SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - The road may have been filled with some bumps and twists and turns, but at the end of the day, Junior Team USA came away with a pair of medals on the opening day of competition at the 2019 Pan American Bowling Confederation Youth Championships.
Left-hander Anthony Neuer claimed the first medal of the week for the United States, striking on his final six shots to secure the singles bronze medal on the boys side, while a hot start gave Kamerin Peters enough room to hold on for the bronze medal in the girls division.
A consistent day on the lanes at the Sebelen Bowling Center helped Jonaykel Conejo of Costa Rica take the boys title with a 1,296 six-game total, a 216 average. His games Monday ranged from 207 to 225.
The 21-year-old right-hander has had a successful 2019, which includes a singles bronze medal at the PABCON Men's Championships in April and a perfect game during the recent Pan American Games in Peru.
Mexico's Roberto Perez struck on his final fill ball Monday to edge past Neuer for the silver medal. He finished the six games with a 1,287 total, one pin ahead of Neuer (1,286).
Puerto Rico was dominant on the girls side, finishing first, second and fourth, but that easily could've been a sweep if not for the head start Peters got during the first three games.
Zoriani Reyes outdistanced the field and secured the gold medal with a 1,272 total, a 212 average. Her teammate Paulina Torres finished with a 215 game, the second-highest among the 39 competitors in Game 6, to take the silver medal with a 1,220 total. Pamela Perez landed 23 pins shy of the medal stand.
Peters, who started the day with games of 211, 236 and 243, battled the transitioning 38-foot World Bowling Atlanta oil pattern and some unforced errors on the way to a 189, 160 and 158 finish for a 1,197 total.
"Anytime you come away with a medal, it's special and something to be proud of," said Junior Team USA head coach Bryan O'Keefe. "We did some things right today, but we also made some mistakes that we'll need to work on the rest of the week. The most important thing about today was collecting information about the center and oil pattern and getting more comfortable with the environment. Winning two medals was a nice start and something positive to build on."
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 also will be competing for medals in doubles, trios, team, all-events and Masters competition.
Though Neuer's day was a little bit of a roller coaster, including games of 165 and 175, he's optimistic he can overcome some of the challenges he encountered during singles Monday.
"I had some big games, but there's also plenty of room for improvement," said Neuer, a two-time Junior Team USA member who picked up a doubles silver medal at the inaugural World Bowling Junior Championships in March. "I definitely left too many pins out there today. I had a few splits and a couple bad errors on my part, but it was nice to be able to step up at the end to secure my spot. I also learned a lot about the center from pair to pair, and I'm looking forward to doubles tomorrow."
Peters proved she was comfortable early in the block, and she'll now focus how to handle the lanes as they change. Though her execution was good for much of the set, a few missed spares late in the day nearly cost her the second medal of her Junior Team USA career.
She also participated in the 2019 World Junior Championships, where she earned a doubles gold medal with Mabel Cummins.
"I had a good look until the fourth game today, and my execution was good, but I hit a stretch where the pins just didn't fall my way," Peters said. "In the last game, my spares weren't the best, but I'm glad it didn't cost me a medal. I'm happy with how I bowled most of the day, my mindset was good and we had fun out there."
Cummins finished seventh in singles Monday with a 1,157 total, Junior Team USA's Kaitlyn Eder was ninth (1,139) and Caitlyn Johnson finished 13th (1,118).
On the boys side, Tom Hankey Jr. finished sixth (1,234), Cortez Schenck was 14th (1,185) and Sean Wilcox finished 22nd (1,142).
Competition at the 22-lane bowling center resumes Tuesday at 8 a.m. Eastern with doubles. The Junior Team USA girls will hit the lanes on the opening squad, and the boys will bowl their six games at 4 p.m. EDT.
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
SINGLES (six games)
GOLD - Zoriani Reyes, Puerto Rico, 1,272
SILVER - Paulina Torres, Puerto Rico, 1,220
BRONZE - Kamerin Peters, United States, 1,197
GOLD - Jonaykel Conejo, Costa Rica, 1,296
SILVER - Roberto Perez, Mexico, 1,287
BRONZE - Anthony Neuer, United States, 1,286