CALI, Colombia - The momentum and progress continued for Team USA at the 2021 PANAM Bowling Elite Championships on Wednesday as the team picked up four more medals - one gold, one silver and two bronze - this time in trios competition.
The Team USA women entered the day first and second in the standings, and Julia Bond, Bryanna Coté and Sydney Brummett were able to bounce back from a slow start Wednesday morning to take the title by a 70-pin margin.
The men's title came down to the final bowler, and singles winner, Cristian Azcona, was able to fill his 10th frame to give Puerto Rico a three-pin victory over the United States. Team USA's Nick Pate, Kristopher Prather and Kyle Sherman had a five-pin advantage heading into the last game, and Mexico was 14 pins back.
Trios included six games over two days at the 20-lane Bolera Departamental, and teams were paired up Wednesday based on their performances during the first three games Tuesday.
Bond (1,263), Coté (1,236) and Brummett (1,071) averaged 198.33 on the way to a 3,570 total, which included a 546 start to Wednesday's set on the week's 38-foot Los Angeles oil pattern. They rebounded with games of 629 and 623.
Mexico's Lili Robles, Aseret Zetter and Paola Limon were able to hang on for the silver medal with a 3,500 total, outlasting a determined Team USA team led by doubles gold medalist, Breanna Clemmer.
Clemmer (1,277) ended the day with a 244 game, but it wasn't quite enough. She teamed with doubles partner Lauren Pate (1,118) and Gazmine Mason (1,099) for a 3,494 total and the bronze medal.
"It was great to come in today as the leaders and stay there, which we weren't able to do in doubles," said Coté, a 35-year-old right-hander and six-time Team USA member. "The lanes have been a little different every day, and we had a game plan to hit the 1-3 pocket and make our spares. Sometimes, those got away from us, but we also stepped up and made some really good shots when we needed them. We did everything we could to win gold, and it's a great feeling to win."
The victory Wednesday meant the first gold medal for each as a member of the adult version of Team USA.
Coté won a silver (team) and two bronze (singles, trios) medals in Cali in 2016, and Brummett took home three silver medals (doubles, trios, team) from the 2018 PANAM Bowling Women's Championships in the Dominican Republic. This week marked Bond's international debut with the adult team.
"I think we have good momentum going into the team event and a good picture of what's going on, depending on what the lanes are giving us," Coté said. "We have six great minds and two amazing coaches, and we'll get it done."
The last team title for the Team USA women in PANAM Bowling competition came in Cali in 2014, and Colombia enters this year's tournament as the two-time defending champion (2016 and 2018).
The final game of trios on the men's side featured a four-team scramble for the three medals, with Canada quietly making a run from well down the standings to nearly claim the bronze medal.
Team USA's Pate (1,286), Prather (1,241) and Sherman (1,145) lost some important count late in the game, and Puerto Rico was able to keep the pressure on to give Azcona a chance to deliver.
Puerto Rico finished with a 3,675 total, led by singles silver medalist Israel Hernandez, who posted a 1,284 total. He was followed by Azcona (1,199) and Jorge Rodriguez (1,192). It was the first trios win for Puerto Rico, and third medal overall, since trios was added to the PANAM Championships landscape in 1981.
Pate, Prather and Sherman finished with a 3,672 total.
Because Team USA's two men's teams were third and fourth after Tuesday's three games, they got to bowl together all day for the second half of trios.
The other group - Matt Russo (1,317), Cameron Crowe (1,217) and Andrew Anderson (1,117) - rallied in the final game on the strength of a 246 game from Russo. Their 628 finish erased a 42-pin deficit and allowed them to surge past Mexico. They locked up the bronze medal with a 3,651 total. It was the first medal in international competition for Crowe.
Canada's Francois Lavoie, Darren Alexander and Mitch Hupé closed with 685 and catapulted into fourth place, nearly denying Russo and Crowe medals for the second consecutive event. They finished trios with 3,649. Lavoie and Hupé got the job done in doubles, however, taking the bronze by seven pins.
"I feel like I finally settled in, even though I can't seem to get my spare ball going," said Russo, a 24-year-old left-hander and four-time Team USA member. "I figured out something physically and was able to find some good ball reaction. The lanes are hard, but we're working well together. One thing I also realized is that I was feeling some pressure and thinking I had to medal, rather than just bowling. I'm glad we were able to get it done now, and we'll be ready to go for the team event."
Team USA head coach Bryan O'Keefe was satisfied with the trios outcome, even if it wasn't gold and silver medals in both classifications.
Both groups showed progress, chemistry and grit and got to experience many emotions together, from excitement to nerves to pressure to disappointment. They gave themselves opportunities to be successful, and if it didn't work out, it was a chance to learn something.
The tournament includes the best bowlers from North, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean, and will continue Thursday with team competition throughout the day.
All teams will bowl three games Thursday and return to Bolera Departamental for three more Friday. Total pinfall for the six games will determine the team and all-events medalists.
Gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded to the top individuals based on their 24-game pinfall totals from singles, doubles, trios and team.
Due to restrictions from COVID-19, each country will get its own pair of lanes each game during team competition, and all six players will bowl together, with five designated scores counting toward the team total.
It is the ideal environment for communication and strategy, and it's something Team USA got to experience by coincidence Wednesday, based on the trios standings after the first day.
O'Keefe had similar thoughts about the men and women after seeing them work together for the second half of trios, though their on-lane strategies likely will be different Thursday simply based on their strengths, physical games and things that worked well, or didn't, throughout the week.
"With us having both teams on the same pair because of our finishes yesterday, it almost was like a dress rehearsal for the team event, and it gave us a chance to see how the lanes would transition with all of us trying to do the same thing," O'Keefe said. "We do still have some things to work on, and that includes our ability to finish games. We're turning good games into mediocre ones too many times. There are a lot of great bowlers on both sides, so we're not going to be able to be on our C-game and still win. We'll have to bring everything we have."
In addition to this week's PANAM Elite Championships, two men and two women from each country are having 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 Cot‚.
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.