Girls enjoy competition rolling with boys
Tessa Epifanio had a decision to make.
After competing on the Worthington Kilbourne High School boys bowling team as a sophomore, Epifanio switched to the girls team last season when that program was added.
Epifanio, however, found more enjoyment competing with the boys and chose to spend her senior season with that squad.
The choice came with a price: She is not eligible for the girls postseason.
Because Epifanio chose to compete with the boys team even though Kilbourne offers a girls team, the Ohio High School Athletic Association deems her a member only of the boys team, including in the postseason.
"I wanted to have the best possible competition that I could have," said Epifanio, who entered play last weekend with a 196.8 game average and a high game of 246. "I knew I needed to bowl with the boys. I didn't think twice about it."
In the sponsorship section of the OHSAA's 2012-13 bowling regulations, article 3.2 states: "A girl who bowls on a boys team is a member of the boys team if the school has a separate girls team for which the student chose not to bowl."
The section also states: "No girl may go back and forth between a girls and a boys team. If a girl first bowls with a boys team and the school sponsored a girls team that has a separate girls schedule, the girl(s) shall be a permanent member of the boys team for that season and shall be excluded from the girls state tournament."
There are exceptions to the rule that affects Epifanio, most notably with defending girls state champion Brittany Beeghley of Pickerington North and the DeSales bowling program.
At Pickerington North, there is no program for Beeghley to have regular competition during the regular season. DeSales does not offer a girls team, but the Stallions normally have three girls in the varsity lineup.
Senior Miranda Singer, who entered last weekend leading DeSales with a 193.3 game average and a high game of 266, will compete in the girls postseason as an individual. Junior Amber Strohacker, who was third on the Stallions with a 155.4 average, has decided to stay with the boys team in the postseason.
"When you play on a boys team, I think you have better competition," Singer said. "You have to stay focused throughout the match. I think the focus will help me when I go into the (girls postseason) tournaments."
Strohacker said her decision was a matter of familiarity.
"I've always bowled against boys, so it really isn't any big deal," she said. "I just go with the flow."
DeSales coach Connie Emlich said having Singer makes her team better in a competitive sense.
"The girls blend in well and Miranda is an incentive for the boys to do better," Emlich said. "Miranda is our anchor because she is our best bowler, but that keeps the boys alert because they always want to do better than she does.
"Miranda has a better chance of qualifying in the girls division because of her high average. ... Competing against the girls gives her a better shot of advancing from sectional to district and beyond."
Entering play Jan. 11, there were 21 better averages than Singer's in the boys division, according to COHSBC.com, the website for the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference. Zach Pannell of Westerville South led at 221.8 and Epifanio was 16th.
In girls competition, Tori Pappas (214.8) of Briggs led the COHSBC. Epifanio would rank second, and Singer also would be in the top five.
Epifanio did not compete in the postseason last year, but that helped make her decision easier.
"I bowled with the guys as a sophomore and I didn't have the grades to compete in sectional last year," said Epifanio, whose average was second on the Wolves behind Alex Mramor's 208.9. "I missed advancing (to district) by (21) pins as a sophomore, so I knew I could compete with the boys and I wanted to go up against better competition."
In the 2011 sectional at Tiki Lanes, Epifanio rolled a 581 series as the final individual qualifier, Clark Sabula of Watterson, had a 602.
Singer was sixth (527) in the sectional last season at Columbus Western Bowl behind champion Beeghley (646). In the district tournament at HP Lanes, Singer was 13th (522) and did not qualify for state.
Beeghley was third (593) at district behind champion Mary Wells (673) of Westerville Central to advance to state at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl, where she rolled a 654 to beat Sierra Kanemoto (652) of Riverside Stebbins.
Beeghley competed with the Pickerington North boys team in 2010-11, but is in her second season without a team. A rule prohibits playing in "house" leagues during the season, so all she can do is practice.
"I practice three days a week and I try to work on something different in practice every time," said Beeghley, who practices at Rule 3 bowling center in Pickerington. "Sometimes I work on my approach, sometimes I work on hitting the marks. It's definitely easier when you have a team to stay focused."
Beeghley has planned a practice tour of the sectional and district sites. Girls sectionals will be held Feb. 15 at Columbus Western Bowl and Eastland Lanes, and district is Feb. 23 at HP Lanes.
"Last year, I didn't know what to expect (competing as an individual). I really didn't have a gauge for how well I was doing, but I think I have it figured out," she said. "I never pay attention to how the people around me are doing because that can cause you to lose focus. All you can do is go out and roll your game."
Epifanio, a left-hander, agrees.
"The biggest thing is being accurate and consistently hitting your marks," she said. "If you have a bad shot, you have to let it go."
Kilbourne coach Mike Mramor said Epifanio has the right makeup to excel in the boys postseason.
"This isn't a recreational sport for Tessa," he said. "When she missed out (on being a district qualifier) as a sophomore, you could see there was a real sadness there. It meant a lot to her, and she wanted another chance this year for herself and the team."