Marissa Campbell had plans to become an incredible volleyball player.
But that was just the start of Campbell’s journey toward becoming one of Michigan’s top high school bowlers.
Campbell played basketball and soccer, swam and did gymnastics growing up before settling on volleyball as her sport of choice entering high school. She tried out for Brighton’s freshman team that first fall – but was cut.
“My mom said try bowling. I thought it would just be something fun,” Campbell said. “I loved it. I could never imagine just stopping.”
That won’t be a problem over at least the next four years. Despite starting in the sport basically from scratch as a freshman, Campbell has become the top bowler for one of the state’s top teams – and earned a scholarship with Alabama A&M, NCAA national runner-up as recently as 2006. She's earned one of this week's MHSAA High 5s with her performances this season.
Campbell is averaging 197 pins per game this season, and the Bulldogs are ranked No. 10 in Division 1 with Regionals three weeks away. Her high game of 268 this winter is tied for ninth on the statewide list compiled by the Michigan High School Interscholastic Bowling Coaches Association. Her high series of 470 is tied for 20th on the MHSIBCA’s list.
Solid numbers, obviously. But absolutely incredible considering her starting point.
To clarify, Campbell didn’t come into high school bowling having never rolled a ball. She’d bowled in a couple leagues during middle school – but with little training, breaking 100 was a highlight.
“It was kinda a little bit out of nowhere, her jumping into the sport freshman year,” Brighton coach Shawn Kind said.
But he also saw something more.
“Obviously, I recognized the passion right away. Just how much she really liked the sport right off the bat, how willing she was (to work),” Kind added. “I actually told her parents some time during her freshman year, you’ll think I’m crazy, but if she continues with this passion and work ethic, she has a chance at a scholarship."
“And I was like, ‘Are you serious?’” Campbell countered.
Her average jumped into the 130s by the end of that first season. She pushed it into the 170s as a sophomore and became a consistent part of the lineup as Brighton fell just short of advancing to the MHSAA Finals. And last season, her average rose to 198.
That’s when she really started to get it, understand differences in lanes and oil patterns, and started making more friends not just on her team but others.
Kind, who will step down after 10 seasons next month, has had his share of talented bowlers come through the program. He’s most impressed with Campbell’s spare game and especially her mental fortitude and ability to hang in tough situations.
He expects that to show through later this month. Campbell has some MHSAA Finals experience, with Brighton as a team in 2011 and as an individual in 2010. Kind expects another strong finish, with a push for a berth in Finals match play the first weekend of March at Battle Creek’s M-66 Bowl.
“I honestly think it’s just been the support from friends and family, and just listening to my coach. Even though I was skeptical, I believed in him,” Campbell said. “It’s hard for me. I feel sometimes, when I’m not doing as good, I feel bad about myself and almost put myself down because everyone else is so good. I wish I’d started when I was 5 years old.
“But then I look at the times when I do do good, and I’m thankful to be where I am after just a few years.”
PHOTO courtesy of Shi Lessner Photography.