AJ Chapman of Manchester, Iowa, came out firing at the Teen Masters National Championships in Las Vegas, rolling the only 1300 six-game series in qualifying Saturday on a long sport pattern.
After a lower-than-expected finish at the Junior Gold Championships last month, Chapman knew he had to work out a few kinks in his game before arriving at the South Point Hotel and Casino bowling alley. His hard work immediately paid off, as he shot several games greater than 200 en route to a 1313 series while many of his fellow competitors struggled to grind out less impressive scores.
“My game has gotten better since last year,” Chapman said.
Meanwhile, on the girls’ side, Ashley Rucker of Bartlesville, Okl., and Elise Bolton of Merritt Island, Fla., found the demanding lane conditions equally to their liking. Rucker and Bolton pulled away from the rest of the field but could not put any distance between each other, as both rolled 1261.
All three leaders are not safe, however. In both the boys’ and girls’ divisions, scores after the first day are bunched, creating a potentially chaotic scenario for the second six games of qualifying, which will take place Sunday on a short pattern. Bowlers will try to leapfrog each other in an attempt to survive the first cut, which will limit the field to the top 33 percent of contestants in each division after 12 games. Advancing bowlers will roll an additional six games on combined long and short conditions Monday, and the top 32 boys and girls in each division will be seeded for match play competition.
Many of the competitors, including local favorite Zack Hattori and Chapman, said they expect the already relatively low scores to drop Sunday on the short pattern. Hattori tossed a 1225 set Saturday good enough for 17th place and hopes to rise in the standings, but noted that he would be content with simply making match play – not necessarily finishing as the qualifying leader.
“I think fourth or something is a good place to be in,” Hattori said. “Everybody wants to beat the guy who finishes first, and whoever bowls him isn’t going to have anything to lose. I’d rather go under the radar.”
For more Teen Masters information and results, please visit www.teenmastersbowling.com. America’s premier high school bowling event, the Teen Masters is sponsored by industry leaders Ebonite, Kegel and Dexter.