By Jon Malavolti
Special to Second Half
STERLING HEIGHTS – Vandercook Lake’s Malloree Ambs and Rogers City’s Bailey Budnik outlasted the competition Saturday at Sunnybrook Golf and Bowl to be crowned the MHSAA’s Division 4 bowling girls and boys singles champions, respectively.
Ambs, who defeated Oscoda sophomore Paige Huebel 375-361 in the final, was a champion for the second straight day after her Jayhawks took the girls team title Friday.
Budnik, meanwhile, fended off Jeffery Green of Burton Bentley 336-322 in an all-freshman final on the boys side.
The back-to-back days of bowling certainly didn’t slow Ambs down, yet she wasn’t necessarily planning on lasting so long. Her freshman year she advanced to the round of 16, and then on to the quarterfinals her sophomore season. So this year she said she had simply hoped to make the semifinals.
“But I got through that and made it to the finals,” she noted. “It means a lot."
Huebel exceeded her own expectations as well.
“I think it’s very awesome,” she said of reaching the final. “I didn’t even come here expecting that, but I’m really happy.”
Back on the boys side, the freshmen Finals competitors weren’t exactly sure what to expect. But that didn’t stop them from excelling.
“I’m really excited,” Budnik said. “It’s a really great honor. I must have just got lucky or something; I don’t know. The lane switching was hard to get at first, then just keeping myself from not cracking under the pressure and just taking it one stop at a time and clearing my mind.”
Green was grateful for his success, and anxious to apply the lessons learned on the day toward the future – and perhaps another run at an MHSAA title.
“It is very exciting, but it was very nerve-wracking also,” he said.
The exciting competitive drama for the day wasn’t limited to the final round.
Qualifying on the boys side was especially close. Even after six games apiece, six bowlers just missed moving on to the knockout stages by fewer than eight pins. And there was a tie for the 16th and final spot in qualifying, meaning Madison Heights Bishop Foley sophomore Michael Maruszczak and Muskegon Western Michigan Christian senior Austin Sandin would compete in a tie-breaker game. Maruszczak eventually emerged victorious.
The girls competition was tight as well, featuring a roll-off on additional ninth and 10th frames in the quarterfinals between Unionville-Sebewaing senior Kaitlin Gunsell and Vandercook Lake junior Jessica Bunch. Gunsell rolled three straight strikes to best Bunch 60-47 and advance to the semifinals, where she fell to Ambs.
Ambs becomes the first girls bowler to win singles and team championships in the same season since 2010 when Kara Richard and Tecumseh completed the achievement in Division 2.
It certainly helps to practice against some of the best competition in the state, as a pair of Ambs’ team title-winning teammates also advanced as far as the singles quarterfinals Saturday – Bunch and senior Becky Cecil.
“It feels pretty good to know that all the hard work we do during practices and all the coaching that we have helps,” Ambs said. “It pushes us a lot.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Vandercook Lake's Malloree Ambs prepares to roll during Saturday's Individual Finals. (Middle) Rogers City's Bailey Budnik finished as boys champion Saturday at Sterling Heights. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)