Genoa native Rachael Albright has done plenty of impressive things on the local lanes during her budding career but the young bowler was particularly locked in last week.
Albright took second place out of 604 bowlers at the prestigious Junior Gold Championships in Buffalo. Albright won $4,000 at the youth tournament that featured tough lane patterns and took place at three bowling centers.
“It's the biggest youth tournament in the country. To come in second place means a lot to me,” Albright said. “This past season on the lanes been really good to me.”
Albright, 20, a Genoa graduate who competes for Ursuline College, has been well known as a top local bowler since she was 14.
It took 45 games for Albright to bowl her way to the championship match of the U20 division at the Junior Gold.
Steve Jakubowski, manager of Jug's Bowling Center, said the tournament is the biggest stage for youth bowling.
“This is one of the best accomplishments for any bowler out of the Toledo area — youth or adult,” said Jakubowski, a local fixture in the bowling community for decades. “It's not any regular tournament. It's grueling lane conditions. This is the Grandaddy of them all for the kids.”
Albright, a six-time winner of the local junior bowler of the year award, brought nine different balls to the tournament that spanned five days. The tournament attracts bowlers from across the United States as well as Canada and Puerto Rico.
“You're only allowed to check in six,” she said. “I had to find which reacted best to each pattern. Each ball reacts differently to how heavy the oil is and how it is laid out.”
The tournament presents both a physical and mental challenge. Each of the bowling centers had different lane conditions with long, short, or medium oil patterns.
“It's a lot for a week stand. It's mentally draining,” Albright said.
Albright had a 212.20 average during the first five-game qualifying round to place sixth.
“I knew I would get off to a good start,” she said. “The past two years I had expectations to make the first cut. This year my goal was to get top 16, and I did it one shot at time.”
After five more games of qualifying, she carried a 206.0 average and was in ninth place. A third qualifying round then featured five additional games, and Albright was in seventh (204.33).
The field was cut to the top 48 after five more games. Albright sat in fifth place with a 204.10 average. The field was trimmed to a top 16 after five more games. Albright qualified eighth for the match-play round with a 200.16 average.
“I was satisfied to qualify eighth,” she said. “But after being around the girls, I knew I was just as good if not better and could go farther than I anticipated.”
Albright defeated bowlers from Missouri, Wisconsin, New York, and Idaho in the head-to-head competition to reach the finals. But she fell to Breanna Clemmer of Clover, S.C. in the championship match. Clemmer, 16, defeated Albright 387-353.
“I was not really nervous,” Albright said. “That is how far my mental game has been going. I felt fine. But the lanes started transitioning for me and that made my lines squirrely. I just couldn't get it going.”
Albright said her runner-up performance was “definitely” her most significant accomplishment on the lanes.
“This will be something she will cherish the rest of her life,” Jakubowski said.
Albright paid a $60 entry fee to compete in the Junior Golds. She qualified by winning several titles in the Junior Tournament Bowlers Association last season. The JTBA is an Ohio-based organization that provides scratch tournaments for young bowlers. The JTBA, which features tough lane patterns, has a tour from August through May.
Albright won the JTBA player of the year award for the 2013-14 season with a 197.3 average. She also captured the honor in 2009-10. Albright will be a junior at Ursuline College, which is located 13 miles east of Cleveland. She earned All-American second team honors as a sophomore.
Albright said she started bowling when she was 4. Her home bowling alley is Eastern Lanes in Northwood. Her mother, Penny, worked there for decades and now owns the bowling center.
“I hated bowling when I was little,” she said. “It wasn't until I was 14 that I realized how good I could be.”
Albright has been named the Junior Bowler of Year, which is awarded by the Greater Toledo USBC, six times. She has bowled two perfect games and her high series is 793.
Her performance on the lanes helped her earn a scholarship to Ursuline. Albright said her ultimate goal is to bowl for Team USA.
“It was just a matter of working hard,” Albright said. “I'm dedicated and working and practicing harder than ever.
“Bowling is 70 percent mental and 30 percent physical. My mental game improved a lot, and I've matured so much more.”