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Butler bowling team has worked hard for state title

| Saturday, April 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
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Members of the 2013 Butler state champion girls bowling team: Back row (left to right) Autumn Hepler, coach Bill Fay, Brea Suchonic; Bottom row: Shilo Warren, Kelly Bintrim, Mikalya White, Megan Paul, Alisha Fisher

Autumn Hepler said she was as nervous as she'd ever been in her life.

Imagine how teammate Brea Suchonic felt. She was the one who had all eyes on her with a state championship on the line.

“I could physically see her shaking,” Hepler said of Suchonic — the final bowler at the Pennsylvania high school state championship bowling match. “I felt so bad. It was just like dead silent. But she went up, and she came through.”

Did she ever. Needing two strikes and a seven in the final frame of the final game of the championship match against Hempfield on March 16 at Dutch Lanes in Ephrata, Pa., Suchonic went strike-strike-eight.

Butler beat Hempfield in the rubber match of the three-game series to win its first state championship.

The state title was the final frontier to conquer for the program, which was in its fourth season of existence. Hepler and Suchonic were four-year starters who had been on Golden Tornado teams that had qualified for the state championships each season but had fallen just short with sixth-, second- and third-place finishes.

By the time Suchonic stepped up in the final frame of the “Baker Game” championship match (five bowlers on each team alternate frames), it was down to her whether Butler would earn another silver medal or go home with a gold one.

Suchonic, whose father, Jeff, is an assistant coach on the team, bowled strikes on her first two rolls and toppled eight pins on the third, setting off a wild celebration of the culmination of three years of near-misses.

“Everybody was screaming and everyone was hugging and crying,” Butler coach Bill Fay said. “There were so many emotions. They wanted it, and they showed it. They just really wanted it.”

Suchonic, who is being recruited by at least two college bowling programs, first rolled a bowling ball at age 4. She said that by the time she was 10, she knew she wanted to pursue it competitively.

At the state championship, she showed she can come through under pressure.

“The first ball, I was kind of nervous, and the second ball it was just honestly all adrenaline,” Suchonic said of her strikes. “And then I got really pumped up, and I knew all I had to was keep it on the lane and get a little luck down there.

“It was very nerve-racking and exciting at the same time. I knew I had the full support of my teammates, so it very nice.”

Other starters for Butler at the state championships were sophomore Megan Paul, senior Shilo Warren and junior Kelly Bintrim.

Mikayla White and Alisha Fisher also were on the championship roster.

Butler has gone 40-0 during regular-season matches over its four-year existence. In addition to four-year starters Hepler and Suchonic, Bintrim and Paul have been varsity contributors since their freshman year.

“They came close before at states, and we gradually kept working our way,” Fay said. “This year, they said they were going to do it. They were going to do whatever hard work they had to go get it.”

“We really felt that we probably had the best chance we were going to get this year,” said Hepler, whose father, Jim, also is an assistant coach for the Golden Tornado. “This was our best time to do it. We had a lot of good momentum going into the state competition. We really had a good feeling about it, and we worked together as a team really well, and it just came together at the right time.”

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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