LIMA, Peru - There aren't formal timeouts in bowling, but when Team USA head coach Rod Ross saw his team's energy and communication in need of a boost Saturday at the Pan American Bowling Confederation Men's Championships, he pulled the competitors aside and did what any coach would do - he explained what he was seeing from his perspective and offered words of inspiration.
The rallying moment came after the fourth frame of their first game at the new Bowling Center of La Villa Deportiva Nacional (VIDENA), and his encouragement ignited a fire in his well-balanced team, which is a combination of youth and experience.
The re-energized group then pulled away from the 16-team field and went on to win the five-player team gold medal by nearly 300 pins. It was the second consecutive time, and 15th time overall, Team USA claimed the title, and the momentum also helped the group sweep the all-events medals.
Team USA rolled games of 1,119, 1,186 and 1,112 on Saturday to remain atop the standings with a 6,929 six-game total, a new PABCON Championships record. The group posted three-game sets of 3,512 on Friday and 3,417 on Saturday.
This year's performance topped the previous record of 6,817, set by Team USA at the 2016 event in Cali, Colombia.
Canada, also the team runner-up to Team USA in 2016, earned this year's silver medal with a 6,636 total. Puerto Rico jumped over Colombia in the final game to secure the bronze medal with a 6,588 performance.
"We came out today a little flat, and it seemed like our guys were bowling more to protect the small lead we had from yesterday, rather than leaving that in the past and trying to win today's three games," Ross said. "To win the day, you have to win the games. To win the games, you have to win the frames. To win the frames, you have to win the shot. After I pulled them aside, they really turned things around, and we're excited to come away with the gold medal."
AJ Johnson led the way for Team USA in the six team games, posting a 1,441 total. That included a 279 finish and 783 series Saturday. He was followed by Darren Tang (1,410), Nick Pate (1,381), Sean Wilcox (1,294), John Janawicz (702), Perry Crowell (701).
The team competition was the only event of the 2019 PABCON Men's Championships that was contested over two days (three games each day), compared to the singles, doubles and trios events, which all featured six consecutive games.
For some teams and bowlers, there was potential for a slowing of momentum, while others had an opportunity to regroup and consider a new strategy for attacking the 41-foot World Bowling Rome oil pattern.
Team USA experienced a little of both, as it took a few frames on Day 2 to find the right energy level and pace, while a few lanes away, Janawicz's clear mind allowed him to catapult up the all-events standings and into the cut for the week-ending Masters event.
He started the final day in 30th place and used a 748 series to move himself up to 16th place, earning the final spot in match play with a 5,300 total, a 220.83 average for 24 games.
The Masters portion of the tournament will feature the top 16 players in the all-events standings, who will bowl best-of-three head-to-head matches Sunday. All-events included six games in each event (singles, doubles, trios and team).
Team USA's Tang, Johnson and Wilcox sat comfortably in the top three spots in the all-events standings heading into the final game, but only 10 pins separated first and third place. Canada's Francois Lavoie was 50 pins behind with a game to go.
In the finale, focused solely on making sure Team USA locked up the team gold medal, Johnson rolled his highest game of the week, 279, to secure his second and third gold medals of the tournament. He and Wilcox won doubles earlier in the week with a record total.
Johnson's 5,690 all-events total, a 237.08 average, also was a PABCON Championships record, topping the previous mark of 5,644, posted by Canada's Zach Wilkins in 2016.
"The individual things are nice, but we came here with one goal, and that was the team gold," said Johnson, a 26-year-old right-hander and five-time Team USA member. "I wanted to make sure we kept our foot on the gas the last game because the talented teams we were up against could put together a big game at any time. Sean had a hard time seeing things the last game, but we're a team, and I wanted to do my part to help pick him up."
Tang (5,655) came away with the all-events silver medal, finishing 35 pins behind Johnson, and Wilcox, despite a 137 final game, held on for the bronze (5,547). Lavoie needed a mark in his final frame to pass Wilcox, but a 4-6-7-10 split, which he was unable to convert, left him seven pins short (5,540).
Pate also advanced to the Masters event with a sixth-place all-events finish (5,469), but Crowell fell below the cutline, finishing 35th with 5,105.
Johnson's success couldn't have come at a better time for him, during a year that has been a little bit challenging.
He's still getting comfortable with some new bowling equipment, he made a switch from 16-pound balls to 15, and after not initially being selected to this year's Team USA roster, he did all he could to be ready for this event after finding out he'd been added to the team.
"I'm not really having the greatest (Professional Bowlers Association) Tour season so far, and I was fighting some things, so it took a lot of extra work to try to figure things out," Johnson said. "I've been trying to find myself, and it has progressively gotten better. When I got the call inviting me to be on the team for 2019, I worked extra hard to make sure I was sharp for this event and could contribute as much as possible."
Janawicz, a 46-year-old right-hander and United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer, also hoped to contribute to the team's success this week, whether it be with his scores or knowledge and experience. He has been a regular on the PABCON stage during his nine Team USA appearances, and he has collected nearly two dozen medals along the way.
Though he struggled compared to his teammates at times this week, he never stopped trying to find the right ball, trick or strategy that would help him help the team.
Entering the final three games as the sixth man, his plan was to scout the lanes his teammates would be going to, so he could relay information toward the conclusion of their gold-medal run. If he could manage a big day of his own, finishing in the top 16 would be a nice bonus.
"I got off to a good start today, and knowing I was about 100 pins off the pace, I'd need a big overall effort," said Janawicz, who has earned multiple Masters gold medals at the PABCON Championships. "I tried something different on the fresh I hadn't tried all week, and that was to curve it more, which worked pretty well. I was fortunate to make the Masters cut, and we won the team gold, so it was a pretty great day all the way around. You just have to keep going and keep fighting, and today was one of those days."
The 100 bowlers at the 2019 PABCON Men's Championships competed for medals in singles, doubles, trios, team and all-events. Four more medals will be awarded Sunday in the Masters competition.
This week's tournament featured countries from North, Central and South America and the Caribbean, including Argentina, Aruba, Bahamas, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.
The 2019 PABCON Men's Championships also was the first event to take place at the newly constructed bowling center, which is part of an expansive athletic complex that will be home to the 2019 Pan American Games this summer.
For more information on the PABCON Men's Championships, visit PABCON.org.
For more information on Team USA, visit BOWL.com/TeamUSA.
2019 PABCON MEN'S CHAMPIONSHIPS
Bowling Center of La Villa Deportiva Nacional (VIDENA)
GOLD - United States (AJ Johnson, Darren Tang, Nick Pate, Sean Wilcox, John Janawicz, Perry Crowell IV), 6,929
SILVER - Canada (Francois Lavoie, Mitch Hupé, Dan MacLelland, Zachary Wilkins, Nathan Ruest-Lajoie, Darren Alexander), 6,636
BRONZE - Puerto Rico (Andro Simounet, Israel Hernandez, Francisco Valiente, Cristian Azcona, Jean Francisco Perez, David Marquez), 6,588
GOLD - AJ Johnson, United States, 5,690
SILVER - Darren Tang, United States, 5,655
BRONZE - Sean Wilcox, United States, 5,547