SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - During the six games of trios competition Wednesday at the 2019 Pan American Bowling Confederation Youth Championships, a few teams were able to separate themselves from the rest of the field.
Then, it was a race to the finish line at the Sebelen Bowling Center, where the Junior Team USA girls and Colombia boys claimed the gold medals based on their six-game pinfall totals.
The excitement on the girls side included two teams - the United States and Puerto Rico - and the decision came down to the final frame.
Junior Team USA was down 32 pins after four games and entered the finale with a 45-pin advantage, before closing with a 612 effort and setting the bar with a 3,681 six-game total, a 204.5 team average.
The defending champion United States finished about three frames ahead and looked on, knowing a near-perfect final frame from Puerto Rico could cost them a second consecutive trios gold medal and second win in as many days in the Dominican Republic.
Needing a 658 final game, the Puerto Ricans still had a chance at the top spot with two bowlers to go in the 10th frame but ultimately fell short, finishing with a 625 game and 3,649 set.
Kamerin Peters maintained the momentum that helped her and Mabel Cummins to the doubles gold medal Tuesday and averaged more than 223 in trios to lead the team with a 1,342 individual total.
Caitlyn Johnson contributed a 1,226 set, and Kaitlyn Eder added a 1,113 total to complete the effort.
"Winning today does feel really good," Eder said. "I struggled a little bit, but it's nice to have teammates and know they support me. And, no matter what I do, I still have USA on my back, and it's an honor to represent my country."
Puerto Rico's silver-medal performance included Zoriani Reyes (1,301), Paulina Torres (1,229) and Pamela Perez (1,119). Colombia's Isabella Correa (1,171), Laura Garcia (1,150) and Ana Olaya (1,082) earned the bronze medal with a 3,403 total.
On the boys side, three teams - Mexico, Colombia and the United States - pulled ahead early and were separated by 37 pins after four games.
Mexico and Junior Team USA both posted Game 5 scores in the 520s, which allowed Colombia to surge into the lead for good with a 613 game.
Colombia, which led Mexico by 50 pins and the United States by 55 pins with one game to go, closed with a 566 effort to maintain the top spot.
Colombia's Felipe Gil (1,239), Mauricio Cabrera (1,186) and Sebastian Salazar (1,174) claimed the gold medal with a 3,599 total, Junior Team USA took the silver medal with 3,568 and Mexico settled for the bronze with 3,533.
Cortez Schenck led the way for the United States with a 1,257 total, and he was followed by Sean Wilcox (1,162) and Anthony Neuer (1,149). Mexico's effort included Sergio Barajas (1,201), Angel Basurto (1,198) and Roberto Perez (1,134).
With a few days of competition and information collecting already completed for the Junior Team USA girls, their game plan for attacking the 38-foot World Bowling Atlanta oil pattern was pretty much set before trios got underway.
Much of Wednesday's focus was on execution and minimizing mistakes, while making sure to verbalize their support on the good shots as well as the bad ones.
"Yesterday was a struggle at first, but we had a game plan and stuck with it, which eventually paid off with a strong finish," said Johnson, who teamed with Eder for this week's doubles silver medal. "Today, Kam just did her thing and continued to bowl well like she has all week. We just stuck behind her and supported her and did our best to stay in the pocket, make our spares and keep the errors to a minimum."
The teams now will turn their attention to the main event of the tournament, the six-game team competition, which will take place over two days.
All four team members and both coaches - Junior Team USA head coach Bryan O'Keefe and Team USA assistant coach Andy Diercks - will compete together for the first time all week. They'll be armed with four days of notes and the motivation that resulted from missing both team gold medals at the 2017 event in Mexico.
The girls and boys both earned bronze medals in the team event in 2017.
"We have good momentum going into tomorrow, and Mabel will be back with us after a really good day today, so we'll be even more confident," Johnson said. "If we stick to the game plan, make adjustments when we need to and stay open-minded, I think we'll be in good shape for the team event."
With four boys and four girls per team and only three roster spots for trios, that meant Junior Team USA's Cummins and Tom Hankey Jr. were not able to participate in the trios event Wednesday.
They did, however, get to complete the six games, which will work toward their all-events totals. Cummins posted a 1,197 set, and Hankey had 1,231.
U21 competition at the 22-lane bowling center resumes Thursday at 9 a.m. Eastern with the first three games of team competition. The Junior Team USA girls will take the lanes first, and the boys will get underway at 1 p.m.
They'll bowl their second three-game sets in the same order Friday, with squads at 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Eastern.
The 2019 PABCON Youth Championships includes two age-based categories - 16-and-under and 21-and-under - though the United States only is participating in the U21 category.
The U21 field this week features more than 80 competitors representing 12 countries on the boys side and 11 countries in the girls division.
Bowlers are competing for medals in singles, doubles, trios, team, all-events and Masters competition.
For more information on Junior Team USA, visit BOWL.com/JuniorTeamUSA.
PABCON includes competitors from North, Central and South America, along with the Caribbean.
For more information about the PABCON Youth Championships, visit PABCON.org.
2019 PABCON YOUTH CHAMPIONSHIPS
At Sebelen Bowling Center
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
TRIOS (six games)
GOLD - Kamerin Peters/Caitlyn Johnson/Kaitlyn Eder, United States, 3,681
SILVER - Paulina Torres/Pamela Perez/Zoriani Reyes, Puerto Rico, 3,649
BRONZE - Laura Garcia/Isabella Correa/Ana Olaya, Colombia, 3,403
GOLD - Felipe Gil/Mauricio Cabrera/Sebastian Salazar, Colombia, 3,599
SILVER - Cortez Schenck/Sean Wilcox/Anthony Neuer, United States, 3,568
BRONZE - Sergio Barajas/Angel Basurto/Roberto Perez, Mexico, 3,533