By Lucas Wiseman
RESULTS: Team USA Trials homepage
NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y., and AJ Johnson of Oswego, Ill., have put together three consistent days to open the United States Bowling Congress Team USA Trials and lead their respective divisions with just one round remaining.
Liz Johnson leads the women's division with eight points, while AJ Johnson is at the top of the men's pack with 29 points at Texas Star Lanes. The players in the field earn points based on their finishing position each round. After four rounds, the man and women with the least amount of points will be crowned champions.
AJ Johnson earned 11 points in Round 1, three in Round 2 and 15 in Thursday's third round to top the men's field. Chris Via of Springfield, Ohio, is second with 32 points, while Marshall Kent of Yakima, Wash., is third with 37.
"It's been awhile since I've thrown the ball this well and that in itself makes me feel good," said AJ Johnson, who totaled 1,568 for seven games in finishing 15th Thursday. "Being consistent over the past three days has been the key for me, especially with the new points system being used."
In the women's division, Johnson has had finishes of first, third and fourth over the three days to lead with eight points. Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, N.Y., is second with 12, while Leanne Hulsenberg of Roseville, Calif., is third with 29.
height: 168px;" align="left">If Johnson finishes within three positions of McEwan and no lower than 21st place, she would be guaranteed a victory in the event's final round Friday. McEwan would need to finish ahead of Johnson by five positions and no lower than 17th to take the victory.
"I had to pull out every trick today to not just get to the pocket, but to find a way to carry," said Johnson, who finished fourth Thursday with a seven-game total of 1,551. "Being consistent so far has worked and if I can continue to be consistent tomorrow, I feel pretty confident that I can win."
The top three men and top three women in the standings after all four rounds will earn automatic spots on Team USA for 2012. If Liz Johnson or any other bowler who has already been selected for Team USA in 2012 finishes among the top three, the automatic spot drops to the next player in the standings.
In addition to the automatic spots on Team USA, the National Selection Committee, which is led by Team USA head coach Rod Ross, will select two men and two women as at-large selections to Team USA.
A total of eight Junior Team USA spots - four boys and four girls - also will be available. The top two boys and top two girls in the final points standings will earn automatic spots, while two boys and two girls spots will be at-large selections taken from either the Team USA Trials field or the finals field from the USBC Junior Gold Championships held in July 2011. All bowlers 20 and under as of Jan. 1, 2012 are eligible for Junior Team USA.
A total of 225 bowlers are competing this week with 145 in the men's field and 80 in the women's field. It's the highest entry count for the event since 2007 in Reno, Nev., when 233 bowlers took part.
All rounds of the Team USA Trials are being broadcast on BowlTV, which can be found at YouTube.com/BowlTV.