his 706 series, while Zach Hall (673), Brandon Kraus (673), Luke Ewertz (661), Tanner Schmidt (642) all placed in the Top-12.
The Northwest girls team also qualified for state behind medalist-performances from Alexis Breault (586, seventh) and Shayla Lee (575, 10th).
Campus girls dominate – The defending Class 6A champions showed why they are the favorites to repeat this season, as the Campus girls finished 311 pins ahead of second-place Northwest with a season-high team score of 2,614.
Campus had three of the top four bowlers with Alyssa Magee (685), Cami Mills (677), and Taylor Cessna (650) finishing first, second, and fourth. The boys team will be sending Austin Deboard (687) and K.J. Kohlhorst (678) to state as individual qualifiers.
“From what I saw today, they are definitely ready to go back-to-back state championships,” Campus coach Kenny Fulkerson said. “These girls push each other and they push each other hard. Losing is not an option to them.”
West twins together –Twin brothers Cameron and Nick Unruh, both juniors at West, have had expectations of going to state every season but it hasn’t worked out until the duo both qualified individually on Thursday.
“I was going to be bummed out if Nick didn’t make it,” said Cameron, who bowled a series of 644. Nick finished 11 pins behind. “There’s no one else I would rather go to state with than him.”
The twins were prepared for the trip, as they came up with an intricate handshake that they pulled off in front of the crowd when they were announced as qualifiers.
“We just came up with it the other day,” Nick said. “We were just in the kitchen and started it doing. That awesome to be able to do it in front of everybody.”
Teams—1. Northwest (Alvarez 785, Stanberry 706, Hall 674, Kraus 673, Ewertz 661, Schmidt 642) 2,897; 2. Garden City 2,610; 3. Southeast (Johnson 696, Kieu Le 600, Mendoza 596, Torres 591, Bennett 574, Huynh 566); 4. Campus 2,538; 5. West 2,429; 6. Hutchinson 2,286; 7. Dodge City 2,259; 8. South 2,252; 9. North 2,214.
Individuals—1. Alvarez, Northwest, 785; 2. Funk, Garden City, 708; 3. Stanberry, Northwest, 706; 4. Johnson, Southeast, 696; 5. Larson, Garden City, 692; 6. Deboard, Campus, 687; 7. Kohlhorst, Campus, 678; 8. Hall, Northwest, 673; 9. Kraus, Northwest, 673; 10. Ewertz, Northwest, 661.
Other qualifiers—11. C. Unruh, West, 644; 13. N. Unruh, West, 633; 14. McAdoo, South, 623; 16. Jefferson, Hutchinson, 606.
Teams—1. Campus (A. Magee 685, Mills 677, Cessna 650, B. Magee 564, Wattman 536, Feast 507) 2,614; 2. Northwest (Breault 586, Lee 575, Jacobs 571, Kennedy 516, Smalley 511, Voncannon 508) 2,303; 3. South (Shear 654, Edgar 623, Torske 480, Nichols 450, Mercell-Vars 365) 2,233; 4. Garden City 2,212; 5. Dodge City 2,103; 6. North 2,058; 7. Southeast 1,958; 8. Hutchinson 1,934; 9. Blue Valley North 1,602; 10. West 1,558.
Individuals—1. A. Magee, Campus, 685; 2. Mills, Campus, 677; 3. Shear, South, 654; 4. Cessna, Campus, 650; 5. Edgar, South, 623; 6. Whitehurst, Garden City, 587; 7. Breault, Northwest, 586; 8. Whited, Garden City, 579; 9. Burton, Dodge City, 575; 10. Lee, Northwest, 575.
Other qualifiers—13. Nash, Southeast, 545; 14. Bairow, Hutchinson, 545; 15. Tabor, Dodge City, 542.