Regional coordinator and Chattanooga Christian bowling coach Gene Nelson felt the playing field was pretty level going into the Region 3 tournament Wednesday afternoon.
By the tournament’s completion, Nelson understood why various other area coaches felt Walker Valley’s boys and girls bowling teams were the favorites coming in.
Just a week after their respective District 5 tournament wins, both Mustang bowling squads walked away with the Region 3 championships.
“This has been the most spirited competition we’ve had in a while,” Nelson declared.
Soddy-Daisy, Rhea County, Walker Valley and Signal Mountain all competed in the ladies’ regional tournament, while Hixson, Signal Mountain, Walker Valley and McMinn County competed in the men’s regional tournament.
The Walker Valley girls began their day against Signal Mountain, where they claimed 22 of the 27 match points and led by a total pinfall of 2,706-2,288.
Nicole Hartman bowled a series high of 204, Alexis Rutledge bowled a series high of 176 and Kara Davidson bowled a high of 171 against Signal Mountain.
The Lady Mustangs faced a familiar opponent in the region finals, as they took on the same fledgling Rhea County team that had claimed runner-up at the district tournament.
In the championship round, Walker Valley came away with 20 of the 27 match points, leading Rhea by a total pinfall of 2,870-2,558.
Rutledge led the Lady Mustangs in the finals with a series high of 212, with Hartman bowling a high of 201 and Davidson bowling a series high of 191 against Rhea County.
Four of the Walker Valley girls were named to the All-Region team, which was made up of eight bowlers total.
Rutledge came in first place with her average of 194, Nicole Hartman came in second with a 192 average, Kara Davidson placed third with an average of 176 and Delena Jones claimed the sixth place spot with her average of 161.
Davidson, Rutledge and Hartman also make up three of the five Walker Valley bowlers to qualify for individual state competition.
The Walker Valley boys took on Hixson in the first round of the regional tournament.
The Mustangs claimed 20 of the 27 match points, and led Hixson by a total pinfall of 3,535-3,071.
While Hixson won the first game of the round by a pinfall of 1,201-1,107, Walker Valley bounced back to claim the remaining two games by pinfalls of 1,223-1,022 and 1,205-848.
In their series against Hixson, Briton Helton bowled a high of 244 and Dylan Dawson had a series high of 225, while Tanner Kincaid, Caleb Zanoska and Nathan Kirby had series highs of 212, 211 and 210 respectively.
In the title round, Walker Valley once again faced McMinn County, which was the runner-up in the district tournament.
The competition proved fierce between the two teams, as only nine points separated the teams for the championship.
The Mustangs took 16 of the 27 match points, and won by a total pinfall of 3,421-3,412.
The first game went to Walker Valley with a pinfall of 1,203-1,144, while the second game was claimed by McMinn with a pinfall of 1,121-1,010.
In the deciding game, the Mustangs came out on top with a pinfall of 1,208-1,147.
Helton bowled a series high of 234, Kincaid and Kirby each bowled a series high of 224 and Zanoska bowled a high of 215 against McMinn.
While McMinn’s Logan Teague came in first on the All-Region team with an average of 241, Helton finished in second with an average of 230.
Kirby claimed fourth place with an average of 217, Kincaid finished in fifth with an average of 213 and Zanoska rounded out the All-Region team in eighth with a 207 average.
“We fought against very tough teams throughout the whole competition,” Walker Valley coach Dean Anderson said.
The Lady Mustangs will host Siegel at in sectional competition at Leisure Time in Cleveland on Saturday with an expected start time of noon (subject to change).
The Mustangs will host Smyrna in the sectionals at Leisure Time on Monday.
The Walker Valley girls have been to state competition twice, winning the state championship back in 2005.
The boys defeated Smyrna last year to earn their first trip to state, where they made it to the semifinals.