EVERETT — Paris Smith is eager for another shot at the state crown.
Midway through the individual competition of last year’s Class 4A girls bowling state championships, the then-Cascade junior was in first place by more than 50 pins after topping 200 in each of her first three games.
Then came a massive comeback by Rogers-Puyallup’s Kristina Harris, who surged in front with a 257-pin fifth game. Harris went on to win the state title, finishing 63 pins ahead of the second-place Smith.
The runner-up finish served as added fuel this season for the Cascade senior.
“It’s just extra motivation to get that state title,” she said.
Smith is set to make her fourth consecutive state appearance Friday when she competes in the 4A individual state championships at Narrows Plaza Bowl in University Place.
Among her competitors will be Harris, who also is a senior. Throughout the season, Smith’s teammates simulated scenarios to help her prepare for another potential showdown with the defending champion.
“My fellow teammates would always remind me: ‘You’re going to bowl against her. You have to get this strike to beat her — to get first place and take state,’” Smith said. “They pushed me along.”
After her father first took her bowling at age 12, Smith quickly developed a love for the sport. She began competing in leagues and joined the Cascade team upon reaching high school.
Smith placed 40th in state as a freshman with a six-game series of 890, and finished 28th as a sophomore with a 901 series. She made a massive jump during last year’s state runner-up finish, posting a total pinfall of 1,173. She even rolled a perfect 300 game last season during league play.
“Paris just has that special something when it comes to competition,” Cascade coach Ron Hicks said of his senior standout, who carries a 3.93 grade-point average and also has competed on the swim and dive and golf teams every year during her time at Cascade.
This year, Smith rolled a league-best average of 192 during the regular season. She followed that by claiming the district title with a two-game series of 403.
“She had a very strong year,” Hicks said. “She started a little slow, but she really caught fire about halfway through the season. She carried the team. We have a great group of girls, (but) there were times when we really needed her to step up, and she did just that.”
Hicks and Smith both said her biggest improvement this season has been an increased ability to clear the pins in spare situations.
“In the beginning of the year, my average was lower than what it was the year before, (but) I started building and was able to get it up,” Smith said. “I was getting more spares, being more consistent. … I felt like I was more in control than I had been last year, or any time before.”
Smith hopes to continue her strong run Friday.
“She is very focused on what she’s going to do,” Hicks said. “I believe she has every opportunity to claim that title this year, if things go well.”
Jackson team heading to state
Jackson is one of eight teams set to compete Friday and Saturday for the 4A team title.
The Timberwolves claimed the district’s lone team berth by taking first place in the district tournament with a score of 1,813 — 62 pins ahead of second-place Cascade.
Jackson fell to the Bruins in two of the teams’ three regular-season matchups, but topped its Everett School District rival when it mattered most to secure the program’s first team trip to state since 2008.
“All of our girls bowled really well,” Timberwolves senior captain Molly Jo Myers said. “It was really great that the whole team was able to bowl well and qualify, because that means that we get to all go down (to state) together.”
Jackson is led by the senior trio of Myers, Kiana Zellmer and Crystal Le, who each have average scores between 150 and 160. All three of them posted two-game series above 300 at district.
Katherine Martin, also a senior, averages in the high 140s for the Timberwolves. Amanda Wininger, a sophomore, is up to a 140 average in her first season as a bowler. Juniors Laina Delgado and Haley Marberg also are listed on Jackson’s state roster.
Despite graduating several key seniors from last year’s team, the Timberwolves have excelled this season with consistency throughout their squad.
“Last year’s team wasn’t as consistent as this year’s team,” Jackson coach Dan Eng said. “We had some really high-average bowlers on the team last year. We would hit 850 to 870 series, (but) go as low as 600. This year’s team stayed around that 750 average consistently.”
The Timberwolves hope to continue that trend at state.
“We just want to stay consistent,” Myers said. “… We’ve been consistently hitting high and in a tight range, and it’s paid off. So going into the state tournament, we’re hoping to just do what we’ve been doing all season.”
GIRLS BOWLING STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Where: Narrows Plaza Bowl (University Place)
Local individual qualifiers: Paris Smith, Cascade
Local team qualifier: Jackson (Laina Delgado, Crystal Le, Haley Marberg, Katherine Martin, Molly Jo Myers, Amanda Wininger, Kiana Zellmer)