MPI state champ Yamada: ‘We never gave up’

Between a potential team title and a personal quest to reach the top, Kai Yamada just wanted to do more.

The Mid-Pacific junior was steady through the Billy Tees/HHSAA Bowling State Championships at Hickam Bowling Center. Then his team rallied. Down nearly 300 points entering Friday’s last three games, the Owls made a mad run, amassing a whopping 951 pins to give eventual champion Mililani a bit of a scare.

Yamada wound up with his first individual state championship, finishing with 1,628 pins. He edged Akira Sanco of Mililani by five pins and Kapolei’s Jake Brett by nine. Last year’s champion, Josiah Benner-Eslit of Campbell, finished seventh (1,599).

“My teammates brought the energy. We had our struggles, but we stuck together as a team and never gave up,” the junior said. “Our main focus was to knock down 10 pins and keep the energy up.”

After a second-place finish in 2017, Mid-Pacific’s Kai Yamada emerged as the new state champion on Friday at Hickam Bowling Center. Nov. 2, 2018. Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser

Yamada actually had a higher pin total in 2017 when the state tourney was at Lihue Lanes.

“I came in second. I had more strikes last year. The (oil) pattern they use for states, in my opinion, is the toughest,” he said.

Many coaches and bowlers consider Lihue’s lanes to be the driest and most dynamic, but Yamada saw it differently.

“I think this one is a little drier,” he said of Hickam. “I had to make sure my spares were on point.”

Yamada is a junior, and the Owls’ runner-up status will serve as motivational fuel.

“We had a great season. We have there seniors, so five of us (underclassmen) will be returning,” he said.

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