By Gene Kanak
INDIANAPOLIS - Qualifying came to a close Wednesday in the 20-and-under division at the Junior Gold Championships as the first cuts were made at the 2021 event.
Starting with 127 boys at Western Bowl and 61 girls at Expo Bowl, the fields were cut to the top 85 and 40 players, respectively, as all competition will move to Expo Bowl on Thursday.
Junior Team USA member Tyrell Ingalls of Loganville, Georgia (pictured above), finished as the top qualifier in the boys division, posting a 16-game total of 3,538, a 221.13 average. Ingalls is more than 100 pins ahead of Tuesday's leader, Kai Yamada of Kaneohe, Hawaii, who is second with 3,436.
Jeremy Kinealy of St. Louis, author of the 2021 event's only perfect game so far, sits in third place with 3,424. Team USA and Junior Team USA member Cameron Crowe of Orland Park, Illinois, and William Clark of Montgomery, Illinois, round out the top five with 3,383 and 3,344, respectively.
Ingalls got off to a slow start during Round 1 on Tuesday, firing a four-game total of 786 to land in 26th place. He quickly rebounded during Round 2, however, rolling games of 258, 289, 226 and 234 for a tournament-best block of 1,007, which moved him all the way up to second place after the first day of competition.
"I'm going to be honest, those first games yesterday were just about jitters," said Ingalls, a two-time Junior Team USA member. "I just had a lot of nerves during the start of that first block. After coming back from the break and calming down, I was actually able to execute my shots, and that's why I was able to do what I did during the second block."
Ingalls' blistering scoring pace slightly cooled off during Wednesday's final two qualifying blocks, but his ascension up the leaderboard did not. Ingalls shot 877 during Round 3 and 868 in Round 4.
Despite earning the distinction of being the leader through the first two days, Ingalls is careful not to get distracted by the early success or to take anything for granted as the event continues.
"I'm not getting too caught up in anything from today," Ingalls said. "I may be ahead by a bit, but we're heading into brand new territory tomorrow. I'm just keeping calm and keeping myself prepared; otherwise, it's easy to start overthinking again, and I don't want that to happen."
While Ingalls' run to the top of the leaderboard certainly was noteworthy, there were some other important positions earned Wednesday as well.
Jacob Munz of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, earned the 85th and final spot in the advancers round by two pins after rolling 206 in his final game to finish with a 2,774 total (173.38 average).
Not to be outdone, qualifying action in the girls division was just as thrilling during the final two rounds at Expo Bowl on Wednesday.
The battle for the top qualifying spot tightened up considerably, but, in the end, Jenna Williams of Homosassa, Florida, successfully remained in the top spot. Williams shot 715 during Round 3 and 866 in Round 4 to finish qualifying with a 3,314 total, a 207.13 average.
Junior Team USA member Mabel Cummins of Elburn, Illinois, used rounds of 820 and 860 to move into second place with 3,266. Jordan Mundt of Arlington, Tennessee (3,223), 2019 U17 champion Caroline Thesier of Mooresville, North Carolina (3,154), and Brynna Madison of Lincoln, Nebraska (3,100), secured the remaining spots in the top five.
Even though she retained her lead, Williams had some early trouble Wednesday as poor ball reaction and multiple splits caused her to start Round 3 with games of 142 and 170.
"Obviously, the first block today didn't go as planned," Williams said. "Unfortunately, I was in an area of the lane that had a lot of over-under reaction, so I split about 40% of the time before finding something for the last two games."
The slow start would've been enough to discourage most bowlers, but Williams credits her approach to the game and her study of sports psychology with helping her turn things around as the day continued.
"I always like to tell myself that tournaments like Junior Gold are marathons, not sprints," Williams said. "Also, I use a lot of positive affirmation. You have to let go of things that happened in the past and look ahead to the next frame.
"I spared a lot today, and then the strikes came to me when they could. I just stayed patient. It's not an easy thing to do, but it's something that I've worked super hard at."
The final spot in the girls division went to Skylar Smith of New Milford, Connecticut, who finished qualifying with a 2,698 total (168.63 average).
Practice and stamina will be key for all competitors heading into Thursday's rounds. Advancers will bowl an additional five games, before a second cut is made to the top 50 boys and top 24 girls. A final five-game block Thursday and 26-game pinfall totals will determine the 16 athletes in each division advancing to the double-elimination match-play bracket.
Bracket matches will consist of two games, with total pinfall determining the winner. The first two rounds of match play will take place Thursday at Expo Bowl and continue Friday.
Three players will emerge from bracket play to compete in the stepladder finals to determine the champion. The two finalists in the match-play bracket will bowl to determine the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds for the stepladder, while the winner of the Elimination Bracket will be the No. 3 seed.
With the finals in each division being broadcast live on BowlTV.com, the top overall seed for the stepladder would have to be defeated twice in the true double-elimination format.
The championship rounds in the U20 division will be held Friday at 1 p.m. Eastern.
Several bowlers saw their position in the standings dramatically change during Wednesday's final two rounds. Two bowlers used the final eight games to make big runs up the leaderboard to advance to the next round.
After shooting 601 in Round 1 and 653 in Round 2, Cassie De La Fuente of New Braunfels, Texas, was in 51st place in the girls division and in danger of having her 2021 event come to an end. Not willing to let that happen, De La Fuente fired back with 757 during Round 3 and 808 in Round 4 to move all the way to 24th place with a 2,819 total, which puts her just 111 pins behind 16th place.
Chrystian Lisak of Antioch, Illinois, also had a memorable move up the standings on Wednesday.
Lisak lingered well outside of the cut in the boys division during the first three rounds of qualifying and was in 112th place with four games left to go.
Things changed during the fourth round, however, as Lisak shot 865, including 216 in the final game, to finish in 84th place with a 2,775 total.