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The Artesia High School bowling team is in full swing in their 2016-17 New Mexico High School Bowling Association season, and head coach Ken Clayton could not be happier with the start.

“You never know what to expect when you jump into a new season with over half of your team being freshmen, sophomores, or new bowlers, but these guys have stepped up in a big way,” Clayton said.

This season’s Bulldog bowlers are comprised of seniors Ricardo Aguirre, Brittany Schneider, Jamey Palomares, Andy Powers and Josiah Waller, as well as juniors Kenley Ortega, Katie Safka, Sheree Yandell, Darian Mahan, Alexis Gomez, Zachary Isaacs, Alyssa Steed, Ana Wageley, Chris Burnside, Eduardo Anaya and Jaiden Atole. Sophomores Andres Lopez, Elijah Lopez, Tim Boone, Houston Branch, Bryce Pollard and Zachary Ingrem are joined by freshmen Will Davis, Coy Moorhead, Ethan Velo, Kenan Hernandez, Xavier Ybarra and RJ Lewis.

Clayton enters his 10th season coaching the AHS bowlers and is again assisted by Tim Harvey and Holly Harvey.

The Bulldogs compete each week in four average-based divisions: Advanced, Intermediate, Novice and Rookie. Clayton says each year, it is his team’s goal to have everyone’s tournament average high enough that no Artesia team qualifies for the Rookie division.

This season’s opening tournament in Deming saw Artesia enter one Rookie team, with that team capturing first place by a large margin, thus ensuring the AHS bowlers of their goal after only one tournament.

“Our new bowlers come out willing to work and learn something they haven’t done before, and their efforts show in a hurry,” said Clayton.

The Bulldog Advanced team began in Deming with a strong outing led by Coy Moorhead with games of 191 and 186, Will Davis (193/182), and Jamey Palomares (199).

In the following Santa Ana tournament, Artesia No. 1 placed third out of 11 advanced teams, led by Ethan Velo’s high 215/204, Will Davis’ 219/183, Jamey Palomares’ 198/162, and Ricardo Aguirre’s 178. In Santa Ana, Artesia No. 1 led all teams in the Baker System format of the tournament – two frames per bowler per game – with high games of 232 and 220, and a seven-game average of 193.

The third event of the season had Artesia No. 1 taking third place at the Rio Rancho Invitational and saw freshman Will Davis set a regular-season school record with a 269 high game, then couple that with a 222 game to set a series record 491 for two games. Also scoring well for Artesia No. 1 were Coy Moorhead (197/175), Jamey Palomares (185/177), Ethan Velo (176) and Ricardo Aguirre (170). Topping off the day for the Advanced team was an 11-strike Baker game score of 264, which set the third school record of the day.

“This Advanced team will be our state competition team, and they are fun to watch,” said Clayton. “They work hard, and it’s pretty amazing to realize that three of the five are freshmen.”

The AHS Intermediate teams have a season-high third-place finish in Deming and have been paced by Zachary Ingrem (192/163/150), Katie Safka (177/174/162), Alexis Gomez (178/16 /147), Andres Lopez (174/159), Kenley Ortega (162/152/140), Alyssa Steed (161/147), Bryce Pollard (165/155), Chris Burnside (167), Andy Powers (161) and Josiah Waller (154).

The Bulldog bowlers have two Novice Division titles this season, winning the Santa Ana Invitational in a field of 31 teams and adding the Deming Invitational championship, as well.

Artesia No. 3 dominated in Santa Ana, winning by a whopping 170 pins, and were led by Andy Powers with a high game of 212, Chris Burnside (191), Brittany Schneider (188), Josiah Waller (158/155) and Darian Mahan (158). Artesia No. 3 added Baker games of 209/203/193 and 189. Other leading scorers were Tim Boone (155/153), Elijah Lopez (150/145), Sheree Yandell (150/144), Houston Branch (144), Bryce Pollard (183), Kenan Hernandez (158) and Eduardo Anaya (159).

The Rookie Division champions of the Deming tournament were Xavier Ybarra (145/139), Chris Burnside (144/132), Josiah Waller (136/132), Ana Wageley (119/103) and Jaiden Atole (101/96).

The Bulldog bowlers will next travel to Holiday Bowl in Albuquerque before returning to Artesia to host the annual Artesia Bulldog Invitational Saturday, Jan. 28.