Hammons claims District silver medal
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
Kelsey Hammons was a bit of a secret for the Manheim Central bowling team this season.
As a sophomore on a veteran squad, she didn’t compete in all of the Barons’ games.
But last Friday, she was Central’s secret weapon.
After placing third with a six-game series of 1289 in the girls singles qualifying rounds at the District Three Championships, Hammons advanced to the championship game and eventually took the silver medal, suffering a 217-194 loss to Lancaster Mennonite’s Chelsey Merklinger at ABC North Lanes in Harrisburg.
"It was one of those things that I couldn’t get her a lot of games all year because of the team that I did have," Manheim Central coach Chuck Ruhl remarked. "I knew she had the potential to do well and she put it together and really bowled well."
Barons’ senior Aerika High also bowled well, as she posted a six-game series of 179-206-191-228-162-208 and placed 13th wit a total score of 1174 in the qualifying round. Unfortunately, she was unable to move on to the bracket finals, finishing just 54 pins behind the last qualifier, Sydney Herrman of Central Dauphin, who was sixth with a 1228.
"(Her score) wasn’t bad," Ruhl said. "She really wasn’t that far out of the top six. She missed some spares that she normally doesn’t miss. But that’s part of it – some days you have it and some days you don’t."
For Hammons, Saturday was a time that she most certainly had it. Taking a season average of 187 into Districts, she shattered that mark in five of her six games in the qualifying round with scores of 200-223-276-204-183-203. Her total was just 55 pins behind Penn Manor’s second-place Liz Burkholder and 93 pins back of first-place Merklinger, who both earned a first-round bye in the bracket finals.
"All day long, she was really focused on what she knows she had to do," Ruhl said.
Every game, the bowlers changed to a different pair of lanes. That certainly didn’t hurt Hammons in her 276 game, when she bowled a strike, then followed with a spare and finished with nine straight strikes.
"That lane was obviously set up for the way she threw the ball and she was right in the pocket with the ball and stuff and carried the strikes," Ruhl said.
Hammons continued to gain momentum in the quarter-finals, knocking off Herrman 194-162 to punch her ticket to the semi-finals.
"She had seen that (Herrman) missed some spares," Ruhl said, "and I kept telling her, ‘Just keep picking up your spares. Even if you don’t get strikes, pick up your spares and you can win this game.’ And she obviously went on to win it."
That set her up for a showdown against second-seeded Burkholder with a trip to the championship match at stake, and Hammons continued to work her magic with a 215-169 victory.
"There again in that game, Liz had two or three frames that she missed some spares that she normally doesn’t miss," Ruhl remarked. "I guess it’s the pressure of being there to get to that next game."
Unfortunately, Hammons’ bid for a District gold medal fell a little short after losing by 23 pins to Merklinger (a 279-149 winner over Muhlenberg’s Brooke Franco in the semis) for all the marbles. There were two frames in that match – one in which she missed the 10 pin and one where she recorded a five on her first ball – which Hammons would have liked back.
"Either one of those spares could have put her in position to win the tournament," Ruhl said.
By tournament’s end, however, Hammons was no longer a secret.
"(Kelsey) has the ability to bowl that on a regular basis and I wouldn’t say that it exceeded my expectations, but I was glad for her because she kept focused throughout the day and knew what she had to do," Ruhl said. "She did do well when I brought her in during the season, and right now, she’s still climbing the ladder as far as bowling well here at the end of the season."
Hammons, High and Ryan Alcala will be competing for Manheim Central at the Regional Championships this Friday, March 1, while Zach Adams, Nick Sham and Brandi Whitmyer will be representing Warwick. The top 12 finishers at Regionals for both the boys and girls will advance to States. More HAMMONS, page B-3