When the Pennsylvania State High School Bowling Championships roll around each March, programs from around the Commonwealth expect to see a lot of stiff competition coming out of the Central Susquehanna Valley and the Heartland Athletic Conference.
This year won't be any different.
Midd-West junior Jenna Yarger leads a strong group of area bowlers into the state championships in two weeks by claiming the girls individual title at the Eastern PA Regional Championship held over the weekend in Reading.
Yarger defeated Cedar Crest's Brittany LaBarre, 201-179, for the title. It is perhaps the most unexpected finals pairing the regional tournament ever saw.
Yarger and LaBarre were the finals' 11th- and 12th-seeded bowlers after they both rolled their worst games of the tournament at the least opportune time. Yarger threw a 154 in her fifth and final qualifying game to almost keep herself out of the finals.
But after they redeemed themselves following a series of big games, Yarger and LaBarre met in the end to decide it all.
The Mustang began her roll to the finals with a 195-164 win over No. 10 Brittany Ritzman of Elizabethtown in the first round. She followed that up with a 211-164 win over third-seeded Brynn Musser of Selinsgrove in the quarterfinals. Despite the loss, Musser still advances to the state championships.
Then in the semifinals Yarger threw a 204 to beat second-seeded Cydnee Toland-Holmes of Penn Wood, who rolled a 176.
Shikellamy coach Bill Snyder had his hands full with what was happening to his boys team, but he managed to catch what turned out to be the second straight title won by an area girl after the Braves' Shelby Derr captured the title a year ago.
"Yarger hangs on with her worst game of the tournament to make the top 12, then moves through the bracket to become the champion. I saw only her final game, but she had it won before the final frame," said Snyder. "This makes the second year in a row the Eastern Regional girls singles champion was from the PHAC."