BUFFS ROUNDUP: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2019
One doesn’t have to look further than the state bowling tournament results to see how successful the Garden City High School boys and girls teams have been in recent memory.
Since 2012, all the Buffs/Lady Buffs have accomplished include one state team championship for each (boys 2016, girls 2017); two state team runners-up for the girls (2018-19) and a fourth-place finish in 2012. The boys, meanwhile, also had a pair of third-place trophy finishes in 2017 and 2013 and add in a couple of fourths (2015, 2019) and you have a well-established program under coach Kip Nichols.
With tryouts now complete following one week of qualifying in December, the Buffs return to the lanes on Saturday, Jan. 11, at the Bishop Carroll Invitational in Wichita.
Nichols has a solid nucleus of returners for both girls and boys, and he’s looking forward to making noise once again in both the Western Athletic Conference and at the Class 6A state tournament in early March.
On the girls side, Nichols welcomes back three seniors — Karly Larson, Angeline Leeper and Emilee Giger. Larson and Leeper are entering their fourth year on the varsity roster, with Larson having finished among the top 10 (6th in 2019 with a 564 series, 7th in 2018, 17th in 2017) individually at the state tourney as the Lady Buffs have gone first, second and second in the team race.
Sophomore Holly Bridges also returns after cracking the varsity lineup as a freshman and will give Nichols four experienced bowlers in the lineup. In her first year of varsity bowling, Bridges finished 19th at the state tourney, rolling a 504 series to earn a top 20 medal.
The Lady Buffs won it all in 2017 with Campus returning the favor the last two seasons and Nichols sees it as a two-horse race once again. That same 2017 state tourney saw Ryleigh Whitehurst place second individually to propel the Lady Buffs to their first state team championship.
“They’re really good and didn’t graduate much from their championship team,” Nichols said of Campus. “But we have the ability to beat them, and we have, so it will be an interesting season to say the least. We’ve got experience and the girls are talented. They’ve been through the tough situations and know how to handle the pressure.”
Giger started all of her junior year and was a part-time varsity starter her sophomore season. Newcomers who will provide depth include junior Britney Cruz and sophomore Jaelyn Grim.
“They’ve all demonstrated the ability to bowl good games, so now it’s about putting it together as a team,” Nichols said. “I feel a sense of family with this group and they’re putting the team in front of everything else. They really like bowling for each other.”
If you go back to 2011, the girls added a third-place team standing and an individual runner-up finish by Rikkie Hemmert.
On the boys side, it’s another strong group that Nichols can count on, blessed with experience, talent and still a young team, overall.
Four of the six varsity qualifiers competed on the fourth place team from 2019 with Kaden Whitehurst, now a sophomore, the top returner after placing ninth individually as a freshman.
He is joined by sophomores Ty Weilert and Dionicio Resendiz, junior Caleb Carr and senior Zane Roth. All four of those were varsity most of the 2019 season. The only newcomer to crack the top six for the start of the season is sophomore Jayce Farr.
“The boys team is as talented or more so than some of our teams in recent years,” said Nichols. “This young group of sophomores have a chance to be very special and they’re just gonna get better and better.”
Nichols said his young squad has grown in physical and mental maturity from a year ago, and can’t wait to see how they perform on the lanes in this first big outing of the season in Wichita.
“I think both the boys and girls have a shot at winning the WAC, and it’s been a few years since we swept both divisions,” Nichols said. “This group of senior girls (Larson, Leeper, Giger) have a chance to be the most successful group in the program’s history.”
The Buffs will host three Western Athletic Conference matches this season. Dates are Jan. 14 vs. Liberal at Garden Bowl, Jan. 21 vs. Great Bend at Hard Rock Lanes, and Feb. 13 vs. Dodge City at Hard Rock Lanes. All matches begin at 3 p.m.
The Western Athletic Conference championship is set for Feb. 18 at Great Bend with Class 6A regionals to be held in Wichita on Feb. 28 and state tourney March 5 in Wichita.