The members of Junior Team USA went into the 2017 Lee Evans Tournament of The Americas with two goals – to gain experience against international competition and win gold medals.
The group of eight young bowlers accomplished both goals, earning 16 of 18 possible gold medals in the Junior A (ages 16-19) and Junior B (ages 12-15) divisions this week at Strikers Family Sportscenter in Sunrise, Florida.
The Junior A contingent for Junior Team USA at the 2017 Tournament of The Americas included Haley Cummings, Adrianna Stacy, Briley Haugh and Pete Vergos, while Mabel Cummins, Allie Leiendecker, Anthony Neuer and Richard Paul III competed in Junior B.
The United States also was well-represented in the Senior and Super Senior categories, adding an additional 13 gold medals.
Senior bowlers for the United States were Denise Thacker, Tayna Spaulding, Bob Spaulding and Chauncy Holmes, while United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer Lucy Sandelin, Yolanda Garrett, Ron Thacker and Chuck Richardson competed in the Super Senior category.
Bowlers at the 55th edition of the event, representing 10 countries from North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean, competed in singles, doubles, mixed doubles and mixed team during the six-day tournament.
The tournament featured two oil patterns, a long (46 feet) and a short (36 feet). Singles included six games on each pattern, doubles was contested on the short pattern, mixed doubles was bowled on the long pattern and team competition included four games on each.
“The team bowled outstanding this week and gained some great experience, which definitely will help them down the road as they continued to develop their skills,” said Junior Team USA head coach Bryan O’Keefe, a five-time gold medalist at the 1991 Tournament of The Americas.
“Anytime you get to represent your country, it’s an honor and a privilege. Winning medals and standing on the podium as a bowler is an unforgettable experience, and looking on as a coach is very rewarding.”
All eight Junior Team USA representatives at the 2017 Tournament of The Americas also competed at the recent Junior Gold Championships presented by the Brands of Ebonite, which was contested in the Cleveland area in the week leading up to their trip to Florida.
Two of the Junior B competitors for the United States, Leiendecker and Neuer, are fresh off TV appearances at the Junior Gold Championships, and all four Junior B bowlers medaled in every event at the Tournament of The Americas.
“The whole week in Florida was amazing because I got to bowl for my country and had the chance to win gold, both individually and as part of the team,” said Leiendecker, who earned gold medals this week in singles, doubles, team and national all-events, along with silver in all-events and bronze in mixed doubles. “It was a lot of fun and just a really cool experience.”
Vergos, a first-time Junior Team USA member from Apopka, Florida, led the way for Junior Team USA in the Junior A category with five gold medals (singles, doubles, team, all-events and national all-events).
He and Leiendecker both earned spots on Junior Team USA for 2018 through their performances in Cleveland and intend to use the experience of the 2017 Tournament of The Americas to help them and their teammates down the road.
“The feeling right now is unbelievable, especially with this being my first time at this event and having the chance to represent Junior Team USA as well as my home state,” Vergos said. “It was nice to get my feet wet and get more familiar with this type of format. It was a great experience, and I know I’ll be even more prepared next time I get the chance to compete.”
Sandelin made a huge statement in the Super Senior category, earning the gold medal in all six events this week, while Denise Thacker won gold in singles, doubles, team, all-events and national all-events, plus a bronze medal in mixed doubles.
The event did feature an Adult division, but the United States did not participate.
Up next for Junior Team USA is the 2017 Pan American Bowling Confederation (PABCON) Youth Championships will be held at Bol Obispado in Monterrey, Mexico, from Sept. 2-9.
Representing Junior Team USA on the boys’ side will be Brandon Biondo, Jeff Mann, Kennon McFalls and Cortez Schenck. The Junior Team USA girls headed to Mexico are Julia Bond, Sydney Brummett, Breanna Clemmer and Stephanie Schwartz of Racine, Wisconsin.
For complete standings from the 2017 Tournament of The Americas, click here.
For more information on the Junior Team USA program, click here.