Take the concentration of golf and combine it with the atmosphere of a raucous basketball game, and what do you get? The answer is high school bowling.
Eight high school boys and girls teams were busy setting them up and knocking them down at the annual Garaway High School Pirate Bowling Holiday Classic at Wabash Lanes on Saturday, Dec. 29.
While people might think the bowling scene would be a quiet place where all that can be heard is the knocking down of pins as bowlers concentrate on their performances, that could not be further from the truth.
The high school game today is full of high-octane energy with teams cheering and chanting and encouraging one another. There was a true buzz of excitement surrounding the Garaway invitational at Wabash Lanes, where Garaway head coach Troy Page was kept busy throughout the day, first with running the tournament and second by coaching his team.
“This isn’t your grandfather’s bowling experience,” Page said. “We figured on about 600 people altogether in attendance. We set up bleachers in the alley for fans, and there is an electric atmosphere in the alley. People kind of expect a golf-type setting, but this is a whole different atmosphere, and it is exciting.”
The event serves as a fundraiser for the Pirates, and the team remains a club sport for now, meaning it has to raise all of its own funds to participate. Page said this event is a big one for them, and they fared quite well.
He said eventually they hope to make it a school sport, but for now they can participate in the OHSAA team sports just like any team across the state, so they are eligible for sectionals and they hope to make a tournament run.
The participants included teams from Garaway, Dover, Wooster, Tuscarawas Central Catholic, Union Local, Carrollton, River View and Louisville vying for top honors in both the boys and girls competition.
On this day, at least early on, all eyes were on Dover, which had won the preliminaries and the Baker bowling, which featured five team members all bowling two frames in each game. Dover had situated itself quite nicely in the catbird seat heading into the final four rounds.
“I’m very proud of both teams,” Dover head coach Steve Scherer said of his boys and girls crews. “The kids have done great, and putting ourselves in this position is always something you think about, but it is exciting when it does happen.”
Both teams still faced some stiff challenges moving forward. The Dover girls met a first-year Louisville team while Wooster and Carrollton squared off in the other semifinal bracket. The Dover boys took on a red-hot Union Local squad while Wooster and Tuscarawas Central Catholic faced off in the other bracket.
Louisville’s energetic team downed Dover while Carrollton topped Wooster in the girls event. Union Local beat Dover, and Wooster topped TCC to set up a showdown for the title in the boys event.
In the two-game finals both Union Local and Carrollton roared out to huge leads in the first game, only to see their competitors come storming back to make it tight in game two. However, Carrollton held on to win by a narrow eight-pin margin to win the girls title while Wooster’s frantic comeback bid was nearly as close, allowing Union Local to claim the crown.
“It was wonderful to see both of our teams reach the final four, and it was well-deserved because both teams have been working very hard,” said Suzanne Roby, Wooster head coach, whose team stands at 7-2 on the year.
Roby said with five seniors on the guys’ side, their experience helped them nearly overcome the huge deficit after game one. “A lot of that leadership stepped up, and we depended on them. We got close but couldn’t quite get over the top.”
Individually the boys race came down to a two-man race for the top spot, where Wooster’s Justin Huffman and Dover’s Alex Tiell ran away from the field. In the end it would be Huffman who would rule the lanes with a trio of scores that included games of 258, 279 and 232 for an impressive 769, Tiell behind him at 738. Third place went to Alberto Dunlap of Union Local at 645; fourth place was Wooster’s Tim Hutchinson, who rolled a 639; and fifth place went to Austin Orellana of Dover, who fired a 638. TCC’s Tim Fantin just missed top-five honors at 630. Dunlap certainly earned the consistency award, turning in games of 214, 215 and 216.
For the girls it was Dover’s Kayla Davis who rolled a 622 and claimed the top honor, skipping past Garaway’s Jocelyn Troyer, who needed to strike out in her final frame to tie but came up one pin shy, knocking down only nine on her second throw of three 10th-frame efforts.
Troyer’s 611 (224, 197, 190) marks a new high for her. While she was disappointed to narrowly miss an individual title, she was elated with her effort, especially because she was battling a thumb injury. In addition Troyer, who was a three-time All-Ohioan in golf and qualified for districts last year in bowling, had just come off a lesson from Olympic coach Jeri Edwards.
“It felt good to come in and perform like this,” Troyer said. “You just have to keep hitting your mark and stay focused and not let all of the noise get to you.”
Davis was on fire, scoring rounds of 225, 171 and 226 to capture the title, showing off a clam consistency throughout the day.
“This went a lot better than I thought it was going to go,” Davis said. “This is the first time I’ve placed in the top five, so it is a thrill for me. That 622 is a lot higher than I’m used to bowling. But it is also exciting to see us doing so well as a team. We are like a family, and it is just as much fun to root for each other as we bowl.”
Rounding out the top five for the girls were a trio of tightly contested bowlers with just five pins separating the three. Wooster’s Allie Leiendecker took third at 596, Chloe Spout of Louisville earned fourth with a 593 and fifth place went to McKenna Marchand of Dover, who rolled a 591.
“There was a lot of talent out there today on the lanes,” Page said. “The great thing about bowling is that it doesn’t care how big or strong you are. It’s about precision and repetition, and it is both an individual and team sport that these kids can do their whole lives and enjoy. This is a high school sport that continues to grow and gain in popularity.”