MERRILL - The familiar sound of bowling balls fills Lincoln Lanes, but this season is anything but normal for the youth bowlers of Merrill.
For the first time in 37 years, former head coach Dan Adamec will no longer be there to watch the kids. Adamec died of cancer in December.
"All the kids looked up to him," head coach Scott Smith said. "I mean, he was more like a parent to some of these kids than a new coach."
In Dan's place is a new coach, one that has no plans to ever filling his shoes.
"Me to try to replace Dan? It would never happen," Smith said. "I'm just trying to be my own coach."
Adamec's absence doesn't mean his former bowlers have skipped a beat.
Two of them qualified for the Junior Gold Championships in Las Vegas.
"I beat everyone out by 30 pins," Dylan Smith said. "When I realized that I won, it was so exciting."
"Bowling for me is just kind of like my second home," fellow qualifier Piper Plautz said. "I love bowling. I come here almost every single day, I'm motivated to do it."
Both are proud to qualify for themselves, but even prouder to represent their town.
"It's kind of nerve-wracking because I don't want to let them down, but then it's also very exciting because I know I can represent Merrill in a good way," Plautz said.
"When we were over in Detroit last year, I said 'yeah we have four kids here' and they said 'yeah that's unheard of for an area like this,'" Scott Smith said.
It would be unheard of for most, but Dan Adamec wouldn't have been surprised.
"I know he's always in the back of my head," Dylan Smith said. "He's always cheering me on and always helping me do good.
The Junior Gold Championships will be held in July 2020.
Piper's sister Paige is also trying to qualify.