rista Rauma’s first shot in the Minnesota Girls State Singles Bowling Tournament was, to put it kindly, less than inspiring.
“I left a 7-10 split – the toughest split in bowling,” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘Well, I see how this day is going to go.’ ”
The good news for the sophomore from Cambridge-Isanti High School was that she was wrong. Very wrong.
So wrong, in fact, that Rauma was able to rebound and claim the top spot in the tournament’s four-person stepladder final. Then she defeated Brianna Mueller of Blaine in the championship match to win the title in the event, which was held at Junction Bowl on April 28.
It is not easy to rebound from an open frame, but Rauma said she used the fact that it came in the first frame as motivation.
“I always tell myself that the first game is a practice game – you’re just trying to get into the swing of things,” she said. “You just have to put the past behind you and focus on the next shot. I was kind of upset the first few frames because I was struggling. Your goal in a tournament is to bowl a 200, and early on I knew my shots would not get me a 200.”
But she finished with a respectable 193, then posted a 222 that she considered lucky.
“It’s Game 2, and I rolled a score with three 2s,” Rauma said. “That game really boosted my confidence; it brought me up to a 415 series. And then I had a 213, and that’s my dad’s birthday, so I knew something good was up.”
Then Rauma really got rolling, posting a 259 in game four of the six-game series.
“We had moved to lanes one and two, and those are not my favorite lanes,” she said. “So when I got a 259, I was really pumped. That really boosted my confidence, especially since everyone else was starting to struggle while I was moving up.”
Rauma finished with games of 210 and 228 to finish with a 1,325 total, which was 64 pins higher than any of the other 37 bowlers in the tournament. That earned her the top rung in a four-person stepladder final, meaning she needed to win only one game to claim the title.
Instead she started slowing in the championship match.
“I was hitting the pocket and leaving splits, while I felt Brianna was either striking or sparing,” Rauma admitted. “I was feeling a little defeated – although I was happy for her, because she’s a good friend. But I had other friends tell me, ‘You can’t give up, you still have a shot because you never know what will happen.’”
Her friends were right: Mueller left an open frame in the ninth and finished with a 158.
That meant Rauma, who was working on a spare, could have won by throwing two strikes in the final frame.
“On my first shot I threw my best strike all day, but I left the 10 pin with my second shot,” Rauma said. “Then I converted the 10 – and I had a 158.”
That tie prompted a two-frame roll-off for the title. Rauma chose to go first – she would shoot the ninth frame, then wait while Mueller threw her ninth and 10th before taking her final shots.
“I chose to start because I wanted to know what I would need to beat to win,” Rauma said. “But on my first shot I had an open. I felt really defeated.”
But once again that was not the case. Mueller threw a strike on her ball in the ninth, but a nine-count spare and a five on her final ball gave her a total of 35. Rauma needed strikes on her first two shots, then an eight count with her third ball to win.
“Getting the strike on the first shot was a relief, because then you know you just have to repeat that shot,” Rauma said. “The second shot was nerve-wracking, but when I struck again, that was a huge relief.”
Rauma finished with a strike to win the title and cap an impressive sophomore season.
Bowling against mainly boys during the co-ed season, she more than held her own, earning all-conference honors. Because teams bowl using the “Baker” system – teams of five bowlers take turns, with each bowler eventually throwing two frames per contest – Rauma did not have an average, but she ranked third with a 79.5 percent fill percentage (throwing either a strike or a spare 79.5 percent of the time).
“As a freshman, I started to realize how practice can make you better,” she said. “This year I shot up from a 160 average to a 180 average, and that was because I focused on all the little things that help you have success.”
In the girls season that followed, Rauma was one of five girls named first-team all-state. She earned that honor in part by finishing seventh with an 84.92 fill percentage; her 122 strikes were more than any other girl in Minnesota, and her 61.3065 strike percentage was the second-best mark in the state.
“My goal was to be all-conference – I had been third team once and second team twice,” she said. “We bowl some of the best girls from around the state during the girls season, so it’s very competitive.”
Then came her individual title, which was especially sweet because it came in the event’s inaugural year. And with Junction Bowl hosting the tournament, it meant her parents, Kevin and Rachael, her family and friends all had a chance to watch her make history.
“After the final shot it was really crazy because I had a lot of supporters there,” Rauma said. “There was a league that night, and a lot of people were there to cheer for me. I started to cry, because I’m emotional when it comes to things like that. … Then I felt relief and excitement; with all those good bowlers who were here, I won the state tournament. It’s still sinking in: Being the top singles bowler in the state is unbelievably crazy.”