INDIANAPOLIS – Advancers in the 12-and-under, 15-and-under and 18-and-under divisions now are one step closer to making a run at the title in their respective divisions at the 2021 Junior Gold Championships.

The fourth and final qualifying round for more than 2,900 competitors concluded Thursday as the first cuts in the boys and girls division in each age-based division were made.

All athletes bowled four four-game qualifying rounds over four days across multiple centers in the Indianapolis area, with 16-game pinfall totals determining who was continuing their run Friday.

Tensions were high and emotions flowed freely at all six competition venues – All Star Bowl; Championship Lanes; Expo Bowl; Strike Force Lanes; Western Bowl; and Woodland Bowl – as bowlers tried to solidify their spots in the next round.

Qualifying in the books
U15 Boys
Keegan Alexander of Killeen, Texas (pictured above), finished as the top qualifier in the boys division for U15, shooting 859 during Round 4 to finish qualifying with a 3,435 total, a 214.69 average.

Keegan is no stranger to strong performances at Junior Gold, having placed third in 2018 and fifth in 2019, both in U12.

Landin Jordan of Sycamore, Illinois, was second with 3,420. KC Campbell of Newark, New Jersey (3,351), Aidan Furukawa of Sunbury, Ohio (3,317), and Sebastian Huffman of Las Vegas (3,244) rounded out the top five.

Anthony Hornick of Davidson, North Carolina, started the day in 79th place and was just hoping to make the cut. He ended the day in prime position to make a run at both the final advancers round and possibly match play as his 930 set Thursday moved him all the way up to 18th place with 3,153.

Ethan Gibbons of Piney Flats, Tennessee, rolled 832 in the final round, which included 234 during his last game, to finish qualifying one pin ahead of the cut with 2,938.

Nihal Mareedu of Union City, California, earned the final spot in U15 with a 2,937 total, a 183.56 average.

A total of 90 boys in the U15 division made the first cut and will travel to Expo Bowl on Friday morning at 7:30 a.m. Eastern and bowl five additional games. After that set, the field will be cut to the top 56 bowlers for an additional five-game block, starting at 1:30 p.m. Eastern.

At the end of the final advancers round, the top 16 boys will advance to the double-elimination bracket, which gets underway Friday at 7:30 p.m. Eastern, also at Expo Bowl.

U15 Girls
Erin Klemencic of Powder Springs, Georgia, used a 929 effort Thursday to vault to the top of the standings in the girls division for U15. Her four-day total of 3,302 was 145 pins higher than that of her closest challenger, and it made her the only player in the division to finish qualifying with an average over 200 (206.38).

Kayla Starr of Crofton, Maryland, secured second place with 3,157. Kaitlyn Stull of Raleigh, North Carolina (3,142), Melia Mitskavich of Du Bois, Pennsylvania (3,141), and Keira Magsam of Gretna, Nebraska (3,131), rounded out the top five.

Victorya White of Oak Harbor, Washington, went from being outside the cut line in 69th place to start the day to nearly inside of the top 25 by day’s end thanks to a final-round set of 830 that included games of 224 and 233 to finish. She finished qualifying in 26th place with 2,906.

Allie Salter of Menoken, North Dakota, also went over the 200 mark during her final game, and she needed every bit of it as her closing 213 gave her a four-day total of 2,831, which earned her the 43rd and final spot in the advancers round. She averaged 176.94 for her 16 games.

The U15 girls will head to Western Bowl on Friday for their first advancers round, starting at 7:30 a.m. Eastern. They also will bowl five games to determine the top 28 moving on to the final advancers round at 1:30 p.m. Eastern. Five more games will determine the top 16 girls moving on to match play, which kicks off Friday at 7:30 p.m. Eastern at Western Bowl.

U12 Girls
Larielle Tharps of Orlando, Florida, may have only had the fourth-highest block in the girls division of U12 on Friday with 692, but that was enough to put her atop the overall standings at the end of qualifying with a 2,704 total, a 169 average.

Anna Antony of Farmington, Connecticut, put up 669 on Thursday to finish qualifying in second place with 2,702. Bella Castillo of Odessa, Texas, laid claim to the highest mark of Round 4, a 732 set, that moved her into third place with 2,689. Ahria Treschl of Medford, New York, was fourth with 2,654, and Baylie Massingill of Troy, Ohio, was fifth with 2,652, which was helped in large part by a final-round 698.

Aleiya Kerrigan of Ashland, Virginia, was the final bowler to make the cut among U12 girls. She finished in 14th place with a four-day total of 2,451, a 153.19 average.

The 14 bowlers who made the cut will bowl one four-game advancers round at Strike Force Lanes on Friday at 7:30 a.m. Eastern. From there, the top eight players will advance to match play, which begins at Strike Force at 2:30 p.m. Eastern. By the end of competition Friday, the top three players in both the boys and girls division for U12 will be determined for Saturday’s stepladder finals.

Cut Watch
U18 Boys
Heading into Thursday’s final round of qualifying, it was taking an average of 193.5 per game to secure the 167th and final position inside the cut in the boys division for U18. Assuming Thursday’s scoring pace doesn’t make a significant move in either direction, it’s a safe bet that a 16-game score of around 3,100 will be needed in order to advance to the next round.

Entering play on Thursday, nearly 600 players in the field were within 1,000 pins of that mark. Considering the fact that multiple players have already broken the 1,000-pin mark during qualifying rounds at this year’s tournament, and you arrive at the reasonable conclusion that hundreds of players still hold a fighting chance at making this year’s first cut.

Spencer Robarge of Springfield, Missouri, nearly got himself to the 1,000-pin threshold on Thursday, shooting games of 246, 246, 269 and 238 to come in one pin short at 999. Ryan Speer of Beech Grove, Indiana, put up some big numbers as well, starting with 269 and closing with 286 en route to a final-round 945.

Robarge finished qualifying with a 3,376 total, and Speer finished with 3,366.

Alexander Evans of Jacksonville, Florida, made one of the biggest moves of the day in the division. Evans started the final round on the outside of the cut looking in, but after finishing with 940 to push his four-day total to 3,240, he should be comfortably through to the next round.

The same can be said for Christopher Matthews of Charlotte, North Carolina, who used a closing-round 902 to move inside the number as well at 3,216.

When all is said and done, 167 U18 boys will move to the first advancers round, which will be held at Western Bowl on Friday morning at 7:30 a.m. Eastern. Of those 167, only the top 64 will move through to the final advancers round at 1:30 p.m. Eastern. Finally, one more cut will be made, and the top 16 will advance to match play starting at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

Update (July 16, 2021): Kyle Pranger of Rockford, Michigan, and Nathan Christensen of York, Nebraska, tied for the final spot with a 3,097 total, a 193.56 average.

U18 Girls
The average needed in order to stay inside the cut in the girls division for U18 was 181.58 per game through the first three rounds of qualifying. Again, assuming the scoring pace holds somewhat close to that same range Thursday, a score of around 2,900 would be needed to advance through to the next round.

With scores in the 900 range quite possible from bowlers in this talented field, more than 250 players entered Thursday’s action within possible striking distance.

A total of 80 girls will advance out of qualifying to take part in the advancers round, which will begin at 7:30 a.m. Eastern on Friday at Expo Bowl. Once those five games are finished, the top 52 girls will make it through to the final advancers round at 1:30 p.m. Eastern. From there, the top 16 will advance to match play starting at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

Update (July 16, 2021): Brooklinn Chavez of Plainfield, Illinois, and Maribeth Baker of York, Pennsylvania, tied for the final spot with a 2,909 total, a 181.81 average.

U12 Boys
A 166.58 average is what it took to remain inside the cut in the boys division for the U12 field during the first three days. However, the early scoring pace was trending higher during Thursday’s early qualifying rounds, making it look like the cut was likely to land somewhere around 2,700 for 16 games.

Matteo Quintero of Smyrna, Tennessee, authored another solid round, putting up 790 during his final block to finish with a 16-game total of 3,221. Jos Weems of Chicago was successful on Thursday as well, finishing with 774 to end qualifying at 3,035.

Ridgely Potter of Clearwater, Florida, made an aggressive move inside the cut line, using a closing 763 to finish with a four-day total of 2,832. But perhaps the biggest round of the day came from Benjamin Linares of Cary, North Carolina, whose 721 moved him to 2,721, which could be enough to make it through to the next round.

The 28 bowlers who advance out of qualifying will be at Strike Force Lanes at 7:30 a.m. on Friday for a four-game advancers round. Eight bowlers will survive that portion of the event and then move on to match play, which is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m.

Update (July 16, 2021): Emmanuel Guevara of Largo, Florida, earned the final spot into the next round with a 2,655 total, a 165.94 average.

Cut-day pressures hit parents, too
With only four games left to determine who gets tickets to the advancers rounds versus who gets tickets home, it’s natural for bowlers to show up on Day 4 of qualifying with some extra butterflies in their stomachs.

But what a lot of people may not appreciate is just how difficult cut day is for the loved ones standing on the concourse watching, hoping and calculating, trying to determine whether or not the bowler they’re rooting on is going to make it through.

”We definitely spend a lot of time hitting the refresh button on the standings page on cut day,” said Stephanie Waldon-Alexander, mother of top qualifier Keegan Alexander of Killeen, Texas (U15 boys). “This day is always very stressful. There’s a lot of pacing, and I also do this thing where I sort of bounce in place with nervous energy.

“We’re lucky to have a good core group of people who we travel with. Everybody is so supportive. No matter how anyone is bowling, we always text to make sure we know what’s going on. Even though Keegan’s doing well, I’m still stressed.”

For the lucky ones like Waldon-Alexander, the stress is abated when the standings are updated and confirm that Keegan sits atop his division and is easily moving on to the next round.

For parents like Jason Riddle of Louisville, Kentucky, who is here with his son, first-time participant William Riddle, the mood is different because they know that William needs a big final round to make the cut in U18.

“He’s still got a shot, but he probably needs to shoot something like 130 over today,” Jason Riddle predicts. “It’s nerve-wracking sitting back here watching and hoping that he can make the proper adjustments and right ball changes. I know what to do, but he’s the one out there throwing the ball.

“It would mean everything if he advanced, because it was something that I was never able to do, since we didn’t have Junior Gold when I was growing up. Still, I’m proud of him no matter what.”

Nearly perfect
Zach Greim of Poway, California, tried to add his name to the list of bowlers to record perfect games at the 2021 Junior Gold Championships on Friday. Unfortunately, it was not to be for Greim, who was forced to settle for 299 at Western Bowl. Still, Greim’s stellar game helped him remain rooted right near the top of the standings in the boys division for U18 and in prime position to make a run toward match play on Friday.

He finished qualifying with games of 268, 299, 202 and 267 for a 1,036 total and overall effort of 3,674, a 229.63 average.

This year’s 300 games at Junior Gold belong to Jeremy Kinealy of St. Louis (U20); Carter Street of Dublin, Ohio (U18); Ian Cain of Livonia, Michigan (U18); and Junior Team USA member Jillian Martin of Stow, Ohio (U16).


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About Me

Brian grew up in New York before moving to Phoenix, AZ in 1991. He has been involved in writing for his own bowling publication called “Striking Spotlight.” He has been published in the Desert Bowler Newspaper, Windy City News Newspaper and the Bowlers Journal. Hirsch is a Youth Director in the Kenosha USBC and a former Director for the Metro Phoenix USBC. As a Level 1 and RVP USBC coach, he can be found coaching his wife Amber and their son Masen each Saturday morning. Hirsch currently has (6) 300’s and (4) 800’s and is a member of the International Gay Bowling Organization where he is a five-time IGBO Champion and a six-time Arizona State Grand Canyon State Games Medalist. The Hirsch’s moved to Wisconsin to be closer to family and assist the Freedom Farm for Vets. Hirsch’s home bowling center is Sheridan Lanes, located in Kenosha, WI.


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