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News / Sports / Prep Sports

All-Region girls bowling: Kierra Wilcox, Evergreen

Senior won 3A individual state title and helped Plainsmen to state team title as well

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: March 8, 2023, 7:05pm

Evergreen bowling coach Robin Bailey had a feeling this season would be a special one for senior Kierra Wilcox.

That’s not to say the previous three weren’t, of course.

Wilcox joined the Plainsmen for the 2019-20 season as they won the 3A district and state championships, then repeated as district champs in 2021 and 2022.

This season, though, the spotlight shined squarely on Wilcox to be Evergreen’s top bowler and a leader for her teammates.

When the success didn’t come right away, Wilcox had some doubts about where the season was going.

“We shot our lowest score in the last four years and I had a breakdown that night. I was upset,” Wilcox said, referring to a regular season match against Heritage. “I was like, ‘we’re not gonna do good at districts. We’re going to struggle.’ ”

Bailey said Wilcox wasn’t convinced success would come because of the lack of big scores.

“She kept saying, ‘I don’t know, Robin.’ … I had to keep telling her, ‘you’re going to be OK. It’s going to be your year,’ ” Bailey said.

That hunch was spot on.

When Wilcox, The Columbian’s All-Region girls bowler of the year, and Evergreen started the postseason, the lights suddenly came on for a team that always had talent, but was still figuring out how to put it all together.

The run started at the 3A district tournament on Jan. 27 when Wilcox claimed the individual title and helped Evergreen win the team title as well.

“It was like it was a different team,” Wilcox said. “My team had changed. We were in good moods, we were energized, we were happy all day. It was crazy.”

Just five days later, that positive energy followed the team to Bowlero in Tukwila for the 3A state championships, where Wilcox won the 3A individual title and the Plainsmen won their first team title since 2020.

The morning of day one at state, Bailey sensed Wilcox was ready to go. On the way to bowling alley in the team bus, she and teammates were singing along to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” to fire themselves up.

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“They were singing and doing their thing,” Bailey said. “The attitudes were really high, so that really makes a difference too. She was getting everybody pumped up.”

Evergreen came out firing with games of 804, 929 and 887 pins to lead the team standings while Wilcox sat in first place of the individual leaderboard.

“Going into the day, the first three games gave us so much confidence to move and just continue to do what we know how to do,” Wilcox said.

The story of the day was Wilcox winning the individual state title, and the way it ended. Wilcox faced a 5-10 split on the 10th frame and picked up one pin, which proved to be the difference in a winning pin score of 1,140, ahead of Kelso’s Emily Strehle in second with 1,139 pins.

It was a proud moment for Wilcox, who placed fifth at state as a freshman and 11th as a junior, but she saw it as part of a bigger picture: helping her team.

“I cared (about the individual competition), but it wasn’t my main priority,” Wilcox said. “I just cleared the individual aspect out of my head and I was like, it’s a team thing. I need to be in it for my team and my team needs to be in it for each other.”

That mindset made the next day, Feb. 2, all the more rewarding when the Plainsmen team of Wilcox, Alexis Clarke, Bella Curry, Zoey Mikkelson, Chloe Shove and Alissa Barber won the 3A team title with a total of 7,182 across six individual and 14 baker games.

The title was Evergreen’s first since Wilcox was a freshman and her older sister Kailee, who was The Columbian’s All-Region girls bowler of the year, was a sophomore.

“It kind of felt like everything I worked on the last four years has finished and it all came back to help in the end,” Kierra Wilcox said.

To Bailey, the biggest difference between Wilcox’s freshman year to now is how she handles pressure. That was especially true in the final week of the season when Wilcox left no doubt this was, in fact, her year.

“This year she came out and became Kierra,” Bailey said.

Rest of the All-Region girls bowling team

Sadie Burrows, Columbia River — The senior had a team-high 183 average, placed third at the 2A/1A state championship and was named to the 2A Greater St. Helens League first team.

Addy Case, Skyview — The sophomore, a 4A GSHL first-team selection, led the Storm with a 181 average, placed fourth at districts and fifth at 4A state.

Lauren Gaynor, Skyview — The senior, named the 4A GSHL player of the year, won the district title and helped Skyview place second as a team at 4A state.

Ava Rodman, R.A. Long — The junior earned 2A GSHL player of the year honors while adding fifth-place finishes at districts and 2A/1A state.

Emily Strehle, Kelso — The senior, who was co-3A GSHL player of the year along with Evergreen’s Wilcox, placed second at both districts and 3A state.

KyleeJo Wisinski, Columbia River — The senior averaged 179, was named to the 2A GSHL first team and placed eighth at 2A/1A state as part of River’s second-place team finish.