It’s hard to fathom how a tight-knit group of elementary school friends from a tiny village in Champaign County could become high rollers during their high school years.
But that’s exactly what Mechanicsburg seniors Katie Bush, Michaela Edwards and Lauren Mayberry have done — high rolling their school into the state prep sports spotlight.
The senior trio will lead the Indians girls bowling team into its third straight Division II state tournament this morning at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl. They hope to win the second state team title of their careers. Their first came as sophomores, and is the school’s only team state title.
Undefeated for their careers in dual meets, the trio has far exceeded expectations. Being Katie’s dad, coach Dave Bush knew when he took over the girls program six seasons ago that he had some talent in the pipeline.
“I kind of knew that group was coming, but I had no idea what was in store for us,” he said. “I knew they meshed pretty good; they were friends even back then. They’ve been bowling together ever since they were old enough to bowl in youth leagues, maybe 6, 7 years old.
“It’s rare to get a good group of girls like that.”
Even more rare is the friendship they have.
“I think it’s just because we are like sisters already, and we know how to pick each other up.” said Edwards in explaining their success.
“I’ve been on plenty of teams, and us three are the closest of any of my teams,” said Katie Bush, a multi-sport athlete who won the individual district championship last week with a 693 series. Edwards (618) and Mayberry (514) also placed high for the Indians, as did junior Ally Hosier (661) and sophomore Miranda Keene (534). “Just the friendship we’ve built and how strong we are, it helps a lot.
“A team has to be a family; once you bowl like a family, you’ll be successful; if you don’t you are not going to do well,” she continued. “We have fun all the time. At tournaments, you see teams that don’t eat together We’re always together. We enjoy being together.”
Added Mayberry: “We all have the same motivation and the same goals and ambitions and we kind of bond over all our similarities.”
The amount of practice they commit to also helps.
“If we are not in school or hanging out together and bonding, we’re always practicing,” said Mayberry.
She also talked about their improbable journey.
“It’s been pretty awesome,“ Mayberry said. “We didn’t get out of sectionals at all the first year, then had a senior graduate and didn’t expect much as sophomores. We set goals for ourselves every year, and that year our goal was just to make it to state.”
A state championship changed everything.
“Everyone kind of knows who we are now, so there is like a target on our backs,“ said Mayberry. “There’s some pre-match pressure. But once we’re bowling together, we go one frame at a time, picking each other up.”
Regardless of today’s outcome, the trio knows they have something that will last a lifetime.
“This is probably the most amazing thing I’ve had happen in my life,“ said Edwards. “I’ll never find another team like this one. In college, I know I’ll have a team, but it can never be like this one.”
Added Katie Bush: “It would be nice to end our senior year playing for a state title.”
But if not…
“I want to win, but if we don’t its OK because we’ve already done so much,” said Edwards.
Northwestern won the district team title and will also compete today. Senior Elizabeth Sakaitis led the way with a 667 series. She was aided by strong three-game scores from freshman Megan Fricke (610) and juniors Ashlyn Stollings (565) and Kristen Williams (528).
Kenton Ridge just missed a state berth as a team, finishing fourth with the top three teams advancing. The Cougars would have advanced by last year’s standards as the top four teams advanced in 2015. But a drop in the number of teams competing in 2016 also meant a drop in the number of state qualifiers.
KR junior Jessica Pitt (677) joins Urbana senior Paige Stokes (670) as individual state qualifiers.