Young team surges into lead at 2016 USBC Open Championships

USBC Communications
Published: June 11, 2016 |
By Matt Cannizzaro and Jessica Gilgor
USBC Communications

RENO, Nev. – Strategy, composure and momentum are three potential keys to success in any athletic endeavor, and the members of of Bel Aire, Kansas, put them all together Friday on the way to the lead in Regular Team at the 2016 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships.

The group arrived at the National Bowing Stadium with a game plan, used the on-site Showcase Lanes and a one-hour team practice session to test it and then hit the championship lanes with open minds.

Flexibility proved to be the ultimate ingredient as the team gained momentum in a 1,004 and 1,178 start, before closing with the highest team game of this year’s event, 1,195, to catapult into the top spot with a 3,377 total. Bowling of Phoenix previously held the lead with 3,300.

“Having first place is a dream come true,” said team captain Brent Bowers, who made his seventh USBC Open Championships appearance. “I’ve paid a lot of attention to this event over my young lifetime, and just taking the lead alone is a crowning achievement. I’m sure it will be a very nervous month sitting around and keeping our fingers crossed, but it is a wonderful feeling.”

The initial plan for was simple enough – create hold in the middle of the lane and friction to the outside, while staying right as long as possible.

After grinding through the opening game on the 38-foot team oil pattern, leadoff bowler Zach Rhoades made a pivotal move left to be more in his comfort zone, which yielded 19 strikes and games of 278 and 265 for a 725 series.

The move may have been sooner than they planned, but the rest of the team gradually followed and capitalized on the friction they’d created to the right. The 1,178 middle game is the fourth-highest of the 2016 event at the NBS.

“It first hit me in the second frame of Game 3 that we were chasing this thing, and our look was only getting better,” Bowers said. “Whatever we did to the lanes, it worked incredibly well and allowed us to make some decent shots with a little bit of area. Right now, were living on cloud nine. It’s pretty amazing.”

Kristopher Prather, the Regular Singles runner-up in his NBS debut in 2011, led the way for this year with a 732 series and was followed by Rhoades, Mitch Hupe (674), Bowers (630) and Justin Zwaschka (616).

The complete team effort included their companion team, Northrock Lanes, which rolled games of 952, 1,060 and 894 for a 2,906 total. Ashley Bright and Colton Ruscetti led the way with a pair of 605 sets and were joined by Kaitlin Quinn (603), Derek Lewis (601) and Leela Yahya (492).

Additional motivation and momentum for came from leaving last year’s tournament in El Paso, Texas, with their names among the top 10 in two events. Their team performance of 3,185 landed them in 10th place at the time, before an eventual 15th-place finish, and Prather and Bowers returned the next day for a run at the lead in Regular Doubles, before finishing third overall with a 1,395 total.

Prather is familiar with close calls after coming eight pins short of the singles title in 2011, so he did all he could to make sure the team got to the top spot Friday. And, he did it with a composure learned while throwing clutch shots for Wichita State, the alma mater of all five team members.

Rhoades, Zwaschka and Hupe all were members of the Shockers team that won the 2015 Intercollegiate Team Championships, while Bowers was part of Wichita State national championships in 2008 and 2010.

“I didn’t know what we could get to, but I knew we had an opportunity to do it, and I just wanted the chance,” said Prather, who made his sixth tournament appearance. “Leading up to the 10th frame, I just wanted a shot. Turns out, we got there and have a little cushion, too. It’s really just an honor to bowl with all my friends and have an opportunity to win something that is as prestigious as an eagle.”

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