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Buhler Girls Write Own Championship Story, Ride Dominate Baker Show to 4-1A Title

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By Brent Maycock, KSHSAA Covered

 

WICHITA, Kan. – Teigan Nielsen and her Buhler teammates will never need a refresher course on their program’s rich bowling history.

Over the years, they’ve heard plenty about it from Crusader coach Skip Wilson.

“Skip always tells us stories about his past teams and how we compare to them,” Nielsen said. “When I already know it, yeah, I get tired of it sometimes.”

Then she quickly added, “but it definitely is motivating. If they can do it, we can at least try to.”

Which is Wilson’s intention in the first place.

“Every year, I tell them I like to compare the similarities of each because then I know what I need to get out of them,” Wilson said.

Now when Wilson relates his stories and comparisons of past champions, Nielsen and her teammates will be a part of the conversation instead of just having to hear about it. With a dominating Baker performance at Wednesday’s Class 4-1A state tournament at Bowlero Wichita, the Crusaders added to the program’s rich tradition with its third state title overall.

This story is reposted with permission from KSHSAA Covered presented by Capitol Federal. For more stories like this covering high school activities visit www.kshssacovered.com.

Buhler trailed Wichita Central Christian by 40 pins after the American Tenpins portion of the tourney but took it to another level in the Baker, turning the deficit into a runaway 124-pin victory in finishing with a 2,907 total to Central Christian’s runner-up 2,783 total.

“I kept telling them, ‘Just hang around. I’ll get you lined up in Baker and you guys just stay clean,’” Wilson said. “They love Baker. We’d rather do that than bowl three games.”

Central Christian was up to the Baker challenge initially, matching Buhler’s opening 178 Baker game. But the Crusaders began to close the gap in the second game with a 200 while Central Christian added another 178.

Like a shark smelling blood in the water, Buhler went in for the kill. The Crusaders marked in nine of the 10 frames in the third game to finish with a 210 and then dropped the hammer in the fourth game with a 237 for an 825 Baker series. Central Christian tapered off with games of 151 and 154 in the last two games for a 661 Baker series to finish runner-up.

“Our coaches always preach the team aspect of things – if you notice, our girls always go up at the same time as our lane partners,” Nielsen said. “We always rely on each other for support. And that’s why we excel at Baker.

“We were pretty much feeding off each other.”

They also fed off a break from character by Wilson right before the start of the Baker series.

“Coach told us where we were, which surprised me because he normally won’t,” Nielsen said. “But he did today and I think it motivated our girls in Baker.”

Nielsen led three Buhler medalists in the top 20, coming up just short in her bid to add an individual state title to the team crown. After rolling a 300 game in regionals, Nielsen overcame a 162 second game, rolling a 190 opener and 223 closing game to finish with a 575 total that left her 34 pins behind champion Bella Cunningham of Central Christian (609) and four pins behind runner-up Brianna Devor of Circle (579).

Fellow senior McKenzie Welch also made the top 10, placing eighth with a 555 series, while senior Sloane Adkins was 12th with a 521.

While that trio returned from last year’s Buhler team that finished fourth in the Class 5-1A state tournament, it was the progression of those around them that made this third title a special one for Wilson.

“This was the hardest for me because we had five or six girls that had never step foot in a bowling alley until they came to tryouts,” he said. “My goal was to get them to 150 or 160 and have the other three seniors push us along. And we saw it. We had a girl averaging 87 at tryouts and gets to a 150, and that’s what you have to do.

“I told our seniors, ‘I’ll get you one or two up there and then in Baker, do what you guys do.’”

Newcomers Eva Goertz, Cheyann Geesling and Aubrey Ewing did just enough to do their part with Geesling rolling a 423 series at state to be Buhler’s fourth counting score during tenpins.

“Teigan and Sloane saw them in the halls and said, ‘You’re going to bowl. Coach will coach you up. We’ve got to have a girls’ team,’” Wilson said. “If they wouldn’t have done that, I don’t know if we would have had enough. This was one of the funnest coaching years I’ve had.”

Wilson also told his team that if they made it to state this year, he had a special surprise for them.

“He brought out this cup or something from one of his past teams,” Nielsen said. “I think he did it because he really wanted this for us and he wanted to show us that.”

That cup was actually a bottle of Moxie soda that had been emptied and filled by Wilson with beads. It stemmed from his dominant 2012 Class 5-1A state championship season, the first title team in Crusader history.

“We would go to meets and they would wait to see what the boys’ score was because they weren’t worried about the girls scores – they were awesome,” Wilson said. “About midway through the season, I told them, ‘I’ve never seen girls with more moxie in my life.’ And they looked at me like, ‘What the heck is moxie.’ So I told them to go home and look up what moxie means. They come back at our team meeting on Monday and every one of the girls on that team was shaking their heads saying, ‘You’re damn right. That’s exactly what we are.’

“I’ve had that saying ever since and after we won in 2019, we were at Cracker Barrel and somebody found Moxie pop and one of the girls bought it and gave me a bottle. … I pulled out the Moxie bottle today. They’ve got it.”

And now they’ve also written their own story for future Buhler bowlers to aspire to.

“It feels great to leave our mark,” Nielsen said.

Circle finished third in the team standings with a 2,550 pin total, edging Hayden by 70 pins for the final trophy.

CLASS 4-1A GIRLS STATE TEAM SCORES

1. Buhler 2,907; 2. Wichita Central Christian 2,783; 3. Circle 2,550; 4. Hayden 2,480; 5. Andale 2,378; 6. Ottawa 2,278; 7. Chanute 2,265; 8. McPherson 2,140.