Alanna Dierking is used to hearing the bowling team at St. James Academy can’t do something.
When Dierking arrived at St. James, she was the only female who had picked up a bowling ball outside of the school season. She was told bowling could never succeed at a school like St. James. The sport didn’t matter enough.
So when Dierking won the Class 5-1A championship Friday afternoon with her 712-pin series at Northrock Lanes in Wichita, the senior couldn’t hold back the tears. Then it was announced St. James had won the third-place team trophy, the first of its kind in the program’s history.
By then, Dierking was a “crying mess.”
“This is everything we ever worked for,” Dierking said. “I don’t even think I can come up with a word for it, because it’s what I wanted so badly. To win it on your own is fun and all, but to win a team trophy just showed people that we can do it. If you want something, then just go do it. It’s all yours.”
There wasn’t a dry eye on the Thunder when Dierking was joined by teammates Meredith Bierbaum, Anna Le, Caroline Bednar, Carey Lawrence and Katherine Nguyen to celebrate the achievement they all had so desperately chased the last four years.
St. James, with Dierking as its only medalist, finished 29 pins behind champion Goddard Eisenhower with a team score of 2,312.
Alan Dierking, a St. James assistant and Alanna’s father, was still battling tears of joy after all the pictures had been taken.
“That’s my daughter,” he said. “I’m just so proud of her. And we always wanted to bring the team down here and for them to take third … I can’t put it into words. Well, you see how I am. It’s just awesome.”
St. James began its program seven years ago and didn’t have enough girls to form a team. Now an individual champion emerges from a program that was told it could never achieve this type of success.
Alanna Dierking stood in the center of it all, smiling with tears still flooding her eyes, basking in the moment she had spent four years striving toward.
“I came into this program knowing I wanted to do great things,” she said. “Honestly, I am so proud of this team from where we came. We won our regionals, and nobody thought we could do that, and then we came here and took third. We always believed we could do it, and we did it today.”
Turner’s Hill takes second
In his final state tournament, Turner senior Connor Hill made it count by topping off his 723-pin series with a 256 third game to shoot up to second place in the boys tournament.
“Those were my last three games of my high school career,” Hill said. “It’s kind of sad to see it go, but it was also fun to go out there and have the pins keep falling like that. I just wanted to have fun and that’s what I did, and it just kind of clicked.”
Mill Valley scored a season-best 2,655 pins to take fifth with Mitchell Cowan (693, ninth), Cole Griggs (689, 10th) and Jordan Laluk (666, 20th) finishing with medals. Piper’s Caleb Boyle bowled his season-best series of 681 to take 14th.
Emporia set the tournament record with its score of 2,798 to win the team championship, while Emporia senior Braden Schuler, behind an opening-game 300, won individual honors with a 768 series.