By MICHAEL CARNES
For the Herald
LINCOLN — Winning state titles never gets old.
Just ask Wayne High bowling coach Josh Johnson, who had to load up two more trophies in the school vans early Wednesday morning to bring back to Wayne America after both teams made it to the finals of the Nebraska State Bowling Championships at Sun Valley Lanes.
Capping the long day was the girls team, who continued their dominance of the sport in Nebraska by winning their fourth consecutive title and second in Class B competition.
“It never gets old,” a relieved Johnson said in a phone interview Wednesday morning.
“It’s a brand new experience every time we do it. All the excitement and stress is the same, but this one is as sweet as any of them.”
Both teams make finals
On Tuesday, both Wayne High teams were the top seed in their respective brackets, and the girls handled themselves the way a defending champion does, rolling to a fourth straight title with a pair of 3-0 shutouts and 3-1 wins in their final two matches.
It was not easy, however — all 16 of the teams competing in the boys and girls knockout brackets had to work with a challenging oil pattern that made it tough for anybody to get on a consistent roll.
“I don’t think either team thinks they bowled well, but it was a tough pattern and it was survival of the fittest out there,” Johnson said.
That made it tough on everyone, including the coach.
“Every game, there was a time ;where I thought we got it and then a couple of frames later wasn’t sure,” he said. “It was back-and-forth and there is so much experience on this (girls) team and nothing flaps them. They came back and did their thing and kept the pressure on other teams and that experience helped.”
The Blue Devil girls swept Seward and Northwest and took the first two games against Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family before the Bulldogs won the third game. Wayne came right back in the finale to move on to the championship finals.
The Blue Devils took care of business once again, building a quick 2-0 lead before the Wolves avoided the sweep with a third-game victory. The final game was a rough one for both sides, with the two teams combining for 12 open frames. Wayne finished it off and celebrated on the lanes as they wrapped up a fourth consecutive state championship season.
“It was a really hard pattern and something we’d never seen before so we didn’t know how to take care of business right away, but we got it figured out,” senior Jersi Jensen said.
“We got some crucial spares and strikes and got that edge, but it was a rough day with that oil pattern,” senior Nina Hammer added.
Wayne had the championship secured by the time Jensen bowled her final ball, leaving three pins but feeling a lot of emotions afterward.
“It was a really bad ball but it got the job done,” she said. “As I was throwing it, I was feeling sad and happy at the same time.”
The win capped an outstanding career for Jensen, who was part of each of the four state championship teams and reached the singles final three times, winning two gold and one silver.
“That’s a great career, and she’s just as impressive off the lanes with her character and leadership,” Johnson said.
His other senior was a late addition to the team, joining as a sophomore. She had a breakout year last year as a junior, finishing fourth in state singles.
“She really took off last year as a junior and has had great success for us,” Johnson said. “You only go as far as your leaders will take you, and these two worked hard on it and did a great job.”
Boys comeback falls short
While the Wayne High girls rolled to their championship, the Wayne High boys started off as the top seed and made quick work of Kearney with a four-game win, but were upset by fourth-seeded Northwest, who swept the young Blue Devil team and sent them to the losers bracket.
The Blue Devils picked it up when it was win-or-go-home time, beating Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family in four games, sweeping York and then avenging their loss to Northwest with a four-game win to go to the finals.
Although their finals experience ended early in a three-game loss to Seward, Johnson said they did a fantastic job considering the team’s youth and inexperience.
“The boys were very disappointed last night, and I told them they’re so young and yet they made it to the state finals and get to bring home hardware,” Johnson said. “We have five freshman, a sophomore and a couple of juniors on this team, and there is so much youth and talent and this is a great experience.”
Getting to the championship despite the youth will serve the team well down the road, Johnson assured them.
“It helps to go through the nerves that come with competing at state, and these guys grew up out there and I think in a few days they’ll realize what they accomplished,” he said. “I’m super proud of the work they did, all year an yesterday.”
Class B State Bowling Championships at Sun Valley Lanes, Lincoln
Boys First Round
(1) Wayne def. (8) Kearney, 3-1
(4) Northwest def. (5) York, 3-2
(3) Elkhorn North def. (6) Humphrey/LHF, 3-1
(2) Seward def. (7) Hartington-Newcastle, 3-1
Northwest def. Wayne, 3-0
Seward def. Elkhorn North, 3-2
Winners Bracket Final
Seward def. Northwest, 3-1
York def. Kearney, result NA
Humphrey/LHF def. Hartington-Newcastle, 3-2
York def. Elkhorn North, 3-2
Wayne def. Humphrey-LHF 3-1
Wayne def. York 3-0
Wayne def. Northwest, 3-1
Seward def. Wayne, 3-0
Girls First Round
(1) Wayne def. (8) Seward, 3-0
(4) Northwest def. (5) York 3-2
(3) Elkhorn North def. (6) Omaha Duchesne, 3-0
(2) Humphrey/LHF def. (7) Arapahoe, 3-1
Wayne def. Northwest, 3-0
Humphrey/LHF def. Elkhorn North, 3-2
Winners Bracket Final
Wayne def. Humphrey/LHF, 3-1
York def. Seward, 3-1
Omaha Duchesne def. Arapahoe, result NA
Elkhorn North def. York, 3-1
Northwest def. Omaha Duchesne, 3-0
Elkhorn North def. Northwest, 3-1
Wayne def. Elkhorn North, 3-1