The Centerville High School boys bowling teams regularly competes against the best teams in the area as a member of the Greater Western Ohio Conference and are accustomed to facing the best teams in Ohio as a frequent state qualifier. The Elks recently bowled against the best teams in the country and they were up to the challenge.
Centerville finished second in the U.S. High School Bowling National Championship at Indianapolis. The Smyrna Bulldogs, from Tennessee, edged Centerville, 635-593, for the title. Bowlers from 21 states competed in the three-day national event, designed to showcase the best boys and girls high school bowlers from across the country.
“They did awesome,” Centerville coach Andy Parker said. “It was a fun event and our guys really bowled as a team.”
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It was a far cry from their first appearance at the event last year.
“We were horrible, we didn’t even make the first cut,” Parker said. “I described it as walking into a gun fight with a plastic fork.”
This 2018-19 Elks squad, however, had both experience and talent on its side, which translated into four titles and six other top-three tournament finishes. The high school season, however, ended just shy of state as the Elks bowed out at the district tournament.
“I feel like we were one of the best teams in the state but we had one bad tournament,” freshman Brendan Salo said. “It just happened to be the district.”
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The Elks squad of seniors Ryan Caro, Mason Eckley and Kyle Moyer, juniors Max Borneman and Wally Jaber, sophomore Ian Dobran and freshmen Anthony Conty and Salo hoped for a chance at redemption.
“It was huge for us, after not qualifying to state, to still have something to look forward to,” Moyer said. “And, having been there before, we were more prepared. We knew what to expect.”
Centerville easily advanced through the first qualifying round and then the second – making the cut to the top 24, 16 and then top 8. When the field was cut to the top 4, the Elks were on top, earning a bye. The Smyrna squad, however, was on a roll when they faced Centerville.
“They averaged 229 in the match before us and they rode that momentum with a 250 right out of the shoot,” Parker said. “We never caught up.”
While they fell short of the title, Parker is confident that the experience will pay big dividends next season.
“When you bowl these events, you don’t have any weak teams,” he said. “It was unbelievable competition and a great experience.”
For the returning bowlers, that competition can be beneficial on and off the lanes.
“The talent was next level, way better than I expected, which can only help us,” Salo said. “And I think this experience will also help us become better leaders.”
Salo was the top individual finisher, placing seventh overall and posting a 299 game.
The Elks weren’t the only local team to qualify to the Elite Eight; the Beavercreek girls finished the tournament in sixth place.