Seaman and Washburn Rural bowling teams look to build on last year's success
Two Topeka-area bowling programs are trying to get back to the state tournament.
Last year, Seaman won the 5-1A boys and girls state titles. The Washburn Rural's girls team finished third for the third consecutive year and the boys just missed the cut for state.
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Seaman remains hungry
After becoming just the third program to sweep the boys and girls state titles last year — and the first 5A school — Seaman must replace some top talent while working in some new faces to larger roles.
"Two 6A schools had, but no 5A school had ever done it," said coach Bob Benoit. "We're the first in history to do it. I don't think the kids really understand what they did, what they accomplished. I think right now they've gotten a little lackadaisical because of what they've done.
"I'm trying to explain to them how important it is right now, that everybody's watching the boys and the girls, because of what they accomplished."
Benoit says the team is getting better at focusing on the now and is headed in the right direction. The results thus far back that up, too.
The girls have been perfect to start the year, taking first in their two quads and first at Free State's tournament.
The graduation of Makenzie Millard and Kaitlyn Evans left a big void, but four bowlers from last year's team return in senior Katie Price, junior JaeLinn Thetford, junior Cheyenne Turkin and junior Kayla Mize.
Price has already begun to fill that void, shooting a program record 750 series (223-248-279) at the Free State tournament that surpassed Millard's record. Her early success, according to her and Benoit, comes from just focusing on having fun with the sport.
"Oh my god, it felt so amazing," said Price on her record-setting series. "I knew that I had it in me. I just haven't been able to do it this year, I guess having fun is the key part of it, like , 'What the heck why am I not doing this until now?'"
Freshmen Claire LaDuke and Laci Cole are two varsity newcomers.
"Once she gets settled in and gets over the nerves of being in the limelight and all the big meets that we've gone to, she's going to be really, really good," said Benoit of LaDuke.
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The boys won their first two quads and placed fourth out of 19 teams at Free State's tournament.
Zander White and Ethan Burns were two of the team's top bowlers last year and are back as seniors this year.
"It was pretty cool in the moment but although that's good, we're not trying to live in the past we're just trying to focus on right now," said Burns at practice last week. "To repeat, I mean even to get one state title in your high school career is awesome, but to repeat would be incredible."
White's got his own motivations, too.
"Some people think it was a fluke," said White. "You've always got something to prove. We just gotta go out there and do it again."
With a fairly young team, Benoit says he wants them to lead by example.
"They're the backbone right now," said Benoit on White and Burns.
Senior Braxton Moore and sophomore Dominic Figueroa are two new varsity starters after bowling JV last year. Sophomore Alex Prescott and junior Riley Parkhurst return as well.
"We've got as good or better of a boys team than we had last year," said Benoit on the potential of this group.
The girls have finished third at state for the past two years and this year are integrating returning talent with bowlers stepping into bigger roles.
The boys just missed out on qualifying for state as a team last year but return five seniors who are leading the charge this year.
The girls had won two of their four quads to start the year.
Kaitlyn Doyal was the lead bowler and only senior from last year and juniors Claire Ireland and Gabby Martinez are stepping up to replace Doyal's production and leadership.
"It made me want to learn more and how to encourage our team because we lost one of our veteran players last year," said Ireland on how last season motivated her. "I'm trying to help motivate the team to get us to where we need to be."
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Newcomers to the varsity lineup include junior Hailey Beyer, sophomore Ashley Billups and sophomore Elizabeth Poling.
"Our goal is, still, with this group of girls, we can make it state and can compete," said coach Jo Ricard. For (assistant coach) Steve (Peoples) and I, it's about making strides every single day along the way."
Placing first at three of its four quad's and first at the Free State tournament to start the season, the boys are starting the season strong.
Senior Josh Hammons, the lone state qualifier last year, said this group is motivated after barely missing out on state as a team last year and returning five of six starters.
"As a team, we're driven more than ever because we know what we can do," said Hammons at practice last week. "To fall that hard during regionals, it hit us pretty deeply."
Ricard added that last year should've motivated those returnees.
"We practice on spares every day with our kids," said Ricard. "I go, 'Every single spare you practice should mean something more than it has in the past. You don't want to be in this situation again. What are you going to do about it?'
"We don't want to be in the situation that we were in last year."
With seniors Geo Peoples, Walker Thompson, Reece Godby, Austin McIntosh and Hammons, the chemistry with this group will be key.
"We never had a big talk (in the offseason), but we all knew we wanted that state title," said Hammons. "In the offseason, I saw a lot of more guys going out there and practicing and hitting it hard."
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This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Topeka's Seaman and Washburn Rural bowling teams start season strong