Members of the McKendree University women’s bowling team met with President Donald Trump on Friday morning at a White House ceremony during Collegiate National Champions Day.
All nine McKendree bowlers who competed in the NCAA tournament — along with head coach Shannon O’Keefe, director of bowling Bryan O’Keefe, graduate assistant coach Matt Farber and Athletics Director Chuck Brueggemann — attended the ceremony, which honored the team for winning the NCAA championship in April.
Bearcats players at the White House were seniors Sarah Wille, Jessica Mellott and Nicole Fung Calleja; juniors Lauren Pate, Ashley Dunn, Ashley Hathaway and Christie Draper; and sophomores Breanna Clemmer and Taylor Bailey.
McKendree was among 18 NCAA programs to be honored at the gathering, which included photo opportunities with Trump throughout the Rose Garden, South Lawn and inside the White House.
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“Our ladies have been incredibly lucky and blessed to have the experiences they have had over the last few years,” O’Keefe said. “This was a truly special experience they had (Friday). They earned this visit due to their hard work, sweat, tears and working through their frustrations that allowed them to relive an incredible championship that they won back in April.
“It’s a completely humbling honor and something we will all remember for the rest of our lives.”
The McKendree bowlers swept Nebraska in the best-of-seven finals that were televised by ESPN. It marked the first NCAA championship for McKendree in any sport. Six other teams competed for the title.
The Bearcats began their 2017-18 season as the top-ranked team in the National Tenpin Coaches Association ratings. Through the first three tournaments of the new season, the Bearcats are 28-9 in match play.
David Wilhelm: @DavidMWilhelm