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CEDAR RAPIDS — The last few years have been a long countdown of sorts for the Cedar Rapids Prairie girls’ bowling team.
This year, the Hawks hope they can end the countdown and take home the top spot at the Class 3A state tournament at Plaza Lanes in Des Moines. The three-day coed tournament begins Monday with Class 1A competition. Class 2A is Tuesday, 3A on Wednesday.
The 2016-17 season marks the fourth consecutive visit to the state tournament for Prairie. The last three years have gone fourth (2013-14), third (14-15) and second (15-16). Mathematically, they know what’s next and have been locked in on that goal since day one.
“It’s definitely been in my head,” said senior Kaitlyn Early. “Like I said before, there is nothing I want more than to get first.”
As the state qualifying meet proved, taking home the top spot will be no easy task. The Hawks out-bowled Muscatine, 2981-2978. Waterloo West was the top qualifier in Class 3A with a final match score of 2982. Muscatine claimed the at-large spot and the lane assignments will put West, Prairie and Muscatine with Dubuque Hempstead on lanes 5-10 in Des Moines.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge,” Early said. “It’s also going to push us because we know there will be people there that are just as good as us.”
Early and the rest of the Prairie girls expect the cheering section to be twice as loud this year.
“We have extra support, too, since the boys will be going,” Ashley Sundstrom said. “That will keep us motivated. It’s awesome that they are going since they haven’t made it in a while.”
The Prairie boys have not made the state tournament since 2011-12. Senior Lucas Galloro is thrilled to see the state tournament as a competitor instead of from the stands this season.
“Going into the season, we set the goal to go to state,” Galloro said. “After the first couple of meets, I thought we really could make it this season. We were just determined to keep bowling like we were and keep it going into regionals.”
A little internal competition helped fuel both teams. Some friendly baker throwdowns helped each side reach for that extra pin or two throughout the season.
As for who wins more in practice?
“The girls,” said Galloro, freshman Noah Meder and sophomore Shawn Willie in unison.
The girls may have had more success over the past few seasons, but no animosity exists between the two sides.
“The girls like to heckle us a little bit about not making the state tournament in so long,” Galloro said. “When we made it this year, they were incredibly excited.”
“I think they might feel a little pressure, but they are just as capable as anyone else,” Sundstrom said.
Keeping everyone calm and collected is the biggest challenge according to head coach Don Wilfong.
“We try to instill in them to be happy coming back, regardless of the outcome of the shot,” Wilfong said. “If you’re grumpy coming back, you’re going to be grumpy going up again. And that can start to bring everyone else down, too.”
Girls’ teams — Cedar Rapids Prairie
Girls — Megan Kitzmiller, Cedar Rapids Jefferson; Alexis Tschantz, Linn-Mar; Mekena Diercks, Linn-Mar
Boys’ teams — Cedar Rapids Prairie
Boys — Kalen Rios, Iowa City West; Alex Diercks, Linn-Mar
Girls — Tanya Zaugg, Cedar Rapids Xavier; Alicia Steepleton, Marion
Boys — Jacob Fulton, Cedar Rapids Xavier
Girls’ teams — Vinton-Shellsburg, West Delaware
Boys’ teams — Maquoketa, West Delaware
Boys — Derek Kuntz, Cascade