RENO, Nev. - The members of Stars and Strikes 1 of Channahon, Ill., had their sights set on the top of the leaderboard even before hitting the lanes at the 2013 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships, and they did not leave the National Bowling Stadium disappointed.
The group used games of 1,055, 1,087 and 1,080 to grab the Regular Team lead with a 3,222 series, surpassing Team Dirty of Madison, Wis., which previously held the lead with 3,174.
Kyle McNally led the way for Stars and Strikes 1 with a 653 series and was joined in a consistent team effort by Nikki Lunsford (649), Chris Paxson (648), Justin McNally (643) and Steven Lunsford (629).
This is the third year the team has competed together at the USBC Open Championships, and after the strong start, their confidence soared.
"The past couple of years, we've had some good games, but it seems we always get off to slow start," said Steven Lunsford, who made his 11th tournament appearance. "This year, as soon as we got off to the big start, I knew we were going to take over the lead because we always seem to get better. I told somebody back home before we left that if we play them the way we seem to always do, and they breakdown the way we try to break them down, we were going to leave town with the lead."
As with many top teams that find success on the championship lanes, communication was key for Stars and Strikes 1.
"We prepare every year," Steven Lunsford said. "We discuss what we want to do and how we want to break them down. One thing I really like about this team is that we are always talking, and you can see that in our scores and how consistent we are across the board. It's a complete team effort."
Nikki Lunsford has shared in team success at the USBC Women's Championships and would love to claim a title at the Open Championships, too.
Lunsford helped Bowlers Choice Pro Shop of Tonawanda, N.Y., to the highest team set in Women's Championships history, 3,424, to capture the Scratch and Diamond Team titles at the 2010 event in El Paso, Texas. The team included nine-time Team USA member Liz Johnson.
If Stars and Strikes 1 can hold onto the Regular Team lead, she would become the first woman to capture a team title at both events. She was able to see similarities between both teams, and their ability to work together.
"It would be pretty awesome," said Nikki Lunsford, who made her fourth Open Championships appearance. "I have a great group of girls I bowl with, and this is a great group of guys. A lot of it is about communication. When I bowl with the women, we all communicate well, and that's what we were able to do here."
After setting the pace at the 2013 event, Stars and Strikes 1 already is looking forward to the 2014 event, which also will be held at the NBS.
"I like leaving here with the lead and taking a picture with the leaderboard," Steven Lunsford said. "When it's all said and done, we'll finish in a decent position and our hard work and consistency will show that. We try to build off the previous year, so when we come back next year, I think we can just blast that score and finish even higher."
Presenting sponsors for the 2013 USBC Open Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno.