Just days after Evergreen’s girls bowling team completed a rare feat by winning its fourth straight Class 3A state title, Kailee Wilcox couldn’t help but look toward the future.
But first, Wilcox, The Columbian’s All-Region girls bowler of the year, smiled while reflecting on the past.
“It’s really crazy to think about,” Wilcox said of her team winning its fourth straight state title. “I still can’t wrap my head around it. It was very moving for me.
“We earned it and that was where the emotional part came in.”
What Wilcox is talking about is that no match came easily on the Plainsmen’s path to making state history.
They joined Battle Ground and Mark Morris as the only programs to win four consecutive state titles since the WIAA instated girls bowling in 1999.
But a young team with three underclassmen, including two ninth-graders in its rotation, shined when it mattered most: the postseason.
And Wilcox and the Plainsmen delivered.
Just a sophomore, Wilcox even surprised herself when she repeated as the 3A district champion. She rolled a 687 over three games, including a 247 high game. With a 178 regular-season average, she saved her best for when it mattered most.
And that helped carry Evergreen’s momentum carried over to state.
Wilcox was one of three Plainsmen to place in the top 11. And more big games came during the baker format, where members bowl two frames apiece. Bakers games are what Wilcox loves because they show competitive spirit, motivation and teamwork.
“I love the energy our team makes,” she said.
Of the 14 baker games, no team had a 1,004-pin game like Evergreen, which separated its leads on Wilson of Tacoma in the team race.
And it was Wilcox’s strike in the 10th frame of the final baker game that sealed the celebration.
“Once I turned around and saw my team all smiling and crying,” she said, “that’s when I started getting emotional. It was a pool of tears at that point. … The way we performed, we definitely surprised ourselves. We performed a lot better than most of us had an idea of what we were going to do.”
And what it did was go from a third-place league finish to a state championship. Evergreen’s seniors — Karina Johnsen and Teryn Stine — were state champions their entire careers.
And Wilcox is halfway there.
“The competitive part of bowling is what I love about it,” she said. “I love competing for things and earning what I want. You have to work for what you want.”
Rest of All-Region team
Kimberlee Boone, Camas
4A Greater St. Helens League player of the year, placed second at the 4A district tournament.
Anna Gatlin, Prairie
The 3A Greater St. Helens League co-player of the year, third in district and sixth at state tournament.
Karina Johnsen, Evergreen
Senior helped Evergreen to team state title by placing fourth overall at the 3A state tournament.
McKenzie Sparano, Skyview
Junior was 4A GSHL first-team pick, placed fourth at district tournament and third at 4A state tournament.
Emily Strehle, Kelso
Freshman was first-team 3A GSHL pick, placed fifth at district and 10th at the state tournament.
Rose Ugbinada, Fort Vancouver
The 3A Greater St. Helens League co-player of the year, sixth in district and third at 3A state tournament.