HIGH SCHOOL BOWLING
First-timers win state bowling titles
There was a coming-of-age party yesterday at the 32nd annual HHSAA/Billy Tees State Bowling Championships, as a couple of bridesmaids earned their moment in the spotlight.
Kapolei's Cherish Saunders won the girls individual title after three years as one of the state's top bowlers, and Mililani won its first team state championship after a couple of near misses, sweeping the boys and girls crowns.
"I feel like I finally fulfilled my grandparents' wishes," said an emotional Saunders. "I've been here before, and I guess it was what my grandfather (Herman Kila) said to me. He told me to do it for my grandma. She passed away my sophomore year, and I really wanted to do it for her. I hope she's proud of me."
Saunders did herself quite proud with a strong day on the lanes to win her first state championship after finishing fifth each of the past two years, rolling games of 186, 199 and 210 to average 198 for the day.
The senior caught fire over the weekend after finishing third in last week's OIA finals, knocking down 595 pins on Friday to leapfrog into first place after finishing the first day of the competition in third place.
"Everybody around me really helped out," Saunders said. "I felt a little nervous and intimidated by everyone else, but they kept me calm. I just tried to focus. If I missed, I missed, then I'd concentrate on the next ball."
Saunders' title is the fourth for Kapolei in the school's five years of competition. Shaina Carnate won in 2001 and 2003, while fellow Hurricane Samantha Masuda took home the title in 2002.
Kapolei also won the girls' team state championship in 2003.
"It makes me really happy," Saunders said. "I just wanted to represent Kapolei High School well."
Saunders would need just about each and every one of the 1,753 pins she collected for the day, as McKinley's Elyse Takashige was hot on her heels, finishing in second place by just 10 pins.
Takashige had the hottest hand of the day, averaging 210 in her three games to cozy up to Saunders, with scores of 188, 217, and 225. Takashige's performance was gratifying, after a tough league season this year, in which she averaged only 154.
But the junior started to build momentum at the OIA tournament, finishing 11th .
"Coming into states I was just trying to focus and trust myself," Takashige said. "I had a bad OIA season, and a really bad start to the year, I think I averaged in the 120s on the first day, but my team never gave up on me, and I wouldn't be here without them."
"For me, it's always been a game of spares," Takashige said. "I take the strikes that come and try not to miss the spares that I know I can get. Today, I think I only missed a couple that weren't splits."
Mililani enjoyed the biggest day of the first-time winners, claiming both team titles. The Trojan boys have long been a power in the OIA, winning three of the past four league championships, but the state crown remained elusive until yesterday, when they held off runner-up Punahou by nearly 200 pins.
The Trojan girls won by a similar margin, outscoring Pearl City 7,619 to 7,465 with a roster that featured no seniors to claim the OIA's sixth straight state championship.
"We've been coming so close the last two years," said Mililani co-captain Jamie Lara. "Last year we were third in OIAs and second in the states, and even though we're really a young team, we wanted to come through. The best part is that we'll have the exact same team for another year."
Maui High senior Jacob Davis was a surprise winner on the boys side. In just his second year of prep bowling, Davis drilled 1,792 pins to edge Mililani's Shaun Hamamura by 15 pins.
"I was a little nervous, but I knew I was in good position after yesterday," said Davis, who entered the final day in third place. "I'm just glad I was able to pull this off and be able to get a little recognition."