DES MOINES — The high school bowling season is filled with meets, from head-to-head duals to multi-team tournaments that dot the schedules of every team.
While the Ottumwa Bulldogs are no different, competing 10 times even in the midst of this unusual season, Doug Techel remains steadfast that only two dates really matter every season.
One came Tuesday. The Class 3A state qualifying meet at Bowlerama in Des Moines.
The next comes next Tuesday. The Class 3A state bowling tournament at Cadillac Lanes in Waterloo.
For the 21st straight year, the Bulldogs are headed back to state after producing the best scoring effort of the season. Ottumwa built a 188-pin lead heading into the baker rounds, then posted one of the best baker games in program history finishing two pins shy of perfection on the way to posting 2,912, beating out CIML Metro conference rival Des Moines Lincoln by 308 pins.
"We actually let down a little bit in the final two baker games, which I suppose is natural after the start we had," Techel said. "We preach all year there are two meets that count, this one and state. We won this one. Now, we've got to go next week to Waterloo and see if we can come home with another big trophy."
It's a trophy Ottumwa has brought home six previous times, including three of the past four years. Last year, the Bulldogs erased a 62-pin lead after two baker games, rolling a 256 to take the lead for good on the way to winning the 2020 championship with a season-best score of 3,014.
That was the last time the Bulldogs posted 3,000 in a meet, although it looked like it would happen again on Tuesday. Once again, Ottumwa used an incredible baker game to end any doubt about a postseason victory on Tuesday posting a 278 in the opening game with seven strikes at the start before two pins refused to fall for Makenzie Fischer in the eighth frame.
Fischer would clean up the spare. Randi O'Leary added a ninth-frame strike before Zoe Seamans completed a clean 10th frame with three more strikes, putting the Bulldogs ahead by 265 pins.
"As soon as it came to bakers, we were all fired up and ready to go," Seamans said. "I think we were all just a little bit worried. This could have been our last meet. Now, we get one more."
Seamans clinched her own ticket to state before bakers began, rolling 14 strikes in two games to post a 218 average, earning her first individual regional championship on Tuesday. The Ottumwa senior opened the day firing a 245 including seven strikes in a row.
"Honestly, it was just pure excitement and the desire to go back to state," Seamans said. "There's a legacy that we're trying to continue to build on as a program that has gone to state every single year. We see those banners every day in practice. We see those years on the wall. We don't want to be the team that brings that to an end."
Brooklyn Welch matched O'Leary with a 187 averages for the Bulldogs. Liberty Welch rolled a pair of 180s, finishing with a 360 series total edging out Fischer by two pins while Olivia Pilcher finished the individual round with a 297 series score.
"You just never know what this day is going to bring," Techel said. "This team is very, very talented. It's up to them. They know they can do this. We came up here for the conference tournament and shoot 2,800. We come up here for regionals and shoot 2,900.
"When you go out there and open the baker games with a 278 game, that's going to deflate any team you're bowling against. It was a great start, but we're not done. We'll celebrate this for one day, then it's right back to work to show everyone that we're one of the best teams in the state and will continue to be."