Team USA, Pate Family Sweep Doubles Gold Medals at 2021 PANAM Bowling Elite Championships

by Matt Cannizzaro, USBC Communications 0

CALI, Colombia - There may not be a better way to celebrate your birthday than doing it with loved ones, cake, chocolates, flowers and jewelry - especially when your new necklace is your first gold medal as a member of Team USA.

As Lauren Pate and Breanna Clemmer put the finishing touches on their dominant doubles performance Monday at the 2021 PANAM Bowling Elite Championships, Pate's fiance, fellow Team USA member Matt Russo, looked on from the stands, and her older brother, Nick, also a member of the team, gave her one final present.

The elder Pate stood in the front row of the stadium seating with outstretched arms, cell phone in hand, allowing their mother Debbie the chance to share in the memorable moment from thousands of miles away. Having her parents there in person is the only thing that could've made her 25th birthday better.

A few hours later, Lauren had the opportunity to return the favor, as Nick and Kyle Sherman locked up the doubles gold medal on the men's side of the prestigious competition, which features bowlers from North, Central and South America, plus the Caribbean.

Clemmer and Lauren Pate, former collegiate teammates at McKendree, averaged more than 215 at the 20-lane Bolera Departamental and outdistanced the women's field by 144 pins over six games.

Clemmer set the pace with a 1,296 total, and Pate was close behind with 1,290 for a 2,586 total. The win was the second consecutive for the Team USA women in doubles competition on the PANAM Bowling stage. They won all three doubles medals at the last edition in 2018.

Two teams from Mexico gave chase Monday, but the effort ultimately turned into a race for the silver medal.

Lili Robles and Iliana Lomeli trailed Tannya Lopez and Paola Limon by a pin heading into the final game but managed to pull ahead. Robles and Lomeli finished second with a 2,442 total, and Lopez and Limon claimed the bronze medal with 2,404.

"From looking at how the guys were bowling this morning, the lanes definitely looked hard, but we can't compare ourselves to them," Lauren Pate said. "Going in, we had a game plan about what we were going to do, and it worked out well for us. So far, yes, this is the best birthday ever."

Nick Pate (1,311) and Sherman (1,281) also were in sync on the way to their win, and their 2,592 total was 122 pins ahead of Mexico's Sergio Barajas and Jesus Lecona (2,470).

The bronze medal came down to the final frame, with Team USA's Russo and Cameron Crowe both leaving splits they were unable to convert, and Canada's Mitch Hupé tossing a 10th-frame strike to lift him and Francois Lavoie to the final medal by just seven pins.

Hupé and Lavoie ended with a 2,437 total, and Crowe (1,218) and Russo (1,212) finished with 2,430.

Team USA's final duo, Kris Prather (1,192) and Andrew Anderson (1,173), finished sixth with 2,365.

"We made the decision for my mom not to come down because of the uncertainty with COVID and us not knowing the area, but she was happy to be able to watch Lauren over FaceTime," Nick Pate said. "Then, I was able to add to the Pate legacy, I guess you could say, by going out and getting gold myself with Kyle. We worked really well as a duo and bought into coach (Bryan) O'Keefe's game plan, and it paid off."

Nick Pate is a four-time Team USA member, and he now has earned a gold medal at all three international events he has attended as a member of the team.

The 27-year-old right-hander rolled a perfect game to help the United States to the team win at the 2019 PANAM Bowling Men's Championships in Peru, then returned to the same bowling center three months later to claim a pair of gold medals at the 2019 Pan American Games.

Like Lauren Pate, Sherman made his Team USA debut this week, too.

After failing to medal in singles in either gender classification, doubles gave all of the Team USA bowlers a chance at redemption and to put the things they've learned this week into action.

Sherman, a 27-year-old right-hander, knows that while Monday's success was a sign of progress, there's still a lot of work to do before it's time to celebrate.

"We're starting to understand the lanes and pattern better, and we're going to continue to work and hopefully improve even more," said Sherman, who was a Junior Team USA member in 2015. "Today means everything, but I don't think it has sunk in yet, since I'm already focused on tomorrow. We still have a job to do here, with trios and team. I know when I get back and rest and reflect on the week it'll hit me, but right now, we still have work to do."

The Team USA men also were the defending champions this week, after winning the doubles title (AJ Johnson and Sean Wilcox) at the 2019 PANAM Men's Championships with a record 3,062 total.

Clemmer, a 23-year-old right-hander, and Lauren Pate have been working together for a few years, and as they progress in their bowling careers, they forever will be tied together by their continued success.

O'Keefe also is part of that equation, as he serves as McKendree's director of bowling, along with his place at the helm of Junior Team USA and now Team USA.

"We won two (collegiate) national championships together in 2017, but right now, I don't think anything can top this," Clemmer said. "I got to do it with someone I've been able to grow with, and she continues to make me a better person. Thinking about all of it makes me emotional. To get to see her accomplish her dream is incredible, and to share it with her makes it even more special. She said she doesn't know if she can cry anymore, but I'm going to cry now and probably will cry more tonight."

Clemmer and Lauren Pate both averaged below 200 in singles this week, finishing tied for 10th and 14th, respectively, but the things they learned helped devise a successful game plan for doubles.

They started farther right Monday on the 38-foot Los Angeles oil pattern and worked together to improve by a combined 275 pins. They also made sure to keep their attention on the task at hand.

"I think being far away from the TVs with the standings really helped us stay focused, but I had a feeling going into the last game that we were pretty far ahead of second place," Lauren Pate said. "Either way, we weren't going to stop there. We were going to keep doing the same thing, whether it was 10 pins or 300 pins. We stuck to our game plan, we had great ball reaction and it all worked out really well."

The Team USA women swept the doubles medals at the 2018 PANAM Bowling Women's Championships.

Doubles competition this week in Colombia was spread over two days, and the other four Team USA women got to bowl their six games Sunday night.

Bryanna Coté (1,206) and Julia Bond (1,174) were the leaders heading into Monday's squad, and their 2,380 total ended up fourth overall.

Sydney Brummett (1,052) and Gazmine Mason (980) finished 23rd with 2,032. The women's field featured 28 doubles teams.

Clemmer and Lauren Pate both are competing in their first events as members of the adult version of Team USA, but Clemmer brings the experience of five years on Junior Team USA, during which, she claimed 18 medals in international competition. Among them, a team gold medal at the 2018 International Bowling Federation World Youth Championships.

Pate was a member of Junior Team USA in 2017. She didn't get to bowl for any medals, but the team's training camp is where she met Russo, her soon-to-be husband.

Competition at the 2021 PANAM Elite Championships resumes Tuesday with three squads of trios competition. All teams will bowl six games over two days, and total pinfall again will determine the medalists.

In addition to the main event in Cali, the Elite Championships, two men and two women from each country will have their scores used toward the 2021 edition of the Champion of Champions event, traditionally a standalone tournament.

The top four countries, based on the combined 24-game pinfall totals in each gender classification, plus the United States, will qualify for the 2022 World Games. Because that event is being held in Birmingham, Alabama, the United States gets an automatic spot as the host nation.

The Team USA representatives for the Champion of Champions event are Anderson, Russo, Bond and Coté.

Additionally, total pinfall for all six bowlers in Elite Championships competition, in their respective gender classifications, will determine the four men's countries and four women's countries that will head to the 2022 International Bowling Federation World Cup.

The World Cup previously featured one man and one woman from each country, but a change to the format will allow more competitors to become part of a tradition that spans more than five decades.

To see the complete standings, visit PANAMBowling.com.

For more information on Team USA, visit BOWL.com/TeamUSA.

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