VIDEO: Hamilton’s girls bowling team celebrates state championship win

The girls bowling championship brought home from Columbus by Hamilton on Saturday was worth celebrating for several reasons.

One was the accomplishment itself. Winning a state championship always is a big deal.

Another was it was the first Big Blue state championship in any sport since the 2004 boys basketball team won the Division I championship.

A third is historic. Since the Ohio High School Athletic Association sanctioned the sport and started sponsoring postseason competition in the 2006-2007 season, Hamilton became the first Southwest Ohio boys or girls team in either division south of Centerville to not just win a state bowling championship – but to reach a state final.

“I did not know that,” said seventh-year coach Nick Arvin, who just minutes earlier had been cradling the state championship trophy in his arms as if he wasn’t going to let it go. “I’m on Cloud 10.”

“That’s big,” senior Madison Harnish said. “That’s crazy for me.”

The high school honored the team during a brief assembly Monday afternoon in the building’s auditorium. The players wore blue T-shirts proclaiming their accomplishment and their medals with the trophy on the stage floor. Principal Jon Szary opened the assembly. Hamilton city councilmember Joel Lauer and Hamilton Athletic Director Missy Harvey each had a few words before turning the microphone over to Arvin, who made a few comments before introducing his coaching staff and the players.

State representative Sara Carruthers (R-51), who represents southern Butler County, called to get information on the team, Harvey said.

Harnish, classmates Lilly Arvin, Shelbie Deaton and Madalyn Klapper and junior Emily Brunner teamed up to blaze a new high school bowling trail in the program’s first-ever state tournament appearance.

In the qualifying round, Hamilton finished second out of the 16 teams that qualified for the state tournament. The top eight reached the championship round, where teams face off in best-of-five Baker Round series. The Big Blue had to win the last two games to get past seventh-seeded Hillsboro in the first round before sweeping sixth-seeded Massillon Perry in the semifinal.

Hamilton routed eighth-seeded Plain City Jonathan Alder by almost 54 pins in the decisive fifth Baker Round game of the state final to capture the trophy. The wide margin of victory allowed the Big Blue contingent to start celebrating a bit early.

“We knew by the time Klapper threw a strike in the eighth frame,” Harnish said. “I saw my dad (Chris), and he was crying. My sister (Zoey) was gripping her pants.”

“I started getting emotional,” Nick Arvin admitted. “I didn’t know what to expect. I knew we had talent. We had two three first-team all-conference picks and two on the second team in maybe the hardest conference in the area and one of the hardest in the state.”

Harnish led Hamilton in the qualifying round, finishing 24th with a three-game score of 552. Arvin, the coach’s daughter and the Greater Miami Conference girls bowling Athlete of the Year, followed with a 542 to finish 31st. Deaton tied for 52nd with a 503, followed by Klapper at 55th with a 498 and Brunner at 76th with a 406.

Arvin, Brunner and Deaton all were named to the all-GMC first team. Harnish and Klapper earned second-team honors.

Hamilton, the 2021 GMC champion, had to shake off finishing third-place finish in the GMC to rebound in the tournament. The Big Blue finished third in the sectional tournament to qualify for the district, where it earned the last qualifying spot with a fifth-place finish.

“We had a disappointing last week of the regular season,” Nick Arvin said. “We kind of let things get away from us there. It got them back together.”

Middletown junior Audrey Fletcher, an individual qualifier, came in 66th with a 475.

Fairfield, the GMC regular-season champion, finished 16th in the team qualifying round. The Indians won the 2003-2004 state championship when competition was sponsored by the state bowling coaches association.

This season’s tournaments were the 16th since the OHSAA sanctioned bowling.

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