OTTUMWA – Two meets. Two bids for perfection.
Perhaps the only question at this point is not if an Ottumwa High School bowler will roll a 300 this season, but when that magical game will occur.
For the second straight meet, nine strikes went up on the board at Champion Bowl, drawing everyone’s attention to yet another bid for perfection heading into the 10th and final frame. One week after Anna Wetrich’s bid for a first career 300 for the OHS girls, junior Clayton Morris reached the 10th frame for the first time needing three strikes to complete a perfect game.
Morris just got the 10th strike to fall. The bid for the 11th of 12 strikes, however, came up two pins short. Morris cleaned up his spare and smiled after posting a career-best 288 game, clinching a team-best 249 average helping the Bulldogs improve to 4-0 on the season with a 608-pin win (3,192-2,584) over visiting Waukee.
“When I threw that first ball of the 10th frame, I thought it was going to be too far out and I was going to leave the 4-pin standing,” Morris said. “I was happy overall with the score. It was a great overall mark. It’s my best day and I feel like I can do even better. Something like a 300 is definitely something I feel is attainable.”
Morris is just the latest Ottumwa bowler to make a deep run into a game without leaving a pin standing. Already this season, Braydon Songer has posted strikes on the front nine frames and Garratty Richmond has had a perfect front eight.
“We have three bowlers on the team that have already bowled 300 games,” Ottumwa boys head bowling coach Tom Maher said. “They’ve been through the wars of that. It should make it easier, but it never does. The fact is we have a well-balanced team that, as the scores reflect in both varsity and junior varsity, don’t need just one bowler to carry us.”
Dawson Greene, who has bowled 300 games three times including twice during competition for OHS, talked about the pressure of trying to pull off that first perfect game.
“When you get to that 10th frame, getting the first strike is the easiest one. It’s that second strike in the 10th that is always the hardest one,” Greene said. “It’s just more nerves than anything. It’s all mental at that point.”
Greene was one of seven bowlers on the Ottumwa boys to post a 200-plus average on Thursday, overcoming the flu to finish with a 202. Morris edged out Songer for the top average by a total of five pins after Songer posted games of 233 and 259 for a 246 average.
Jaxson Coble added a 213 average for the Bulldog varsity. The Ottumwa junior varsity, for the second straight meet, posted the overall second-best team score with a 3,076 featuring a 208 average from Reiley Freeman and a 203 average from Richard Garrett. Bobby Skinner, a freshman with a 130 average, added a 205 mark on Thursday to cap another incredible day on the lanes for the Bulldog boys.
“This is two weeks in a row that both are teams have bowled over 3,000,” Maher said. “When you look around the state, there are not a lot of teams anywhere on any level that can average over 3,000. We’ve got enough kids that we’ve been able to do it with two different teams. We’re very fortunate and blessed to have this tremendous amount of young talent that can rise to the occasion. That’s what a well balanced team is supposed to do.”
The Ottumwa girls, meanwhile, also improved to 4-0 with a win over Waukee. The Bulldogs posted a score of 2,848, beating the Warriors by 480 pins, with another career day leading the way as Randi O’Leary led the Bulldogs, posting a 207 average in her varsity debut, including a near career-best game of 235.
“I’ve actually had a 236 before, so I was really close to beating that,” O’Leary said. “I want to go higher than 235 eventually. It feels pretty good to lead the team to a win. Last week, I had the highest average on the junior varsity. I just try to progress in any way that I can.”
Ottumwa girls head bowling coach Doug Techel talked about the progress of his team in the second meet of the season. With an eye on a third state title in four years, the Bulldogs will continue to work on cleaning up pins and posting spares as the season progresses.
“For me, a perfect game for our girls would be 10 frames with 10 spares,” Techel said. “Making those spares are what will win or lose a state championship. You can’t expect to fire a strike every frame. We didn’t do quite as well today on 10-pin spares as I would like.
“For where we are at this point of the season, I’m happy, because I know those are the things that we’ll come around if we continue to put the work in.”
The Ottumwa girls junior varsity finished a perfect day, beating Waukee by over 500 pins with a final score of 1,965. Melanie Fischer led the Bulldogs with a 173 average.
Ottumwa hits the road for the first time this season, competing at West Des Moines Valley next Tuesday at 3:45 p.m. The Bulldogs return to Champion Bowl next Thursday to open CIML Metro action against Des Moines Roosevelt with Oskaloosa also competing at 2 p.m.