At large: Bobcats break back into state

The Bobcats’ annual pilgrimage to Plaza Lanes continues.

And while the Marshalltown boys bowling team is headed to the Class 2A state meet for the third year in a row, this year’s trip has a more redemptive tone.

Finishing second to Ankeny (3,211) in their state qualifier meet at Totem Bowl last Thursday, the Bobcats earned an at-large bid with the fourth best score in Class 2A (3,207).

While many teams are envious of their position, the taste of defeat still lingers for the Bobcats, who are ready to prove themselves once again.

“Not winning our regional definitely made the guys even more hungry, even though we did finish with the fourth best score in Class 2A,” MHS first-year coach Jeremiah McKeever said. “We still bowled exceptionally well.”

No one can argue that.

Though the Bobcats will use any angle to keep the fire burning as their season extends into March with adverse weather pushing the state meet back to March 11-12. Class 2A gets underway March 12 at Plaza Lanes in Des Moines at 11 a.m.

“It kind of makes us want to go in with a chip on our shoulder and prove to the state that we’re meant to be there,” MHS senior Aaron Schwandt said of their runner-up finish in the state qualifier.

Schwandt and Dacoda Ewalt both return from last year’s fifth place squad that came in with the second best qualifying score, while Ewalt placed third individually.

McKeever believes that duo’s experience will be crucial in preparing the rest of the squad for the raucous environment of state.

“I’m counting on them to get the other guys geared up and ready for the atmosphere of the state tournament, because it’s definitely a change,” McKeever said.

Making his third appearance on the big stage, Ewalt knows what to expect.

“You just need to stay relaxed and not let the loudness get to you,” said Ewalt. “It’s unlike any meet – it’s a lot louder.”

Marshalltown demonstrated its consistency throughout the year with the fourth highest match score season average in Class 2A (3,079). Only two squads in the 10-team field fared better as Davenport North (3,149) and Linn-Mar (3,147) are also in the mix.

“We’ve been strong all year and when we need to turn it on – we’re able to,” Ewalt said.

Along with Ankeny, 2012 state runner-up Des Moines Lincoln (3,413) and Linn-Mar (3,274) were the only teams to eclipse the Bobcats’ qualifier mark. Valley’s Adam Morse enters with the top qualifying series score of 568 followed by Ankeny’s Ian Baskins (546). Grant Whitmore led Marshalltown with the fifth-best qualifier tally of 492.

Rather than setting any numbers or expectations on his squad, McKeever’s goal for his squad is short and simple.

“Our goal is to go in and bowl well – we’ll see how the pins go down and who comes out on top.”

Though after a pair of top-five finishes, the Bobcats are hungry to move up the ladder.

“We want to place higher than what we have been,” Ewalt said of the Bobcats’ fifth-place finish in 2012 and fourth-place performance in 2011. “As long as we stay calm and bowl well, we should do better than those two.”