FREDERICKTOWN – Hannah Vaughn is used to making history.
Last year, she became the first female bowler from Fredericktown High School to qualify for state. She bowled a 453 in Columbus, finishing 71st out of 104 competitors.
This year, she’s looking to add another ‘first’ to her resumé.
“I wanna get all-Ohio, which is top 15,” Vaughn said with a grin. “I’m gonna strive for that.”
Given Vaughn’s improvement over the last year, the senior certainly has a chance.
Vaughn qualified for state once again this season after bowling a 549 at districts. She won the Knox Morrow Athletic Conference tournament with a blistering 557 and, according to head coach Chuck Young, averaged 195 pins per game during the regular season.
“I want a 600 series, that’s my goal,” Vaughn said Wednesday. “But we’re just gonna have to see when we get there, how the day’s gonna go. I’ve just gotta keep my nerves down and stay relaxed.”
Vaughn will bowl in the Div. II state tournament on Saturday at 10:30 a.m at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl. She’ll serve as Knox County’s lone representative in a field of 96 bowlers.
It’ll be Vaughn’s last day of high school bowling – her last time representing Fredericktown among the state’s best.
Four years ago, could she have envisioned a career like this?
“No,” Vaughn said with a laugh. “I couldn’t imagine. I was just bowling for fun.”
From beginner to gamechanger
For what it’s worth, Vaughn’s historic bowling career at Fredericktown almost never happened.
She didn’t consider joining the team until the day before tryouts her freshman year.
That night, she came to Fredericktown’s Trio Lanes to bowl for fun. Watching from afar, bowling alley co-owner Melinda Stephen saw something special. She approached Vaughn with an idea.
“She goes, ‘You should try out for the team,’” Vaughn recalled. “And I’m like, ‘OK, whatever.’”
Vaughn had never bowled competitively, and she experienced growing pains early on. According to Young, Vaughn averaged 98 pins per game her freshman year.
“It was kind of rough,” Vaughn recalled. “But then midway through it started to get better, and it was just fun. I bowled all the time.”
As time went on, Vaughn’s passion for the sport grew. While she’s involved in several other extracurriculars, including volleyball (second-team all-KMAC last fall) and 4-H (showing cows, horses and dogs), Vaughn became obsessed with reaching her potential in the bowling alley.
“She spent a lot of time and effort getting better,” Shaun Stephen said.
Stephen (Melinda’s husband) has helped coach Vaughn and the Fredericktown girls program in recent years.
Aside from technical skill, he said some of Vaughn’s biggest strides have come above the shoulders. She’s learned how to approach the game mentally, he said. She's also learned the importance of collecting spares, which can add up to 20 pins a game.
“She’s gotten a lot more consistent,” Stephen said.
Following her freshman year, Vaughn joined youth leagues in the offseason. She spent many days at Trio Lanes, perfecting her craft. Her ascent – although statistically alarming – was no accident.
“She’s just very results-oriented,” Stephen said. “If I ask her to do something, she’ll do it. If she doesn’t do it right, she’ll do it ‘til she does.”
“She’s a worker,” Young added. “When she comes in and puts her mind to something, she focuses on it and she works until she gets it. She’s not one that quits when she gets it right; she keeps going.”
As a junior, Vaughn made her first trip to state. But she bowled a 453 – including a 135 in her second game – and left Columbus with a sour taste in her mouth.
“It was not good. I just didn’t do very good the whole day. It was frustrating,” Vaughn said. “And then once I started getting frustrated, it just made it worse. I was happy I went there… but I think I can do better this year.”
A combination of factors led to last year’s disappointing finish, Vaughn said. It was her first time bowling on the state’s biggest stage, and the bright lights got to her. It was also her first time bowling without her team there.
“I feel like this year will be a little different because I kind of have some experience now,” she said. “I think it’ll be good.”
Saturday will be Vaughn’s last high school tournament, but her competitive bowling career is far from over. The senior recently signed to bowl at Mount Vernon Nazarene University next winter.
The decision to attend MVNU was simple, Vaughn said. It was one of the only schools in Ohio that offered bowling scholarships, and it’s close to home. It will allow her to study sports management and finance, while also continuing her bowling career.
After starting late – and succeeding quickly – Vaughn wasn’t ready to give up the sport just yet.
“It’s fun,” Vaughn said of bowling. “You can do it forever, until you’re old. Most of the other things you have to stop after high school. So I just thought it’d be fun to keep doing this.”
Vaughn’s goal is to bowl a 600-series this weekend in Columbus. Doing so would likely guarantee a top-15 finish – if not higher.
Last year, only three Div. II girls broke 600 at the state tournament. In a sport like bowling, where it all comes down to one day, Vaughn said scores are often variable.
“I feel like it just kind of depends on the day for everyone. Some days, some people are great, and some days people have a bad day,” she said. “Hopefully it’s a good day and we’re towards the top.”
Wherever she finishes, it’ll be another landmark day for the Fredericktown bowling program, which has grown substantially since it began in 2015. Young started with eight boys and eight girls; this season, 14 girls and 12 boys participated.
“This year was probably the biggest year that we’ve had since we’ve started the program…” Young said. He grinned: “Hopefully that continues to grow – and we continue to get athletes like Hannah.”
Vaughn has meant the world to the program, Young said. Her dedication – and, as a result, her success – have put Fredericktown on the map.
To make it to state once is a major accomplishment. To qualify twice?
“It’s extremely hard,” Young said. “Because you have one bad game and somebody can beat you out by one pin. It all depends on how the pins fall that day and how good you’re throwing.”
Vaughn’s senior season has been a sight to behold. She averaged 195 pins per game during the regular season, doubling her numbers from four years ago.
“She’s been extremely consistent with the scores that she’s thrown and the way that she’s thrown her ball…” Young said. “To average that all season long, between the games that we’ve played and the matches, it’s just crazy.”
While expectations for Vaughn are high this weekend, she said the key will be keeping her composure. She’ll need to stay calm on the state’s biggest stage.
Easier said than done, sure. But what hasn’t Vaughn been able to accomplish over the last four years?
“I think we’re going over with an open mind. If she bowls well, we feel like she can bowl with any of them,” Stephen said. “But like she said, there are good days, bad days. If we bowl her game, she’ll be good.”