WATERLOO — The only thing remaining was the crash of the final 10 pins and the embrace that followed.
With that, the Ottumwa High School girls bowling team found itself back on the mountaintop.
Zoe Seamans’ strike on the final shot of the final Baker game capped the Bulldogs’ rally from a precarious situation just minutes earlier, as Ottumwa claimed its sixth state championship by outlasting Cedar Rapids Jefferson for the Class 3A title Wednesday at Cadillac XBC.
It was the Bulldogs’ third title in four years, and they became just the second team (Keokuk) to win a title in two different classes.
“We knew this was the last time we were going to have everyone, so we had to see what we had,” said Seamans, who shot a 479 series in the individual games to place third. “Consistency was a challenge all day. Our goal all year was to come here and shoot 2,900. We all stepped up today.”
The Bulldogs indeed saved their best for last, firing a season-best 3,014 to defeat Jefferson by 106 pins. Yet, Ottumwa was in an unenviable situation in the Bakers, trailing at one point by 62 pins before dominating over the final three games.
The biggest change? Putting senior Jenny Goodman in the leadoff spot for the final three games.
“One of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make,” said Ottumwa coach Doug Techel of his choice to sit Goodman the first two. “But Jenny is a senior, and she was up screaming and cheering for her teammates. She gave us the spark we needed.”
Goodman is a three-time state champion alongside teammate Anna Wetrich. Neither had great individual games, but they performed when it mattered.
“Some of us didn’t have our best today,” Wetrich said. “We couldn’t get our spares in the Bakers last year, and that’s something we’ve really worked hard at this year. We were very good today.”
Maybe the Bulldogs’ biggest advantage in the Baker games was their ability to adjust to changing lane conditions. The ball moved better in one lane than the other, so simply getting through the games in which they shot on the dry lane was critical.
The tipping point was the 256 game the team shot in the third game, which erased the deficit and gave the Bulldogs a 36-pin lead to protect.
“We all had to adjust,” Goodman said. “We just tried to roll it where Doug told us to, and get it in the pocket like we wanted to.”
Both Seamans and McKinna Haines were dominating in the second round of individual games. Seamans took a perfect game into the 10th before settling for 278, while Haines had strikes from the third frame on for a 256. Coupled with other solid performances, the Bulldogs shot 2,006 to carry the narrow advantage to Bakers.
Haines finished tied for eighth with a 413 series, as she shot 99 pins better the second game.
“I switched balls and that definitely helped,” she said. “I just stayed with it.”
“She missed two single pins to start the second game, so when she switched balls and got that first strike, and then got a couple more, she wasn’t tense anymore,” Techel said.
Still, the Bulldogs remembered the sting of last season, when they also led after the individual games only to falter to third place overall at the end of them.
“We just kept it up and kept going,” Haines said.
Olivia Pilcher and Randi O’Leary were both making their state debuts, and O’Leary shot a 401 series, while Pilcher fired a 359. O’Leary had a strong first game (234) and Pilcher a strong second (190).
“I didn’t even tell the girls where they were going into Bakers,” Techel said. “We just had to take care of our own business. We didn’t have the best start to Bakers, but once we shot that 256, that was it.”
The Bulldogs may not see the likes of this group again. A first-first-third-first finish was what Techel hoped for, and the seniors delivered.
“The seniors have been everything to this team,” he said. “But I’m really at a loss for words because everyone was so good all day today.
“We peaked at the right time.”