By Josh Brown
COLUMBUS — Jenna Stone may have seemed calm, but she was anything but calm.
“I looked over at the coaches and asked that, after the first strike, if we had a chance to do this,” the sophomore said. “They said yeah, and my heart started racing. Just racing.”
Two more 10th-frame strikes later, there was no reason to remain calm.
Stone struck out in the 10th frame of the championship match against No. 1 seed Beavercreek, giving the Trojans a two-pin victory in the game, a 3-1 victory in the match — and the Troy girls bowling program its first ever Division I state championship in the most thrilling fashion possible Saturday at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl.
“It feels amazing, it really does,” Stone said. “I can’t even … after that last strike, everyone just came running up at me.”
“Going into the 10th, we’d been calculating if we could actually do it,” said Rachel Darrow, the team’s lone senior. “Once Jenna got that last strike, we all ran out. And jumped. And cried. I cried, they cried, everybody cried.”
“That was awesome. That was special,” Troy girls bowling coach Rob Dever said. “I don’t know if I could step up there in that situation and throw three straight strikes like Jenna just did. That’s the thing about these girls. They don’t flinch. They just kept battling and battling and battling and never gave up.”
In 2009, the Trojan girls were the state runners-up — with Alicia Benson winning an individual state title. Then two years later, in 2011, the Troy boys won the state team championship. But Saturday proved to be the biggest day in Troy girls bowling history.
Darrow and Stone both earned first team All-Ohio during individual bowling, with Darrow rolling 223-234-215—672 for third overall and Stone 175-226-255—656 for fifth overall.
“It was, I don’t know, it was really exciting — but also really, really scary, especially in that last couple frames,” Darrow said. “Definitely, I got to go out with a bang. I didn’t expect that. It feels really good.”
“Rachel, what a great way to send her out,” Dever said. “And Jenna, the first game she struggled a bit. But we got her adjusted, found the line and she was just whacking them the rest of the day. That’s just how she is. Once she finds it, she doesn’t stop.”
The Trojans qualified for the state tournament last season but did not qualify for the head-to-head top eight. Once they were there this time, though, there was no stopping them.
“We came close last year, but we just didn’t have it in us,” Darrow said. “Knowing that this was my last year and I could contribute to something like this, it makes it really meaningful.”
“We came here last year not having much experience,” Stone said. “This year, we had a little more. We treated it like just another tournament instead of like the state tournament.”
A’leigha Smith, another sophomore, rolled 193-190-170—553, Kirsten McMullen rolled 170-179-149—498 and Alyssa Shilt rolled 152-187-158—497, then the Trojans rolled 171-193-171 in the three baker games to give them a total of 3,410 after individual qualifying — good enough for the No. 3 seed.
In the first head-to-head baker match, the Trojans dropped the first game against North Olmstead 210-201, only to win the next three 234-168, 165-151 and 180-160 to advance to the semifinals. There, the Trojans faced No. 2 seed Mentor, again winning in four 161-192, 233-146, 200-176 and 214-138.
“We just come alive head-to-head,” Darrow said. “(Our previous tournament experience) helped us tremendously.”
And against No. 1 Beavercreek in the championship match, the Trojans won the first game 255-164 but dropped the second 223-210.
In the third game, Stone gave a preview of things to come by throwing a strike on the final ball of the 10th frame to give Troy a 199-196 victory and a 2-1 lead — and then in what proved to be the final game, she struck out in the 10th to give the Trojans a come-from-behind two-pin victory, as well as the state championship trophy.
“Nothing phases her,” Dever said of Stone. “Nothing bothers her. It’s really tough when you’ve got all these people watching you in that kind of situation and it gets really quiet. But that’s the mentality you’ve got to have to be a clutch bowler like she is.”
“Just working together as a team, keeping each other up — and bowling well,” Stone said when asked how the team does it. “It feels amazing.”
“This is the strongest team I’ve been part of in my four years,” Darrow said. “I was glad I could do this with them. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anyone more.”
“This whole team, they respond to the challenge,” Dever said. “When it comes to head-to-head rounds, they know they’re bowling against good teams, and they kick it up a notch. They’re not afraid to just let the ball fly.”
Particularly in the big moments.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.