Jan. 26—OTTUMWA — If it was to be the last time they would compete together at Champion Bowl, the senior members of the Ottumwa High School bowling program were going to enjoy the day.
The Bulldog girls made plenty of noise throughout Thursday's Iowa Alliance Conference south division dual against Des Moines North with five of the six varsity bowlers leading the charge as five of the eight seniors honored after action had concluded on the lanes against Polar Bears. Back in action for the first time since before the holiday break, the Ottumwa girls posted a team score 2,897 winning by over 1,500 pins against a short-handed North squad.
"I've never had a class of this many seniors before," Ottumwa head girls bowling coach Doug Techel said. "They've been a big part of our program for the past four years. They've been bowling together even longer than that. To see where they've come from where they've started, I'm very proud of what they've done."
Olivia Moughler, Madi Greene, Brooklyn Welch, Katelin Valentine and Hannalee Songer have established the Class of 2024 as one of the best to come through the Ottumwa bowling program. In each of their first three years, the current seniors have competed for state championships winning the title as freshmen in 2021 before finishing as the state runner-up in each of the past two seasons.
"It says a lot for them and it says a lot about our program," Techel said. "They'd love to book-end their run with state titles. Of course, we have to get there first."
Setting a goal of 2,875 in their first competition in over a month, Ottumwa surpassed that goal with a pair of solid closing baker games rolling a 203 in the fourth baker round before finishing with a 192. All the way through the meet, with no doubt about the final outcome, the Bulldogs continued to bring the noise with every key strike and solid spare picked up during the dual.
"Part of it was that we wanted to go out there and bowl one more time with your family," Greene said. "We're down to our final few meets together. I think it's starting to set in that we don't have that much more time bowling together as an official team. We're getting closer to making it back to state and we're trying to get back into the swing of that."
Greene led the Bulldogs on Thursday with a two-game series total of 441, besting Songer by 38 pins with games of 206 and 235. Welch brought in Ottumwa's third-highest series total with a 389, including a 223 second game, while Valentine posted a 383 series score with a 202 in the closing game as Ottumwa posted a team score of 1,996 heading into bakers.
"We've bowled in leagues together in this house for so many years," Greene said. "To go out there and be together for our last home meet kind of hits you in your gut a little bit."
Brayden Hopkins, Daltin Maas and Tayte Walker were also honored as the three senior members of the Ottumwa boys bowling team. Back together for the first time this season with enough bowlers to put six on the lane for the varsity squad, the Bulldogs found themselves in a back-and-forth battle with North as Ottumwa went from a one-pin lead after one individual game to facing a 42-pin deficit heading into the baker rounds.
Things continued to swing back and forth through the bakers. Ottumwa used a run of five straight strikes to post a 194 opening game, taking a 25-pin lead over the Polar Bears, before three straight strikes in the second baker game by Aiden Khounchanh put North back up by 19 pins heading into the third baker game.
"North has a good bunch of kids. Both teams really interacted well," Ottumwa head boys bowling coach Tom Maher said. "Our boys kept battling. It's the first time we had everyone here and we did pretty well."
Ottumwa regained an 11-pin lead heading into the fourth baker game after posting a 190 with five strikes in the first six frames of the third baker game. North, however, made the run that decided the dual throwing seven straight strikes in the fourth baker game posting a 258 on the way to a 2,770 total and a 78-pin win over the valiant Bulldogs.
"Having that feeling that we can compete with the rest of our team back gave us a huge boost," Walker said. "We saw how close it was heading into bakers. You're always going to have some ups and downs, but we kept our heads up and shot a decent score."
Aiden Hoskins led the Ottumwa boys with a 209 average, opening the day with a 220. Walker posted the top score among the Bulldog seniors with a 371 series total while younger brother Jayce Walker posted his two best games for the Ottumwa junior varsity, following a 144 up with a 171 for a personal-best 315 series total.
"Our seniors have all stepped up and have done really well. Brayden came back to bowling this year and has been a great team leader. Tayte has improved so much since his freshman year and Daltin has been a spark plug. They've all played their part this season."
Ottumwa is looking at potentially rescheduling its baker tournament next week, though nothing has been confirmed. The next competition currently scheduled for the Bulldogs is next Saturday's trip to Muscatine to compete in the Muskie Invitational.
— Scott Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.