of Beverly Hills, California, and Jennifer Loredo
of Fresno, California, each showed a flair for the dramatic on their way to titles in the 15-and-under division at the 2017 Junior Gold Championships presented by the Brands of Ebonite International.
Salama, 14, put together a historic performance on his way to defending his U15 boys title with a 553-380 win against Anthony Neuer of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and Loredo, 14, rallied in the two-game total pinfall title match at Game of Wickliffe to claim the girls title over Sarah Sanes of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, 411-395.
The championship round in each division aired nationally on CBS Sports Network on Tuesday.
After winning the U15 boys title at the 2016 Junior Gold Championships in Indianapolis, the expectations were high for Salama. A slow start forced him to refocus, as he had to work his way up the standings each day.
“At first, I was kind of nervous and was putting a lot of pressure on myself to bowl well,” said Salama, a two-hander who attacks the lanes from the left. “I did not bowl well at all to start qualifying, but I reset my entire mindset, took it one shot a time and was able to make my way back.”
The U15 boys title match had historic implications. Team USA members and Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour standouts Shannon Pluhowsky (1999-2001) and Stefanie Johnson (2003-2005) each captured three Junior Gold titles in the girls division, and Junior Team USA member Breanna Clemmer took home wins in 2012 (U15) and 2014 (U20), but no one in the boys division had ever won multiple titles.
That was guaranteed to change as each finalist already had a Junior Gold title – Neuer won the inaugural U12 title at the 2014 Junior Gold Championships in Buffalo, New York, and Salama was the defending U15 champion.
Salama quickly found the right look in the title tilt, rolling eight strikes on his way to a 254-186 advantage. He continued to strike as he drew closer to victory, starting Game 2 with 11 consecutive strikes before leaving a 7 pin on his final shot for a 299.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d bowl 299 and 550 on TV,” Salama said. “I think one of the reasons I bowled so well is because I was bowling with Anthony. He’s such a good friend of mine and we’ve shared a lot of history together, so it really took a lot of the pressure off. I’m kind of overwhelmed by everything right now. I felt like I had something to prove this week, and to be here again against such a strong field with so many great bowlers is very special.”
Loredo was down by 30 pins after the opening game against Sanes, 219-189, but showed her resilience by making a slight adjustment to put herself back in the match.
“My dad told me to move a board to the left, because I was leaving 7 pins and coming in light,” said Loredo, who made her third Junior Gold appearance in 2017. “I made the move and relaxed my swing a little bit more, and I was able to make some good shots.”
After an open frame to start Game 2, Loredo rolled strikes on five of her next six deliveries to capture the lead as Sanes opened in the third, fifth and sixth frames. Stepping up in the 10th frame, Loredo needed a mark to complete the comeback, and the left-hander connected for a strike on her first offering to claim the title.
“This is pretty exciting because I know a lot of people would like to be in this spot,” Loredo said. “I’m really grateful for where I’m at today. I had everyone from my family and California help me get here, so I’d like to thank them a lot.”
Sanes finished second at Junior Gold for the third time in the past four years. She was runner-up last year in the U15 division and took second in the U12 division at the 2014 event.
Salama and Loredo also earned spots on the 2018 Junior Team USA U15 Developmental Team for their wins, and they are joined on the team by Spencer Robarge of Springfield, Missouri, and Amanda Naujokas of Ronkonkoma, New York.
Robarge and Naujokas earned their spots by leading qualifying in their respective divisions. Both captured wins at the 2015 Junior Gold Championships, claiming the U12 boys and girls titles.
The U15 division of the 2017 Junior Gold Championships featured 602 boys and 327 girls, who each rolled 16 games across four bowling centers, before the top 86 boys and top 47 girls moved on to a five-game advancers round.
The top 48 boys and top 32 girls advanced to the final advancers round, with 26-game pinfall totals determining the top 16 to advance in each division to double-elimination match play, which also featured two-game matches with total pinfall determining the winner.
The Junior Gold Championships features the top youth bowlers in the country seeking national titles in three divisions – 12-and-under, 15-and-under and 20-and-under – and spots on Junior Team USA. The 2017 tournament was held in seven Cleveland-area bowling centers, featured a $320,000 scholarship fund, and more than 3,500 entries, both tournament records.
The finals of the U12 and U20 divisions also were taped at Game of Wickliffe on July 22 for delayed broadcast. The U12 finals aired July 25, and the U20 title matches will air Aug. 8 at 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS Sports Network.
The finals of the 2017 USA Bowling National Championships presented by Sixlets also were taped. The U12 finals will air Aug. 15 and the U15 finals will be shown Aug. 22, both at 7 p.m. Eastern.
All advancers round and match play leading up to the TV shows were broadcast live on BowlTV. For more information on the Junior Gold Championships presented by the Brands of Ebonite International, click here.
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2017 Junior Gold Championships – U15 Division Finals
Taped July 22 at Game of Wickliffe, Cleveland, Ohio, USA; aired August 1 on CBS Sports Network
(Two-game matches decided by total pinfall)
Jennifer Loredo, Fresno, Calif., def. Sarah Sanes, Murfreesboro, Tenn., 411-395
Solomon Salama, Beverly Hills, Calif., def. Anthony Neuer, Lewisburg, Pa., 553-380.