On Feb. 6, the Cabot High School bowling teams participated in the 7A/6A Central conference tournament in Cabot and, five days later, both teams participated in the Class 7A/6A state championship in Fort Smith.
For the first time in team history, the boys and girls came away from both tournaments as champions.
According to head coach Mike Nash, the victories at state were special because the boys and girls could both celebrate.
"The last two years have been bittersweet for us because one of the teams would win state while the other was runner-up," Nash said. "This year, everyone was smiling and congratulating each other. It was a very special moment for the coaches, players and parents. "
Overall, the teams have won a combined seven conference titles and five state championships in just six years of competition. During their championship run this year, the Panthers either set or tied four state records.
At the conference tournament, all six boys were named to the all-conference team with seniors Kenny Pedersen and Dylan Wilson tying for gold medalist with totals of 711; junior Adrian Nicholas was the silver medalist with a 670; and senior Chris Brown was the bronze medalist with 662. Junior Jace Jennings shot a 658 while junior Cayden Cook finished with a 638 count.
In the baker’s competition, the boys finished with games of 195, 224, 192 and 193. The boys defeated second-place Benton by 624 pins, which is a new state record and the boys total pin count of 4,854 also set a state record, beating the previous record held by Fort Smith Southside by 240 pins.
"It was a perfect storm," Nash said. "We had waited for this type of performance by these boys all year, and we got it at a good time. Coach Pridmore and I were hoping they could duplicate this at state."
Although the boys performance at state was not identical, it was awfully close as they finished with a total pin count of 4,790 which was 226 pins better than second-place Fayetteville.
While the margin of victory was wide, it was not without some tense moments. Entering into the baker’s format, the boys held a 326 pin lead on Fayetteville. Fayetteville’s first two games were 289 and 277 which cut the lead to 156 pins. Cabot was able to respond with games of 233 and 188 in their last two games to increase their lead and win by the 226 pin count. Even though no Panther bowler was a medalist at state, Brown, Pedersen, Jennings and Cook made the All-State Team.
For the girls at the conference tournament, senior Shelby Smith stole the show, shooting a 733, with games of 278, 248 and 207. With these games, Smith broke her own state record of 700 pins, which she set at last year’s state tournament.
Smith had a very good supporting cast. Freshmen Megan Bugiel bowled a 516 series and sophomore Corbin Friddle finished with a 481 count.
While Smith was the gold medalist, both Bugiel and Friddle joined her on the all-conference team. Senior Shelby Eddy added a 454 series, senior Haley Patterson finished with 417, sophomore Allie Stalnaker’s two-game total was 239 with Freshman Micah Perry adding her game of 115.
The victory for the Lady Panthers avenged an earlier loss to second place Benton.
"Two days before conference, we bowled against Benton and they gave the girls their first loss in a head-to-head match in five years. I think they believed we would not be a factor, but our girls came out of the gate fast sending the message that conference still runs through us," said Nash.
At state, the girls were able to take a 19-pin advantage into the bakers and expand it to an 85-pin margin of victory by shooting games of 169, 202, 155 and 191. Individually, the girls were led by Smith’s 648, Bugiel’s 487, Friddle’s 477, Patterson’s 457, Eddy’s 439 and Stalnaker’s 426.
Smith was the only Lady Panther named to the all-state team, but in the process, she tied a state record by winning her third individual championship. "These girls did an amazing job. Like conference, they started with big games and made the other schools chase us. We led wire to wire with only three girls having any state competition experience before and, for us to win, it’s awesome. Our senior girls were able to win two state championships and our senior boys were able to win back to back championships."
Nash said a lot of time, effort and people went into these championships.
"I want to first thank the great people at ALLFAM," he said. "Bill Allen and his staff are amazing and have been very generous to our kids. I encourage Cabot to continue supporting his center."
Also, Nash said the support from the school’s administration and school board is very strong.
"At conference, our AD Coach Steve Roberts, as well as our school principal Henry Hawkins were there to cheer us on," Nash said. "Also we had two school board members, Corey Williams and Donna Nash present. All year, these people have awesome. A lot of schools do not have the type of support we do."
One constant at Cabot’s matches this year, as well as year’s past, has been the parental support. "
Our parents come to home and away matches in large numbers," he said. "At both state and conference, they far outnumbered any other schools’ followings. I have a great coaching job due to all the support I get."