Watching from the stands last year at the state bowling tournament, an eighth-grade girl was inspired by a team that defied the odds.
Last season the Campus girls bowling team became the first girls team in school history to win a state championship and Taylor Cessna was there for the experience.
Given her first chance to be a part of history, Cessna rolled a 654 series to finish as the top bowler on a Campus team that became the third team in state history to repeat as champions on Thursday at the Class 6A tournament at Northrock Lanes.
“Back then, I was thinking next year is my chance to go up here and help them be the best of the best,” Cessna said. “But honestly, I would have never believed this had a chance.”
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The rest of the state has been chasing Campus for two seasons, and the team has embraced the role as favorite completely. But along with that came an immense amount of pressure.
When it came time to decide the champion, in the third game with only one pin separating Campus from the field, the Colts were able to maintain their excellence while Olathe North and Wichita East faded and Washburn Rural’s late surge came up 20 pins short.
The winning team score of 2,525 by Campus is the third-highest score in the tournament’s history.
“It’s like when you’re stuck at the bottom of a pool and you’re trying to get up and get the air,” sophomore Jordyn Wattman said. “And you finally get up there and that big breath of air is like the most beautiful thing in the world.”
What has made Campus nearly invincible the past two seasons has been its depth, which came through once again Thursday. Typically, it has been the team’s upperclassmen trio of Alyssa Magee, Brittani Magee, and Cami Mills that are focused on picking up the three underclassmen.
On Thursday, the roles were reversed. Cessna, a freshmen who finished sixth overall, and Wattman, a sophomore who finished ninth, each turned in the best series of their careers at 654 and 651 to lead the team. Mills (626, 15th) was also a medalist.
“I’ve always said that on any given day, any of them could shoot the big game or shoot the big series,” Campus coach Kenny Fulkerson said. “One through six, it didn’t matter which one, somebody was going to step up and today it was the underclassmen.”
After winning by more than 100 pins last season, Campus had to nervously pay attention to what Olathe North, Wichita East and Washburn Rural were doing in the lanes beside them Thursday.
It became an emotional scene when the team scores were announced and Campus was left for last.
“We all started to scream,” Wattman said. “I started to hyperventilate. Brittani and Alyssa were crying. Kalina (Feast) and Taylor and Cami all had tears in their eyes. It was just amazing.”
Winning has become an addiction for Campus, Fulkerson said, and it already has its sights set on next season when it will return five of its six bowlers.
“I’m about to go back to the school with (assistant Brett) Marrs and we’re going to figure out how to three-peat it,” Fulkerson said.
East won its second straight state trophy and fifth in the last six years with a third-place finish with a team score of 2,467, with the sister duo of Addison Herzberg and Aspen Herzberg finishing in the medals for the second straight season.
Addison, a sophomore, was runner-up and nine pins behind Junction City’s Casey Holmes with a series of 663, while Aspen, a senior, collected her third straight state medal with a series of 644 to finish 12th.
“It’s really sad because she’s the one that brings me up the most,” Addison said. “She’s not going to be here next year, but she’ll still come and support me. It just won’t be the same, though. It’s sad.”
Other medalists included Derby’s Madisyn Hansen, who rolled a 257 in her second game to highlight a 661 series that put her fourth and the South tandem of Alexis Shear (649, 11th) and Cassie Edgar (634, 13th).
Team scores – 1. Campus (Cessna 654, Wattman 651, Mills 626, B. Magee 569, Feast 558, A. Magee 477) 2,525; 2. Washburn Rural 2,505; 3. Wichita East (Ad. Herzberg 663, As. Herzberg 644, Henry 571, Loper 540, Torske 537, Ali 532) 2,467; 4. Olathe North 2,463; 5. Junction City 2,417; 6. Olathe East 2,240; 7. Wichita South (Shear 649, Edgar 634, Torske 457, Garcia 438, Mercell-Vars 431, Nichols 420) 2,239; 8. Wichita Northwest 2,177 (Kennedy 567, Smalley 543, Jacobs 521, Voncannon 495, Lee 491, Breault 429) 2,177; 9. Shawnee Mission West 2,063.
Medalists – 1. Casey Holmes, Junction City, 236-204-232–672; 2. Addison Herzberg, Wichita East, 235-203-225–663; 3. Whitney Prockish, Washburn Rural, 213-196-253–662; 4. Hansen, Derby, 183-257-221–661; 5. Holly Evans, Lawrence, 248-224-184–656; 6. Taylor Cessna, Campus, 246-202-206–654; 7. Chye Reiste, Olathe North, 214-226-214–654; 8. Carley Sullivan, Topeka, 182-236-233–651; 9. Jordyn Wattman, Campus, 191-232-228–651; 10. Gabriella Millard, Washburn Rural, 185-214-251–650; 11. Alexis Shear, Wichita South, 205-223-221–649; 12. Aspen Herzberg, Wichita East, 199-224-221–644; 13. Cassie Edgar, Wichita South, 204-245-185–634; 14. Katlyn Tabor, Dodge City, 200-224-204–628; 15. Cami Mills, Campus, 234-211-181–626; 16. Sydney Miller, Olathe East, 222-236-166–624; 17. Madison Hadl, Olathe North, 205-222-192–619; 18. Brittany Weber, Shawnee Mission West, 215-177-207–599; 19. Kellie Passow, Washburn Rural, 232-187-169–588; 20. Shyanne Hill, Olathe North, 225-194-166–585.