After a wake-up call in the qualifying round of the Division I girls state high school bowling tournament March 10, Gahanna kept improving over the course of the day at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl.

The Lions’ performance culminated with their first state championship after beating Kettering Fairmont 3-0 in the best-of-five Baker games final.

“It was crazy because we were 13th after our first game and 10th after the second game and then we put it all together,” said senior Shannon Gonzales, who finished 36th of 104 competitors with a 565 three-game series. “Once we got rolling, it was contagious and nothing could stop us.”

The 16-team qualifying round consisted of three regulation games and three Baker games, with the top eight teams advancing to the championship round.

Buoyed by a 1,051 score in the third regulation game and Baker games of 225, 205 and 213, Gahanna vaulted to the top of the qualifying round and was the top seed for match play in the championship round.

“I told the girls if they rolled all 200 games in the Bakers, I would wear a crazy hat the rest of the day,” Lions coach Kelly Ferguson said. “That’s why I was wearing a popcorn tub hat with eye holes cut out the rest of the day. I kept my promise and the girls enjoyed that.”

In the championship round, Gahanna defeated eighth-seeded North Canton Hoover 3-0 (225-162, 172-138, 199-170) in a quarterfinal and fourth-seeded Centerville 3-1 (178-181, 189-160, 210-149, 193-164) in a semifinal before beating third-seeded Fairmont 221-157, 218-175, 194-191.

“I am so excited that we are the first to win a state title at our school,” senior Briann McKnight said. “This is just awesome.”

McKnight was the Lions’ top finisher, placing 26th with a 580 series.

“What I enjoyed most about the day is that we did this without having one girl finish in the top 25 individually,” Ferguson said. “It was a total team effort and the girls really thrived in the Bakers.”

Whitehall placed ninth (3,195), 36 pins behind Hoover for the final berth in the championship round, and Westerville Central finished 13th (3,080). 

Whitehall senior Madison Stiffler was the area’s top finisher, placing fourth (660) and making first-team all-state. Senior Makayla Barber was next for the Rams, rolling a 590 to tie for 21st.

Eastmoor Academy senior Averi Brown placed 23rd (583) and Briggs sophomore Dakota Fink finished 47th (535) after winning the state title last season.