Johnson, Barnes continue strong at 2018 USBC Team USA Trials Aaron Smith January 5, 2018 RESULTS LAS VEGAS - AJ Johnson of Oswego, Illinois, experienced all the joys of representing his country at last month's World Bowling Championships, helping Team USA win the coveted team gold medal.The confidence gained from that performance has helped the 25-year-old right-hander off to a blistering start at the 2018 United States Bowling Congress Team USA Trials, and Johnson hopes his effort this week serves as a steppingstone in being able to help the men's team defend its title later this year in Hong Kong. The 2018 World Men's Championships will take place from Nov. 24-Dec. 5.Johnson posted his third consecutive top-three finish Thursday to take the overall lead at the 2018 event with eight ranking points. Josie Barnes of Hermitage, Tennessee, retained her lead in the women's standings and has 13 points through three rounds.The players in the field earn points based on their finishing positions in each qualifying round. The top bowler of the block earns one ranking point, second place earns two points, etc., with the lowest total of ranking points after the five six-game blocks determining the 2018 Team USA Trials champions.Although Johnson struggled at the Professional Bowlers Association World Series of Bowling IX in November, his showing throughout his World Championships debut has translated into a consistent effort at The Orleans.After posting a second- and third-place finish in the first two rounds, Johnson continued his steady pace Friday, ending the block on the 40-foot Athens lane condition in third place with a 1,383 total. Each round at the 2018 Team USA Trials will be contested on a different World Bowling lane condition."After the way the World Series (of Bowling) ended, I wasn't feeling great about my game," said Johnson, who also won the bronze medal in all-events at the World Championships. "It felt like all of the things I was doing well just fell apart. I really worked hard to get back to a good place before the World Championships, and I couldn't have asked for more while I was there. That gave me a little extra self-confidence that's really helping this week. I've been in tune with making the right moves and ball changes, and everything has really clicked each day."Johnson has been battling Kyle Troup of Taylorsville, North Carolina, for the top spot in the standings this week, gaining the overall lead for the first time Friday. Troup, a 26-year-old two-hander, led each of the first two rounds before falling to second in the overall standings after a 10th-place finish in Round 3, giving him a total of 12 points.Johnson and Troup have exhibited a friendly rivalry as they've gone back and forth in the standings."Kyle's kind of a rookie out here, so I want to be sure to show him a little bit," said Johnson, a three-time Team USA member. "We're really good friends, and it's been fun to watch him bowl so well. I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes the rest of the way out, and I hope we're both representing the team by the end of the week."Darren Tang of San Francisco is third overall with 42 points, and defending Team USA Trials champion Jakob Butturff of Tempe, Arizona, and DeeRonn Booker of Anaheim, California, round out the top five with 45 points and 49 points, respectively.Matt Russo of Millstone Township, New Jersey, led Friday's round, posting games of 208, 221, 238, 278, 247 and 236 for a 1,428 total. Booker was second with 1,386.Barnes, a 29-year-old right-hander, may not have struck as much on Friday as she did in the first two rounds, but she relied on another aspect of her game on her way to an eighth-place finish with 1,320. "I know if I'm able to go out and make my spares, I'll give myself an opportunity to be successful," said Barnes, a five-time Team USA member. "I had my lowest round today, but I didn't miss any makeable spares and only had two opens. My ball wasn't going through the pins quite as well as the first two days, but my spare shooting gave me the opportunity to make an impact. Tomorrow, I'm going to focus on executing, keeping an open mind and go from there."Jordan Richard of Tipton, Michigan, is second in the overall standings with 26 points, while Stefanie Johnson of McKinney, Texas, and Liz Kuhlkin of Schenectady, New York, are tied for third with 28 points. Shannon O'Keefe of O'Fallon, Illinois, is fifth with 33 points.Danielle McEwan paced Friday's third round with games of 233, 223, 233, 259, 213 and 225 for a 1,386 total. Caitlyn Johnson of Lake Wales, Florida, was second with 1,349, and Stefanie Johnson was third with 1,345.The United States National Amateur Bowling Championships also is being contested during Team USA Trials. The top three amateur men and top three amateur women after Sunday's final round of qualifying will advance to a stepladder final, which will determine the U.S. Amateur champions. The winners will earn spots on Team USA.After Friday's third round, Booker holds the top spot in the U.S. Amateur standings with 49 points. John Janawicz of Winter Haven, Florida, is second with 69 points, and Steven Badovinac of Monument, Colorado, is third with 81 points. In the women's division, Richard leads with 26 points, Caitlyn Johnson is second with 41 points, and Sarah Wille of Hoffman Estates, Illinois, and Haley Richard of Tipton, Michigan, are tied for third with 65 points.To be eligible for this year's U.S. Amateur, a bowler must not hold or have held a professional membership (PBA or PWBA) in 2017. Also, anyone who has won a professional title (regional, national or senior) as a professional is not eligible to compete as an amateur.Competition will resume Saturday starting at 11 a.m. Eastern with the women's fourth round. BOWL.com's BowlTV will provide wire-to-wire coverage of the 2018 event.At the close of competition Sunday, Team USA and Junior Team USA for 2018 will be announced.The top four men and top four women at the 2018 Team USA Trials, based on ranking points, will earn automatic spots on Team USA 2018. The National Selection Committee will select a minimum of two additional men and two additional women to join the team from the pool of players that competed during the week.The National Selection Committee also will select a maximum of five men and five women for the team based on submitted resumes. Those applicants must have been Team USA or Junior Team USA members within the last 10 years or among the top 25 in earnings during the 2017 PBA Tour season or top 25 in points during the 2017 PWBA Tour season.The U.S. Amateur champion in each division also will earn a spot on Team USA 2018. If the U.S. Amateur champion already has earned a spot on the team, the spot will be awarded to the next-highest Team USA Trials qualifier based on ranking points.For youth competitors, the top four boys and top four girls, based on ranking points, will earn automatic spots on Junior Team USA 2018. Two additional boys and two additional girls also will be selected by the National Selection Committee based on performances from either the 2018 Team USA Trials or 2017 Junior Gold Championships.They will join the youth competitors who already earned their spots on Junior Team USA 2018 through qualifying at the 2017 Junior Gold Championships.