SMYRNA – Just five girls returned from last season’s Franklin High School girls bowling team. The Lady Admirals held tryouts and accepted everyone who showed up – seven fresh faces to fill out the roster.
They raised money together for extra time on the lanes and prepared for a season enduring COVID-19 protocols without ever really thinking they could be bowling for a state championship at the end of the season.
However, the Lady Admirals did just that Friday at the Smyrna Bowling Center, settling for a runner-up trophy in Division I in the school’s first finals appearance in just their second state tournament. That silver plaque will join a District 9 crown and Region 5 one as well.
Bowling Photo Gallery – Franklin girls vs. Hardin County, State Championship
The Franklin High School girls bowling team finished runner-up to Hardin County in the TSSAA Division I Girls State Bowling Championship on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 at the Smyrna Bowling Center. Hardin County claimed a 22-5 win.
“What a ride,” Franklin coach Ted Logan said, shaking his head in disbelief. His girls had just completed a one-loss season, falling 22-5 against Hardin County as the unbeaten Lady Tigers captured an unprecedented eighth consecutive state title and 12th overall.
“That’s bowling royalty there,” he said of Hardin County, which had two bowlers place in the states top six Wednesday. “We made it here and the girls were there with them early. I am so proud of them.”
Not bad for a group that featured so many newcomers and had to mesh during a season unlike any other, further evidenced by the entire state tournament this week being absent of fans. Many parents watched online feeds of the competition from their cars in the parking lot outside since they weren't allowed to watch in person due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“It really is an unbelievable feeling to be here,” Franklin junior Leia Miller said. “It’s been an amazing opportunity and I'm excited for next year.”
After rolling past Bartlett in the first round Thursday and rallying for a 17.5-9.5 win over Tullahoma in the semifinals, the Lady Admirals went frame-for-frame with the champs in the opening game. Hardin County edged Franklin 976-961 in total pins and held a slim 5-3 early lead.
Miller rolled a team-best 212 in the opening game, while senior Rachel Johnson posted a 209. Kaileigh Midgley added a win by just four pins in the opener.
Rachel Johnson is focused in this state championship. Here she is with a strike in the final frame. The Franklin senior rolled a 209 to start. pic.twitter.com/Dx17YL3LED— Charles Pulliam (@cspulliam) January 22, 2021
“We showed them that we were here to bowl and that was a great feeling, but then we just kind of fell off,” said Johnson, who topped individual state champion Kailee Channell by 13 pins in the first game. “I’m still so proud of the team. We did as good as we could.”
Hardin County simply continued to close frames at a high rate and never let up. Arianna Heath rolled a 201 to lead the Lady Tigers in the second game, while Jennifer Latch (197) and Channell (194) were right with her.
Senior Riley Garretson paced Franklin with a 199, but the Lady Admirals pin fall dropped more than 120 compared to their opener as Hardin County built momentum.
“I’m scrubbing toilets right now,” Johnson said aloud after leaving an open frame in the ninth frame of the second game. She closed with a 139.
Logan and coach Patty Tomlinson spent time bouncing between bowlers to try and lift their spirits.
“That was a tough one and sometimes you lose focus,” Logan said. “Entering that last game, we just wanted to do our best and let the chips fall where they may. We had several girls respond and I’m proud to see that mental toughness.”
Both Johnson and Miller bounced back in the third game for strong finishes, including Miller’s 159-153 win over Gracie Franks. Johnson’s 176 led Franklin in the third game, while Channell rolled a 210 to pace Hardin County.
“They just just have a lot of good bowlers,” Miller said of the Lady Tigers. “Pin fall really hurt us.”
“Hardin County deserves this, they are so good,” Garretson added. “It’s insane honestly that we made it this far, but what a way to go out. I’m lost for words honestly.”
Garretson and Johnson are the lone seniors on the team. The two shared a long embrace after the match.
“It was our last hoorah,” Johnson said. “It’s been a strange year with quarantining and everything, but we made the best of it and it was so fun.”
“We didn’t give up,” Garretson said. “I think this team is on the rise.”
Logan said he hopes this season laid a foundation of success to build upon.
“We have a couple really strong girls coming back,” he said. “I hope they’re hungry. We will take a couple weeks off, but then start practicing again for next year and try to close this gap.
“They all got a good taste of this and we will see what that means for us in the future.”
SMRYNA – Be loud and cheer.
2021 TSSAA Division I Girls Bowling Championship
at Smyrna Bowling Center Jan. 22, 2021
Hardin County girls def. Franklin, 22-5
Leia Miller, FHS, def. Millie Bromley, 212-144; Kaileigh Midgley, FHS, def. Ava Alexander, 129-125; Emily King, HCHS, def. Maddie Yates, 154-134; Macy Bromley, HCHS, def. Riley Garretson, 198-137; Jennifer Latch, HCHS, def. Mary Polk, 159-140; Rachel Johnson, FHS, def. Kailee Channell, 209-196. Total Pins – HCHS 976, FHS 961.
Gracie Franks, HCHS, def. Miller, 143-113; Ariana Heath, HCHS, def. Ashley Csernovicz, 201-113; Ella Stricken, HCHS, def. Yates, 146-143; Garretson, FHS, def. Bromley, 199-153; Latch, HCHS, def. Polk, 197-128; Channell, HCHS, def. Johnson, 194-139. Total Pins – HCHS 1034, FHS 835.
Miller, FHS, def. Franks, 159-153; Heath, HCHS, def. Midgley, 133-132, Kaylie Mitchell, HCHS, def. Yates, 160-124; Bromley, HCHS, def. Garretson, 154-136; Latch, HCHS, def. Polk, 155-132; Channell, HCHS, def. Johnson, 210-176. Total Pins – HCHS 965, FHS 859.
Total Pins – HCHS 2975, FHS 2655.