By Brett Marshall
With the short, 2-month regular season bowling schedule now complete, the all-important regional qualifying tournaments for the state competition has finally arrived.
The Garden City Buffaloes girls and boys bowling teams will compete Friday at the Class 6A regional in Hutchinson at The Alley. The top 3 teams in each division will earn berths in the state meet at North Rock Lanes in Wichita on March 1, along with six other individuals whose teams do not advance.
The girls competition begins at 10 a.m. with the boys to follow at approximately 1:30 p.m. Among the top contenders in the team chase, in addition to the Lady Buffs, are Haysville-Campus, the only team to defeat the Buffs this season, and perennial challenger Derby. Other teams entered include Dodge City, Hutchinson, Liberal, Blue Valley, Wichita East, Wichita North, Wichita South and Wichita West.
Two years ago, the Lady Buffs brought home their first state team championship and then came up short in 2018 against Haysville-Campus, finishing second, so the 2019 regional/state battle looms large for coach Kip Nichols’ veteran squad.
“We’ve had a strong season so far, winning the WAC again convincingly, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the girls respond to this challenge,” Nichols said of taking on Campus. “I know if we bowl to our capabilities, we can beat Campus, so we’ve just got to be focused, relaxed and bowl with confidence.”
His lineup includes seniors Ryleigh Whitehurst and Alexis Leon, juniors Karly Larson, Emilee Geiger and Angelina Leeper, and freshman Holly Bridges. Leeper captured the Western Athletic Conference Bowler of the Year title by having the highest pin total/average among the four competing schools.
The boys, meanwhile, placed second in the WAC to 5A Great Bend, but has a solid chance of qualifying for state, Nichols indicated.
“It’s been a group that has gotten better through the season, especially considering we had a lot of new faces,” Nichols said. “We’ve got some really good, young talent in Garden City, so it’s going to be fun watching them improve over the next few seasons.”
The boys lineup consists of Brayden Bicket, Kaden Whitehurst, Ethan Newberry, Zane Roth, Caleb Carr and Dionico Resendiz.