JACKSON TWP.  While those who watched Jackson junior Alicia Yacono bowl over the past three seasons may not be surprised to see her perform well at the Division I state tournament, at least one key figure was caught off-guard by her success - Yacono herself.
The three-year varsity bowler placed fifth as an individual at the state tournament last month as she and teammate Kailey Bonniwell both qualified for the tournament as individual bowlers. Yacono rolled to First Team All-Ohio status and in the aftermath, admitted she exceeded her own expectations.
“I’m really surprised how well I did. I know I prepared to be consistent, but at state tournament with all of the pressure with those girls around you and bowling at the top level, you’ve got to be focused,” Yacono said.
She noted that despite bowling on the biggest stage in Ohio high school bowling, she attempted to keep her routine the same as it was all season. Yacono and Bonniwell traveled to Columbus with coaches Michael Cochran and Oliver Miday, both of whom had some final advice for their two competitors.
According to Yacono, Cochran - who coaches the girls team - reminded her to control her breathing and not get overwhelmed because he knows she can get nervous in big matches. Miday, the coach of the boys team, reminded Yacono to simply relax and enjoy the moment and from the outset, she did exactly that.
Her score of 246 for the first game was one of the best scores of the day and put her in a strong position going into the home stretch of the match. “After the first game, I felt like it gave me a lot of room to take a deep breath and relax because I knew I already had one good game and just had to keep it going,” Yacono said.
Although her scores for the second and third games were lower than her first one, Yacono had built enough of an edge to stay near the top of the standings as the day wore on. After rolling a 217 in the second game, she knew she was in a good position to earn All-Ohio honors, but as the final frames of the third game unfolded for everyone, Yacono didn’t know exactly where she ranked.
With a 184-pin tally in the third game, Yacono became the only Stark County bowler to crack the top 10, even if she didn’t know it at that moment.
Once bowling concluded and the scores were tallied, the time came to announce the honorable mention, second team and first team lists and it proved to be a jaw-dropping moment for the Jackson contingent.
“I was told I would probably get some kind of award, maybe honorable mention at best, but they kept going up the list and when they announced the last girl on the second team, my jaw dropped because I knew I made the first team,” Yacono said.
Twinsburg senior Tyahana Elder won the individual title with a score of 729, putting her 48 shots clear of Tallmadge sophomore Kirsten Moore and Troy senior Jenna Stone, who tied for second place. Madison Stiffler of Whitehall-Yearling ranked fourth, 13 pins ahead of Yacono.
Bonniwell ended the day in 70th place with a three-game score of 488 and the good news for both Jackson bowlers is that as juniors, they can return next season and build on their success of this campaign. Getting back to the state tournament and having the entire team qualify are among the goals they’ll chase and based on what she did as a junior, Yacono is confident that those marks are within reach. “It makes me really excited to look forward to next year and I feel like I can accomplish something big,” Yacono said.

Reach Andy at andy.harris@thesuburbanite.com or 330-580-8936
Twitter: @aharrisBURB