Bearcat Bowlers Win First-Ever State Title

By Eric Trent

The wait is over — not that it’s been very long.

W.F. West girls bowling secured its first state championship in its short program history Friday afternoon at Narrows Plaza Bowl in University Place.

“It was really impressive to see the girls pick each other up,” W.F. West coach Don Bunker said. “They fought all season, got tougher and kept working. Their mindset was to get better and better.”

The Bearcats, spearheaded by four girls who placed top 15, fended off a comeback bid from runner up Columbia River to top the Chieftains 7,355 to 7,281 and claim the 1A/2A state title in just the program’s third year in existence.

Freshman Piper Chalmers placed third (1,094), Kelsey Stritmatter was fourth (1,052), Brianna Powe finished ninth (1,024) and senior Ellie Bunker came in 13th (976) to power the Bearcats to victory. Also scoring points for W.F. West was Jessica Loflin (654) and Cami Aldrich (654). Freshman Clara Bunker did not score for the Bearcats.

It was an historic victory for W.F. West, which did not qualify for state its first year in 2018, then vaulted to a third-place finish in 2019. The Bearcats tore through competition this season, finishing undefeated with a 15-0 record with wins over defending state champion Mark Morris and 2019 runner up Black Hills.

Bunker said this season was the easiest of all three, due to a hard-working group of bowlers whose goal was to win state from the beginning. The returners knew they had a legitimate shot at winning it all after last season’s third-place finish state. They had beaten Mark Morris, the eventual champion, during the regular season and were within striking distance at state, as well.

“We knew going into this season that we probably had a shot after last year,” Bunker said. “It could have been anyone’s state championship last year.”

The Bearcats ripped through competitors this year, winning the toughest 1A/2A district before finding themselves up 274 pins over Columbia River heading into the baker games at state. Then the Chieftains gave W.F. West its biggest battle of the season

“They were on our tails the entire tournament,” Bunker said. “We couldn’t shake them.”

The Chieftains chipped away pin-by-pin, cutting the lead by 200 pins to trail by just 74. But it was the 11th and 12th baker games where the Bearcats rallied.

“The girls said, ‘We’re not going to let them beat us, no matter what,’” Bunker said. “They came through and gave us the edge the rest of the way through.”

Did Bunker, his dad assistant coach, Ron Bunker, and JV coach Bob Spahr ever imagine they’d be coaching a state championship team after just three years?

“Absolutely,” Don said. “We found girls who had the right mindset and who wanted to get better. It was an amazing season. I’m proud of the girls.”

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