BY GENE J. KANAK
2022 JUNIOR GOLD NOTEBOOK – ROUND 3
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The action heated up at the 2022 Junior Gold Championships Wednesday as bowlers in all three age-based divisions (18-and-under, 15-and-under and 12-and-under) attempted to use the third qualifying block to position themselves inside or within striking distance of the cut line prior to Thursday’s final four games of qualifying.
Melia Mitskavich of Du Bois, Pennsylvania, is still tops in the U18 girls field. She fired a solid four-game total of 818 Wednesday to get to a first-place score of 2,574.
Haley Lindley of Greenwood, South Carolina, moved into second place thanks to an 847 block that featured games of 202, 213, 211 and 221. Lindley currently sits at 2,545.
Brooke Salzman of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, held onto third place, using a final-game 235 to get to 797 for Wednesday’s set and 2,528 overall.
Brianna Rogers of Florence, South Carolina, shot 855 and moved all the way up to fourth place with 2,526.
Jillian Martin of Stow, Ohio, a Junior Team USA member who led U18 girls qualifying and rolled a 300 at the 2021 Junior Gold Championships in Indianapolis, holds fifth place with 2,517.
Carter Street of Dublin, Ohio, maintained his lead in U18 boys competition, rolling 879 Wednesday to run his first-place total to 2,769.
Joseph Spagnola of Barnegat, New Jersey, moved back into the top five. He fired games of 279, 247, 223 and 219 for a 968 set that moved him all the way up to second place with 2,721.
Chris LeSueur of Kent, Ohio, is one spot back at 2,703 after shooting 846 Wednesday. Bobby Habetler of Chicago (2,674) and Ashton Yamasaki of Portland, Oregon, (2,650) hold the remaining spots in the U18 boys top five.
Kaitlyn Stull of Raleigh, North Carolina, used Wednesday’s third round of qualifying to continue the exceptional bowling that moved her into first place in the U15 girls standings the day before.
Stull closed with 266 enroute to a round-best 903 that kept her in first place with a three-day total of 2,586.
Gianna Brandolino of Joliet, Illinois, stayed in second place, shooting 878 Wednesday to bring her overall score to 2,558.
Katelyn Abigania of San Diego fired 880 to move up two spots to third place with 2,505. Fellow San Diegan Avery Domaguin is fourth with 2,479. Abigail Starkey of Schaumburg, Illinois, rounds out the U15 girls top five with 2,390.
Two new names were placed atop the U15 boys leaderboard Wednesday as Christian Mouton of Wesley Chapel, Florida, and Kai Strothers of Maplewood, New Jersey, found themselves tied for first place with 2,574.
Mouton earned his share of the lead by rolling a block-best 946 with games of 205, 257, 247 and 237. Strothers, last year’s U12 boys runner up, used a round-three score of 898 to end the day tied with Mouton for first.
Cadyn Pranger of Rockford, Michigan, is one spot back at 2,548. Nicholas Schaberg of Holt, Michigan, (2,541) and defending U15 boys champion Landin Jordan of Sycamore, Illinois, (2,519) are in fourth and fifth place, respectively.
Anna Antony of Farmington, Connecticut, increased her lead in the U12 girls standings Wednesday, using a third-round 747 to get to 2,351 for the tournament.
The next two places in the standings remained intact also with Makanalei Carrick of Waianae, Hawaii, holding on to second place with 2,093 and Ashlyn Henry of Fayetteville, North Carolina, just behind with 2,091 to stay in third.
Nevertheless, two newcomers did manage to work themselves into the U12 girls top five by the time action ended Wednesday.
Kourtlyn Hopkins of Dickinson, Texas, used a final-game 182 to get to a fourth-place total of 1,967 while Avani Rowan of Bradenton, Florida, fired a block-best 753 to move into fifth place with 1,958.
Ridgely Potter Jr. of Clearwater, Florida, shot a four-game total of 833 during Wednesday’s third round of qualifying, giving him 2,526 overall and keeping him atop the U12 boys standings for the third day in a row.
Miles Gordon of Columbus, Ohio, remained in second place. He opened with 255 and closed with 222 enroute to an 819 set that moved him to 2,357 for the tournament.
Dawson Kohl of Dyersville, Iowa, was the man on the move Wednesday, shooting 214, 201, 242 and 204 for a third-round best 861 that moved him all the way up to third place with 2,336.
Do Hoon Kwan of Vancouver, Washington, moved into fourth place at 2,270. Ryan Campbell of Clinton, South Carolina, is fifth with 2,248.
Cut lines beginning to come into focus with one qualifying round remaining
Although the Junior Gold experience is about having fun during competition, at the end of the day, everybody wants to win.
Thursday’s final four-game qualifying block will determine who keeps their dreams of victory alive for at least one more day and who will have to put those goals aside for at least another year.
That’s because each age-based division (18-and-under, 15-and-under and 12-and-under) will cut its field down after Thursday’s action. The number of bowlers moving on to Friday’s advancers round is different in each division and is based upon the total number of participants in that division.
Here is a look at how the cut situation stands in each group heading into the final round of qualifying:
The 569-bowler U18 girls field will be cut down to the top 82 scores after Thursday’s final four games of qualifying.
Currently, Mackenzie Keane of East Brunswick, New Jersey, and Mya Duhamel of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, are tied for the the final qualifying position. Both have posted 2,191 through the first three days of competition.
However, there are still 37 bowlers within 50 pins of the final qualifying spot and 79 bowlers within 100. That means it’s still possible for several bowlers to jump inside the cut number or to fall below it by the time Thursday’s action is completed.
The U18 boys field is the largest at the 2022 Junior Gold Championships with 1,208 competitors shoeing up and vying for this year’s title. The top 172 will move on to the advancers round and keep those championship hopes alive past Thursday.
Dominic Montoya of Las Vegas is lucky No. 172 as the final round of qualifying action is set to begin. His three-day total was 2,342.
Montoya will have plenty of pursuers to hold off as there are there are still 73 bowlers within 50 pins of his total and another 95 bowlers within 100.
The U15 girls field started with 307 bowlers, which means only the top 44 will remain in contention after Thursday.
Taylor Lietha of Winona, Minnesota, currently holds the final ticket to the advancers round. In order to keep it, she’ll have to fend off 21 bowlers within 50 pins of her three-day total of 2,094. Another 25 bowlers sit within 100 pins of Lietha’s mark.
In U15 boys action, the top 90 bowlers will advance from a field that started with 630 competitors.
David Mitts Jr. of Virginia Beach, Virginia, holds the final advancing spot at this point. He earned that position by authoring a three-day mark of 2,223.
Nevertheless, there are 48 bowlers within 50 pins of Mitts’ total and 90 bowlers within 100, leaving Mitts with plenty of work to do if he hopes to maintain his position inside the cut line.
The U12 girls division is the smallest at the 2022 Junior Gold Championships with 109 participants on its roster; consequently, only the top 16 bowlers will make it to Friday’s advancers round.
Alexandra McCowan of Anaheim, California, currently sits in 16th position with a three-day score of 1,860, but there are still four bowlers within 50 pins of her total and another eight players within 100. That means several U12 girls remain in the hunt with one round of qualifying to go.
Last, but certainly not least, the U12 boys division will advance the top 33 scores from its 227-player field.
Cayden Sylvester of Palm Bay, Florida, would’ve been the final bowler through to the U12 boys advancers round if qualifying action were already completed. He authored a score of 2,032 over the first three rounds of qualifying to secure 33rd place.
However, qualifying action isn’t over just yet, and with ten bowlers within 50 pins of Sylvester’s total and 20 bowlers within 100, clearly, there is still plenty left to be decided.
Taillon taking patient approach to title defense
No matter where they come from, what age-based division they’re in or what their current skill level is, just about every competitor dreams about what it would feel like to become a Junior Gold champion.
Savannah Taillon of Concord, North Carolina, doesn’t have to dream; she got to experience that feeling firsthand after she captured the U15 girls title at the 2021 Junior Gold Championships in Indianapolis.
While winning is always a good thing, last year’s victory put Taillon in position to view this year’s tournament from a new and very different perspective, one that most competitors never have to contend with: That perspective is what it feels like to come to Junior Gold as a defending champion.
After achieving the best possible outcome last year, it would have been easy for Taillon, a member of 2022 Developmental Junior Team USA, to come to Grand Rapids expecting, or even demanding, more of the same this year.
That is not, however, the way Taillon has chosen to approach this year’s tournament. On the contrary, she’s attempted to keep her expectations as grounded as possible.
“Coming in this year is a little bit different since I’ve moved up to the U18 division,” Taillon said. “So while I’d like to expect to do as well as I did last year, you really can’t do that when you’re moving up and competing against girls who have been in this division for three years.”
Through three rounds of qualifying, Taillon finds herself in 107th place in the U18 girls standings. That means she’ll have to put together a solid block on Thursday if she hopes to move into the top 82, which would allow her to make the cut and keep her title defense alive.
However, defending the title is the furthest thing from Taillon’s mind; instead, she’s just focused on trying to make the cut, which was the same goal she employed last year.
“My goal last year was just to make the first cut, and everything after that was bonus. Obviously, because of the way things ended up going, there was a lot of bonus,” Taillon said. “Still, my goal this year remains just to make the first cut.
“It’s not that I don’t think that I can have more success than that because I know that I can, but this year is more about getting used to the new division, meeting new people and having some fun with it. I’m not super stressed feeling like I have to come out here and win again.”
Junior Gold veteran enjoying the Grand Rapids experience
Competing at Junior Gold is nothing new for Elizabeth Weeks of Florence, South Carolina, as this year’s event marks her fourth tournament appearance.
As such, Weeks knows the ins and outs of competition and how each host city and its bowling centers put their own unique spin on the Junior Gold experience.
Although Weeks enjoyed bowling in Indianapolis, Detroit and Dallas, she is finding certain aspects of the Grand Rapids experience to be even more to her liking.
“My family and I like to explore the local places to eat and unique things to do in the host cities for Junior Gold,” Weeks said. “Yesterday, we found a great Japanese restaurant near AMF Eastbrook; it was really good.”
But aside from enjoying the entertainment and local cuisine, Weeks has been pleased and impressed with the accommodations provided by this year’s crop of Junior Gold host bowling centers as well.
“It’s nice that we’re only having to compete at two different centers for qualifying this year instead of three or four,” Weeks said. “But we’ve visited some of the other centers to watch some squads when I’m not bowling, and those centers have all been very nice as well. I think that this year’s tournament has been really great so far.”
Weeks is hoping to have a big day Thursday in order to get inside the cut and extend her Junior Gold experience in Grand Rapids. Currently, Weeks is in 93rd place with a three-day total of 2,180.
She’ll need to crack the top 82 in order to advance. Heading into Thursday’s final qualifying round, Mackenzie Keane of East Brunswick, New Jersey, and Mya Duhamel of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, were tied for 82nd place in the U18 girls standings with 2,191.