BY DAVE SCHROEDER
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Spencer Robarge and Mabel Cummins held on to the lead through both advancers rounds Wednesday and earned the top seeds for match play in the 20-and-under division of the 2022 Junior Gold Championships.
Robarge of Springfield, Missouri, and Cummins of Elburn, Illinois, are both members of Junior Team USA and past Junior Gold champions. Robarge knocked down 5,676 pins over his 26 games, good for a 218.31 average. He led second-place Jeremy Kinealy of St. Louis by a comfortable 184 pins at Sherman Bowling Center. Cummins averaged 202.81 at Fairlanes Bowling Center and finished with a total pinfall of 5,273. That total was just one pin ahead of fellow Junior Team USA member Jaelle Hamman of Jarrell, Texas.
Robarge led both going into, and after, the first advancers round Wednesday morning, and his top spot was never seriously threatened during the final advancers round Wednesday afternoon. The final advancers round was contested on an oil pattern that proved to be a stern test both mentally and physically for the competitors.
“I’ve bowled enough of these that I know to expect some of the patterns will be tough,” said Robarge, who is the 2015 Boys U12 champion. “For me, I know that a lot of early roll in this place looks pretty good, so I tried to roll it in the front, tried to get it to hit the 1-2 and tried to get nine and spare it.”
The competition now switches to a double-elimination match-play format Thursday, which requires a slightly different approach. Robarge, who bowls collegiately at Wichita State University, has made match play every year since winning the 2015 edition and has plenty of experience with the format.
“It’s still bowling the pins, but you also have to bowl the person a little bit,” said Robarge. “The first match is always the tough one because you never know what’s out there. The hope is to win that first match and get through it and then make plans off that. If you lose that first match, it’s like purgatory and you have to bowl every match it seems like, and you’re just trying to survive.”
Julian Salinas, another Junior Team USA member, finished in third place. Salinas of Richmond, Texas, knocked down 5,404 pins. Completing the top five are Nathan Smith of Noblesville, Indiana (5,371), and first-round leader Austin Grammar of Hamersville, Ohio (5,363).
Matthew LaBonte of Oak Lawn, Illinois, rolled the event’s first, and thus far only, 300 game. LaBonte, who missed the cut to match play and finished in 19th place, accomplished the feat during the first advancers round Wednesday.
On the girl’s side, Kirsten Moore of Tallmadge, Ohio, started and ended the day in third place (5,181). Mary Orf of O’Fallon, Illinois, is fourth (5,161). Orf led Rounds 2 and 3 of the event. Rounding out the top five for the girls is Hannah Manetta of Port Jefferson Station, New York (5,082).
The U20 divisions have cut to the top 16 athletes for Thursday’s match-play rounds. Bracket matches will consist of two games, with total pinfall determining the winner. 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 at Fairlanes Bowling Center on Friday at 9 a.m. Eastern.
In addition to the Junior Gold Championships, Wednesday featured the start of the 2022 USA Bowling National Championships with qualifying at AMF Eastbrook Lanes. The team representing the Northeast region leads in the U15 division with a total pinfall of 3,287 and a 12-3 record. In the U12 division, the team representing the Ohio Valley region is leading with 2,195 total pins and a record of 10-1.
Complete qualifying results can be found here:
The USA Bowling National Championships continue Thursday at AMF Eastbrook Lanes with match play at 8 a.m. Eastern. The finals of the event will be streamed live Thursday on BowlTV.com from Fairlanes Bowling Center, with the U12 division at 4 p.m. Eastern and U15 at 7 p.m. Eastern.