"St. Marys Is The City Of Champions"

Bowlers and coaches of both the St. Marys Roughriders boys and girls bowling teams pose for a picture with all of their trophies the teams have won throughout the season on Sunday at Memorial High School.
By: 
JAKE DOWLING
Sports Editor

St. Marys Athletic Director Jim Hollman stated something that Senior Director of Complinance and Sporting Behavior Roxanne Price said to both St. Marys bowling teams after each won their state title this weekend.

St. Marys is the city of champions.

That's pretty spot on.

The St. Marys bowling programs are each at the peak and those two programs, bowlers and coaches, celebrated their accomplishments on Sunday inside the Performing Arts Center at Memorial High School in front of parents, fans and fellow students.

It is just the second time in the history of the Ohio High School Athletic Association that a boys and girls team both won a state title in the same year, let alone in back-to-back days.

It marks the sixth state title for St. Marys as a school and the second for the girls bowling program. St. Marys boys and girls bowling has won the last three state titles for the school.

Assistant coach Karl Dammeyer said the Pioneer Classic in January was the girls’ coming out party as the team won the tournament with wins against Celina, Versailles and Division I powerhouse Troy. The girls then won the WBL Championship by 11 pins and Dammeyer said at that point, they began to believe that they had something going.

The girls finished runners-up at sectionals to Coldwater and took runners-up at districts behind Bryan, the team they would end up beating at state the next week.

Dammeyer said the girls opened state play struggling with a 790 in the first game to be 14th overall, but rebounded with a 980 to jump from 14th to first and rolled a 1,000 in the last game of qualifying.

As the top seed in the quarterfinal around, St. Marys girls team played and beat Minerva, 181-132, 170-196, 177-169 and 186-155. In the semifinal round, the Roughriders swept Greenon 188-148, 172- 141, 170-158 to set up the championship round against Bryan.

The first three games were decided by three pins and the entire match was decided by no more than six pins.

Bryan won the first match 178-177, but the Riders tied the match with a 182-179 victory. St. Marys squeaked out a win in match three with a 171-169 victory to lead 2-1. In the final match, St. Marys had three straight strikes late and needed just five pins in the final frame to win the title, but Jaden Gibson struck instead to put the icing on the cake with a 194-188 victory.

“That last game was not easy,” Dammeyer said. “We were down and the other team finished up with a 184. Dorian (Regedanz) came up and threw a spare and in the ninth, Jaden throws a 7 count and leaves the 3-6-10, which is not easy to pick up, and she nails it. Once again, it points to her ability to come through in the clutch and then she comes up and throws a strike to win a championship.”

The Roughriders were led by a trio of Second-Team All-Ohio selections in Gibson with a 577 series, Dorian Regedanz with a 573 series and Sara Hardin with a 561 series. Alayna Thornsberry rolled a 538 series, followed by Debbie Swisher with a 531.

For the boys, Saturday’s state title marked the second championship in the last three years.

Roughriders boys coach Scott Ross said his and the returning bowlers’ goal was to get back to state after qualifying last season, but missing the match play cut by 21 pins.

“Their passion led them to compete all year, practice hard, gel as a team and do a lot of amazing things,” he added.

Jr Hurley missed All-Ohio status by mere pins with a 655 to led the Roughriders. Playing in their last high school matches, Gunner Kruse rolled a 627 series, followed closely by Evan Tennant with a 626 and Nathan Kuffer rolled a 545 series. Junior Derek Fisher finished with a 389 series in two games.

After the regulation round St. Marys was the No. 4 seed in match play.

St. Marys opened play in the quarterfinals against Harrison Central and were quickly down 2-0 (181-172 and 184-153).

Ross said the team bowled poorly in the first game and halfway through the second game. To make things worse, Hurley told the coaches that the thumb slot in his ball went missing, but Tennant had asked Ross to drill a thumb slot for him Thursday night and Hurley was able to battled through it.

“No one was happy after that second game,” Ross said. “So I told the kids that, ‘what they have done for me this year has been tremendous ... so I told them that it was up to them now.’ At that point, I think they decided that they didn’t want to go home.”

Ross said the turning point in that match was the fifth frame of the third game when Kruse, Kuffner, Fisher, Tennant and Hurley each struck, setting up for Kruse to strike in the 10th to win the third match convincingly, 239-183.

After that, Ross said, Harrison didn’t stand a chance, and they didn’t, losing to St. Marys 239-156 and 226-221 as the Roughriders rebounded to move on to the semifinal round against Woodridge -- a team the Roughriders defeated in the second round two years ago en route to its state title.

“This Harrison team woke up a sleeping giant,” Ross said. “They, kind of made us mad.”

The Riders trailed after the first game, but tied the match with a 215-206 victory and were in the driver’s seat after winning the third match 236-155. Woodridge, however, tied the game with its 212-194 victory, but St. Marys advanced with a 203-179 win for the championship round.

The Riders’ win in the semifinal round set up the showdown against Jonathan Alder. Ross remembered hearing from someone that the Alder coach said to his team after it defeated Mechanicsburg in its semifinal match that that match was the team’s championship match between the two best teams at the state tournament.

Until Alder met St. Marys.

“ I think that coach made a big mistake, which is great for us, we’ll take it,” Ross said.

Indeed.

St. Marys beat Jonathan Alder 258-201 in the first game, but Ross said he didn’t want his kids thinking that anybody had won the tournament at that point. Ross said he and assistant coach Shawn Fischbach kept telling the kids after the first game to maintain and keep putting pressure on the other team to make them to make mistakes. The Roughriders maintained with a 194-180, 219-192 wins to grab its second state title in three years.

At the conclusion of the evening on Saturday, Ross reminisced what Nate Kuffner’s dad Kurt said to him that really hit home for the coach.

“He said, ‘thank you for taking my son places I never dreamed he could go,’” Ross recollected. “As a coach, that really hit home. I don’t want to take the credit, but I did give the kids the opportunity, I did give them the tools to do things that were amazing, now they stepped forward and they did that.

“I like to think that as coaches, it is our job to give the kids the opportunity and the tools and once we do that, it is up to them and what they did with those tools were amazing.”

To read the full story, be sure to grab Monday's print edition of The Evening Leader.