DOUGLAS MILES For The Courier
IOWA CITY – Two years ago, they were a group of youngsters just learning to break through.
Now, they are wily veterans hoping to claim the big prize.
For the third year in a row, the Cedar Falls girls’ bowling quartet of seniors Myah Brinker, Hailey Taylor, Katie Waltz and junior Anna Frahm will lead the Tigers into the girls’ state bowling tournament after qualifying as a team at a Class 3A state -qualifying bowling tournament Tuesday at Colonial Lanes.
“It is really special to me because I only bowled for three years,” Brinker said. “So it is really nice that all three years that I bowled, we went to state. It is just really nice for the seniors that we have been three years in a row back to back to back. It’s really special to us. It does mean a lot, especially senior year to go to state. So it’s really nice.”
This is the fourth season Taylor and Waltz have been a part of the varsity lineup. When they were sophomores, they were joined by a fellow sophomore in Brinker and a promising freshman in Frahm. From that point on, the fantastic foursome has never missed a state tournament.
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“Anna was new the first year that I started bowling, so she was a freshman,” Brinker said. “So Anna and I also have a unique bond because we have kind of been new at the same time. It has been really cool. The four of us have definitely grown together throughout the last three years.”
Senior Rebecca Funk and freshman Maggie Goodwin have replaced the two seniors that graduated off the 2021 state-qualifying team and have fortified the experienced returners in the Cedar Falls lineup.
“I believe in coaching the fundamentals and they listen really well,” Cedar Falls Coach Troy Holman said. “They improved. Most of my bowlers improve 30 to 80 pins from the beginning of their careers to the end.”
After placing sixth in the team standings at state two years ago, Cedar Falls leapt to third last year. It is the type of progression that has the Tigers aiming for even loftier standards.
“It’s fun,” Frahm said. “It is the third trip in a row and we are just hoping that we can hopefully maybe take first this year…Every year, we just want to place higher. That is the main goal.”
At Tuesday’s state-qualifying tournament, Cedar Falls earned a spot in the team state championships by placing second in the Baker competition, a format in which each of the five team members bowl two frames and the team’s cumulative pin count is totaled to determine a winner .
Cedar Falls recorded 2,725 total pins in the Baker games and joined Iowa City High as the two state-qualifying teams from the Iowa City tournament.
“Today was definitely the best that we have bowled 15 consecutive Baker games,” Brinker said. “We are hoping to keep building off of that. There is definitely room for improvement, but we did not think that it would be as consistent as we were today. So we are hoping to be just as consistent as we were today, but a little bit better at scoring.”
The Tigers also qualified a pair of individuals – Frahm and Waltz – for the individual state tournament by finishing in the top eight in the individual portion.
Frahm was the runner-up with 639 pins, just two behind tournament champion Sydney Dannen of Marshalltown. Waltz was seventh with a score of 554.
“Anna shows (leadership) more by showing on the lanes,” Holman said. “The last couple of weeks, she has been stronger and stronger.”
Both the Waterloo West girls’ and boys’ teams qualified for their respective team tournaments. Other area individual state qualifiers include Jacob Nickey and Owen Brinker from the Cedar Falls boys’ team, plus a trio of Waterloo West girls (Ainslee McConaughy, Melianie Nelson, Sydney Wilson) and four Wahawk boys in Jonathan Featherston, Tayvon Homolar, Aidan Kohl and Brady Steere.
Both McConaughy and Steere claimed the top spot in the individual portion of a state-qualifying tournament in Waterloo.
The state qualifiers from both Cedar Falls and Waterloo West should feel right at home at the state tournament. The individual state championships are Feb. 21 at Maple Lanes in Waterloo, while the team tournament is across town two days later at Cadillac XBC.
“We know what the environment is like at state now,” Frahm said. “So it is less nerve-racking than it has been like the first time we went. It helps our confidence because now we go into it knowing what to expect and what the levels of the other teams are going to be. We can set the bar for ourselves.”