NEWTON — Going into Saturday’s 2014 Little Hawkeye Conference bowling meet, Newton’s girls and boys are focused on defending their conference meet championships. Also on line is an undefeated regular season for the Cardinal girls.
Newton’s girls are 13-0 with the conference meet to wrap up Saturday at Pella’s Excit-A-Bowl. According to research, the Cardinal girls have won seven straight Little Hawyeye Conference titles dating back to when it was a club sport in 2007 and 2008.
The Cardinal boys are working to steady their game up on the lanes. In an up-and-down season, Newton is 7-6 heading into the LHC meet Saturday. They won the conference meet a year ago.
“Both teams have worked hard this season. The boys can hold their head up high for their season. Our girls have had a phenomenal season,” Newton head coach Seth Banwell said. “We’re excited about the conference meet.”
Youth is powering the Newton teams this season. Neither Cardinal varsity team has a senior on it. Both have three juniors.
Once Saturday’s competition ends, focus for the Cardinal teams turn to bowling on their home lanes in Class 1A Regional Tournament Tuesday at Cardinal Lanes. Newton hosts the teams from its conference — Knoxville, Pella Christian, Oskaloosa and Norwalk — plus Clarke of Osceola and Des Moines Hoover.
Competition begins at 11 a.m. Admission is $6.
For the Cardinal girls, it started with their fifth consecutive team championship at the Knoxville Invitational in the season-opening weekend in December. They had to rally from behind Knoxville last week in a triangular meet hosted by Norwalk.
For the first time all season, the Cardinal girls trailed after the individual-game round. Knoxville was up by 52 pins on Newton with Norwalk in third place.
“That was the toughest spot we’ve been in all season,” said Madison Humphrey, sophomore. “To come back and beat Knoxville after trailing was tremendous.”
“I felt a lot of pressure in the last Baker game,” said junior Erica Bailey. “We had to have three strikes to win. After I threw the first one, I was excited but really nervous.”
Bailey delivered just what her team needed. Banwell said she threw three powerful strikes in the final 10th frame to keep the girls’ record unblemished.
“Our success this year is about being a team. We cheer each other on and encourage each other,” Bailey said. “I’ve been bowling since kindergarten and it’s my sport. We just stay pumped up during meets.”
Bailey competed in the 2012 state tournament as a freshman, finishing 15th. Humphrey earned 1A District 5 first-team honors last year with a 188 average. Bailey garnered district honorable mention with a 163 average.
They’ve been leading the girls this season. Newton’s girls average 151.5 in individual games and have a 154.9 pin average in Baker games.
One factor for their success this season is a steady lineup with Bailey, Humphrey, juniors Courtney Tabor and Melanie Stice, sophomore Mariah Gonzales and freshman Kirsten Young.
“When lane conditions are tough at a meet, we give each other pointers and help each other,” Humphrey said. “In practices, we work on spares, work on spares then bowl for scores on Wednesdays for the lineup. We’ve been working hard on hitting our marks when we bowl.”
Humphrey said bowling is a family sport. She has been bowling for a long time and “I have some amazing friends in the sport,” she added.
Looking ahead to the regional on Tuesday, Clarke has a 12-5 season mark while Knoxville is 5-2 and Norwalk is 5-7. Des Moines Hoover is 1-9. Pella Christian has had a tough time fielding full teams for meets because of other school activities.
NEWTON’S boys have improved throughout the season. Juniors Alex Bare and Payton Cox have been two of the top bowlers for the year, while freshman Nick VerSteeg has had led the Cardinals in several meets. Sophomore Bryan McMahon, freshman Reid Miller, junior Andrew Lammey and sophomore Jake Karlzen have been in the varsity lineup.
“We’ve had an up and down season, but the only team in the conference we haven’t beaten is Knoxville. We’re looking to do that Saturday at conference and again on Tuesday,” Bare said. “We’ve done better of late because we’ve pulled together as a team and shown a more positive attitude.”
Bare said he enjoys bowling, plus “I’m good at it.” Bowling practices are early in the mornings and the competitions are on Saturdays, which all works out for Bare, who said he works in the afternoon.
“We work on our push away, our balance and developing our team attitude during practices,” Cox said. “We’re looking for victories, of course, at conference and regional. We can do that if we work together, listen to the coaches and make little adjustments as we compete.”
Knoxville leads the Little Hawkeye Conference at 7-0 and has a team individual-game average of 193. Newton averages 169.2 pins as a team for individual games and had a 166.5 Baker game average.
“Attitude counts in bowling and the more positive we stays as a team, the more success we can have,” McMahon said. “It comes down to teamwork. We’re working on picking up our spares.”
VerSteeg said the Cardinals have grown as a team this season. He said the Cardinals realize they need to do well at the conference meet Saturday.
“If we do well at conference that will set it in our minds that we can do well Tuesday in the regional,” VerSteeg said.