(Posted Dec. 12, 2019)
By Ris Twigg, Staff Writer
Ronald Smith Jr. treated his Dec. 3 varsity bowling game like any other game. He cleared his mind and rolled the ball down the lane. One strike followed another, and when the game was done, he had bowled 12 strikes in a row.
A junior from London High School, Smith Jr. bowled a perfect 300 that night at TP Lanes in Bellefontaine. It was a first in his bowling career and, according to the Ohio High School Bowling Coaches Association, Smith Jr. is one of only four high schoolers in the state to bowl a perfect game this season.
“At the 10th frame, everyone around me just stopped bowling. It felt like I was on T.V. Everyone was just watching me, all silent, until I rolled it,” said Smith Jr., who was recognized for his achievement at a Dec. 9 home match at Madison Lanes in London. “When I got that (last) strike, everyone was ecstatic. It was a moment.”
After Smith Jr. filled every frame with a capital X, his coach, Bill Birmele, burst into tears.
“It’s not something that is done every day. It is something that is very special. I’m so proud,” Birmele said.
Smith Jr. picked up the sport after years of bowling with his parents, who participated in leagues at Madison Lanes. He has been bowling for about six years altogether. He joined London High School’s team as a freshman and is now on the varsity team.
Smith Jr.’s teammate, junior Joshua Corwin, a self-taught two-handed bowler, also was recognized on Dec. 9 for placing 23rd out of 300 at last year’s state tournament.
“Since it was my first time being there at states, I was nervous because the whole bowling alley … that’s where the pros go, and it’s just really intense there,” Corwin said.
Both Corwin and Smith Jr. hope to bowl in college if the opportunity comes along, they said. But for now, they are focused on improving their skills and supporting their current team.
“I was the only one who made it to state, and I want my team to make it with me,” Corwin said. “I’m thinking RJ (Smith Jr.)–he’s gonna be the one to go with me.”
Birmele said that although his five years of coaching the team has been a whirlwind, it also has been a dream to work with such coachable, hard-working kids.
This year, London’s bowling team moved from Division II to Division I, and the team isn’t taking it lightly, he said.
“The kids have taken it personal and they’ve really worked harder,” Birmele said. “These kids have God-given ability. I’m excited for these kids.”
Birmele is a cancer survivor. Five years ago, when he first started coaching the team, he was given a 50 percent chance of surviving. He didn’t stop coaching the team.
“It’s been a long five years for me. These kids are my motivator,” Birmele said. “I never dreamed I would get to the state finals as a first-year varsity coach. I never dreamed I would have any of my kids shoot a 300. I’m so proud.”