Elmhurst’s Tori McMillen had no idea that she needed a spare in the tenth frame to win the match. And it wasn’t just any match; it was for the State Championship Bowling Title at Western Bowl in Indianapolis.
It had not been an easy year for Tori, as her mother, Laura McMillen had passed away last November.
Jeff Dreyfus, manager at Village Bowl, had coached Tori her freshman and sophomore years and although he had been following her progress, he had been more of a consultant lately than a coach. Someone had asked Jeff what Tori’s chances were in the State Tournament. He said, “Of course she has a chance, as she is in the tournament,” but deep down he knew she would need to roll some of the best games of her life to win.
It had started with the Sectionals in which she needed to place in the top 18 to move on to the Regional’s. She placed 16th. She qualified in the Regional’s by rolling a 633, and then came the Semi-State. She had to place in the top ten, and she did…barely, as she qualified in tenth position by three pins. Tori said, “After the semi-state I really got into the competition. Angie Sturm and I practiced every night, sometimes until 10:00 PM, just working on my release, and especially at picking up the 10-pin.
Then came the State Tournament in Indianapolis. Tori bowled the best series of her life, 213, 268, and 233 for a total of 714, which put her in the final game. She said, “I had never bowled a 700 series and the 268 was also a personal best.”
She was now bowling against Lawrence Central’s Corey Kreger, who had defeated defending State Champion Ashley Mann by a score of 234-188. Because Tori had dominated in the early rounds with her 714, she was given the top seed, which meant that she had only to win one game at the end of the ladder finals.
That one game came down to the tenth frame. Tori struck in the ninth but was down 9 pins going into the tenth. She had to roll a strike on the first ball of the tenth and then get a minimum of 9 pins and a spare to win the match. Her first ball rolled perfectly into the pocket for a strike; her second ball was a great hit, but she left the 10-pin. That 10-pin was the only thing standing between her and the State Championship. Tori had been coached to stay focused on her bowling and not worry about the score.
Her Elmhurst coaches, Brian Byanski and Justin Harper were on the sidelines voicing their support. Dreyfus said, “There seemed to be some magic in the air, a feeling that something special was about to happen.” Maybe there was some divine intervention, or maybe it was fate or just long hard practices but whatever it was, Tori focused on that single 10-pin.
She said, “I buried the ten pin and then I heard the Elmhurst fans go crazy.” The 185-184 score gave her the victory and the State Bowling Championship. In addition to the State Championship Trophy, Tori also gets to attend the Denny’s PBA World Championship at Hinkle Field House on March 26, and she gets an entry to bowl in the Indiana-Kentucky All-Stars.