WATERLOO, Iowa -- All that separated the Muscatine girls bowling team from the eventual state champion team from Waukee was 20 pins.
After the individual two-game series to start the competition, it didn't look like the Muskies had any business finishing near the top of Thursday's Class 3A state tournament at Cadillac Lanes in Waterloo. But that's exactly what they did as they finished with a pinfall of 2,836.
The Muskies were led by senior Gabi Evans, who placed third with a 428 two-game series.
“It was a blast," Muscatine senior Gracie Brossart said, "I know we had fun in individuals, but Bakers was where we really (got focused). It really paid off.”
While the scores were being tallied, the Muskies knew they put themselves in a position to place high. The time between the last game and when the scores were announced was the source of some more anxiety amongst the Muskies.
“It was a little nerve-racking," coach Triscia Klein said. "We were kind of excited because we shot over 1,000 in Bakers but we kind of struggled in the two-game individual series.
"We didn’t know where we going to land, we were just hoping to get in the top three and get a trophy.”
The Muskies were sixth out of eight teams following the individual series. During the five Baker games, however, the Muskies turned it on. Over that stretch, Muscatine bowled a 1,018. The next-best score in those games came from Davenport Central with a 998.
Which is why, from the team perspective, the comeback itself may have meant more than the second-place finish.
"In Bakers, we all came together, we were cheering as a team, we were very loud and that helped keep us motivated,” Muscatine senior Skylar Tumlinson said afterward.
In the third of the team games, the Muskies bowled a 232, which was good for the fifth-highest score during any game on the day. But it was the consistency Muscatine found after the individual series that propelled them. In all but one of the five Baker games, the Muskies finished with a score of 190 or better.
Placing this high was not something on the radar for most of the girls coming into the season.
“Going into this year we definitely weren’t expecting this outcome," senior Gabi Evans said. "We were expecting to have a really weak team. And we had very limited practice space and time so I think we came together and it really showed.”
On the boys side, Muscatine made a comeback of their own to place fourth with a 3,017.
After an individual round in which the team combined for a score of 1,946 - which was only one place from the bottom - the team put together an impressive performance, especially during the last two Baker games of the day, where the Muskies rolled a 246 in each.
They also saw sophomore Noah Miller finish in fourth place in the individual competition.
Miller finished with a two-game series score of 465, which was just 29 pins behind first place. The sophomore put up an impressive 248 in his first game of the day.
Davenport North won the boys team competition with a score of 3,183.