U15 champions crowned at 2019 Junior Gold Championships

ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Annalise OBryant of Ball Ground, Georgia, defended her U15 girls title and top-seed John Nunn of Jacksonville, Florida, took the U15 boys title at the 2019 Junior Gold Championships presented by the Brands of Ebonite International.

CBS Sports Network aired the stepladder finals of the U15 division on Tuesday.

“It’s hard enough to win, but it’s that much harder to win back-to-back,” Annalise said after her victory. “This one means so much to me. I’m shaking right now. Coming in, knowing I’m the defending champion, and all the other girls want to win, too … I had to try that much harder.”

Annalise took the lead in the U15 girls division on the final day of qualifying and held it through two advancers rounds. She then won her first two matches before Victoria Varano of Stony Point, New York, sent her to the elimination bracket.

Annalise rebounded to earn the No. 3 seed for the television show and faced Victoria in the opening match. A back-and-forth match came down to the final frame and Annalise struck on her first two shots in a 208-200 victory.

And what was going through her mind, knowing she had to strike twice to advance?

“I really, really wanted it,” Annalise said. “I said relax, go up there and be aggressive. I just hit my mark and it happened, thankfully.”

In the title match against Isabel Tetmeyer of Ankeny, Iowa, Annalise had open frames in the fourth and fifth, and was looking at a 16-pin deficit through six frames.

“I missed a spare, nothing you can do about it once it’s over with, and then the 7-10 (split), nothing you can do about that,” Annalise said. “So, I sat down and I’m like, ‘OK, you know what you need to do. It’s not over. Do it.’”

She proceeded to post four consecutive strikes, starting in the seventh frame. The opening strike in the final frame sealed a 199-185 victory to earn Annalise her second consecutive title.

In the opening match of the stepladder finals in the U15 boys division, Brandon Caruso of Channahon, Illinois, squared off against Ashton Yamasaki of Portland, Oregon, who made the TV show in his first appearance at the Junior Gold Championships.

Ashton’s shots were in the pocket all night, but he settled for spares after leaving three consecutive corner pins in frames 6-8. Brandon, meanwhile, missed a single-pin spare to start the match but overcame the early mistake with a string of four strikes to take a 217-199 victory and advance to the title match against John.

John’s road to the final match started with a one-pin victory over 2016 U12 champion Edgar Burgos of St. Charles, Illinois, to start match play, and he later would beat Ashton in the match that set the top two seeds.

“Match play was actually kind of easy, even though the scores might not have showed it,” said John, who was third in the U12 division in 2017. “I just had to stay calm and throw shots.”

John opened the title match with three strikes before missing a single-pin spare in the fourth. Brandon, who opened in the first frame, was down by 27 pins by the time he put together a pair of strikes in frames 6-7.

But Brandon would strike in the ninth and in his first two shots in the final frame to force John to mark for the victory. John, who bowls two-handed but shoots spares with one hand, was left staring down a single-pin spare conversion, which he quickly dispatched on his way to a 207-198 victory and the title.

“The first 10-pin I missed, I kind of pulled it and threw it really hard, and I didn’t need to,” said John, who also said he the loves the 10th frame. “I just had to keep my feet slow, stay calm and not pull it. The reason I went a little quick was just to get it over with.”

By winning their respective divisions, Annalise and John earned selection to the 2020 Junior Team USA U15 Development team, along with Elizabeth Coutta of Smyrna, Tennessee, and Randal Dunbar, of Milford, Massachusetts.

The U15 divisions had 715 boys and 359 girls.

Competitors in the U15 division bowled 16 qualifying games over four days (four games each day) before the field was cut. Bowlers then bowled an additional five games before a second cut was made, and those remaining bowled an additional five games to determine the 16 bowlers for match play.

Match play was a double-elimination bracket. All matches were two games, with total pins determining the winner.

BowlTV.com provided live coverage of the Junior Gold Championships from selected centers, including coverage of the U15 advancers rounds and match play.

CBS Sports Network is broadcasting the stepladder finals of all divisions of the 2019 Junior Gold Championships. The U17 title matches will air Aug. 6, and the U20 finals will be televised Aug. 13. Both TV shows will start at 8 p.m. Eastern.

The USA Bowling National Championships presented by Sixlets title matches also will air on CBS Sports Network. The U12 final will air Aug. 20 and the U15 final will be Aug. 27, with both shows starting at 8 p.m. (Eastern).

Visit BOWL.com/JuniorGold for more information about the Junior Gold Championships and the Junior Gold program.