By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
It takes a special kind of team to ignite a crowd of bowling enthusiasts. McNary High School has two of them.
“It was so loud. I couldn’t even hear myself,” said freshman Nick Blythe.
“When I was warming up, I couldn’t hear anything. My ears were ringing after we did a cheer before the last games,” added junior Scott Bridger.
The crowd gathered at Salem’s Firebird Lanes was so deep in the tank for the Celts that some of the girls found themselves feeling sorry for their opponents.
“We would go up to bowl and the crowd would roar and the other team went up and it was silent,” said Sierra Mo.
The crowd was no small part of the effort that led both the boys and girls teams to district championships Sunday, Jan. 26. But it also took a healthy dose of perseverance on the parts of the bowlers themselves.
The five-person teams bowl baker-style, meaning the first bowler will bowl frames one and six. The second bowler will bowl frames two and seven and so on, with your fifth bowler bowling frames five and 10. Following a 10-game semi-final round, the top three qualifiers vied for the district.
The boys handled the opening rounds with ease and led by as much as 400 pins, averaging a 191.
“It wasn’t easy, but we sort of knew we were kicking everybody’s butts so it took some of the pressure off of us,” said the boys’ Dishon Miranda.
The girls struggled slightly more, but maintained a firm hold on second place.
“We didn’t have many strikes, but we had a lot of spares,” said KayLynn Hatfield.
The boys earned a bye in the first round of the finals for their first-place qualifying, but the girls had to take down South Albany High School before advancing.
“But we had more confidence that we could actually win, and we relied on each other,” said Celt Sarah Jensen.
The girls pulled it off and met Dallas High School in the finals. The boys took on their counterparts from South Albany High School.
While they cruised to their spot in the finals, the boys team had their first scare in the opening game of the finals. They bowled a 160 to the Rebels’ 191, but both Blythe and Bridger picked up 5-7 splits to keep the outcome from being far worse. Bridger won a national title last August at the State Games of America while Blythe will compete for a similar title later this year.
“The thing was we didn’t get down on ourselves, we just kept it going,” said senior Garon Stanley.
In the final frame of the second game, the Rebels took a seat as Bridger stepped onto the lane. He had to strike twice to get the win for his team.
“It was amazing, they were perfect flush balls with 10-in-the-pit and there was no question that it was a clean win,” said Dan Kaplan, McNary boys coach. The boys didn’t leave an open frame the entire game to win 234-199 and take the district title with final totals of 394-390.
Despite shaky knees when they stood on the approach, the girls’ title was never in much jeopardy. The Lady Celts won the first game 159-150 and took the second 142-130. Final totals were 301-280.
“They just couldn’t pick up their spares, and we were picking up everything,” said Celt Hannah Russell, who was also named to the first spot on the All-Star team. Mo was also named to the All-Star Team.
For the boys, Blythe, Bridger and Aaron Seth were the top three bowlers named to the All-Star Team, respectively.
Dan credited the boys with a complete team effort right down to Jonathan Hill, the team’s least experienced bowlers.
“The stars were aligned and even Jonathan was getting good counts and picking up his spares,” Dan said.
Kathy Kaplan, head coach of the girls team, said it was the right attitude that won the day for the girls.
“This is a very special group of girls. They listen and they want to learn and do better, but they also know how to keep it fun,” Kathy said. “They saw the other teams getting upset and throwing it away. They took the excitement they had going and then amplified it.”
The girls roster was rounded out by Erika Marshall and Brittney Kiser.
Both teams earned spots in the state championship tournament at Medford’s Lava Lanes on Feb. 21 to 23.