One half of Youth Bowling Canada's (YBC) national bantam boys’ doubles gold-medal winning bowling team is back from Oshawa, Ont.
11-year-old Caleb Waller from Dawson Creek and coach Karry Riise touched down at the North Peace Airport in Fort St. John just after 10 pm Wednesday night.
Waller's partner, Hunter Kropp, arrives this afternoon (Thursday) with his dad, and will close out a week the pair will, likely, remember for quite some time.
To win a gold medal at a tournament at any level is memorable for an athlete, however, to do it twice is amazing and that word probably best describes this situation.
Just one day after arriving from a trip the length of the country and a body clock that was probably still on B.C. time, Kropp and Waller were able, with the help of two young women from Castlegar, to clinch the mixed doubles crown in six games.
The day, however, would end with a seventh match to begin the bantam boys’ doubles section of the tournament – 70 frames in one day and these two young men, as you can imagine, were ready for bed.
Monday, however, would prove to be even more challenging with six more round-robin games and a seventh to begin the playoff round.
But it was how their play, at this point, turned around that led to their second gold medal.
Finishing the round-robin with a record of 2-and-5 and seeded sixth out of eight teams, they would need to put a string of wins together for any chance at a good showing, and they did just that.
After losing their first playoff match-up against fourth-seeded Saskatchewan, they would rebound with two straight wins over #8 Manitoba and #2 Alberta and advance into the medals bracket, in what organizers called the “step ladder.”
Needing three wins to take it all, the Dawson Creek duo dug deep to come up with the results required, dropping Quebec 432-273, getting by Southern Ontario 463-378, and edging out Alberta, in a nailbiter, 352-349, to win gold.
"It's been a crazy week, that's for sure," said Riise. "I actually said to Caleb's grandma and Hunter's mom that I didn't think I could actually coach this team to gold."
The current YBC coordinator for the region, the (now) two-time gold medal coach considers herself more of a behind-the-scenes person.
"I can tell you, it's an experience I'll probably never forget."
But she is quick to give full credit to her two bowlers for doing what they did, and one conversation, in particular.
“I just said, I know you guys can do this. You have to want this. If you guys don’t want this, there’s no amount of coaching I do is going to do any good.”
“Caleb banged off four (strikes) right after,” Riise said. “Hunter bowled a 253 and a 260. He’s never bowled that high on our home lanes.”
“I feel really good. Feels awesome,” said Waller, a bowler of very few words, when asked about the experience. “I wanna go back again next year.”
Riise said both have said they’d like to defend their titles.
The work begins in the fall.
The 2023 Nationals are set to take place next March in Regina.