MUSKEGON – Trusting the process led to a stunning ending to Dawson Campbell's season.
In fact, if you had asked the Cheboygan junior a few months ago if winning a Division 3 individual bowling championship was a possibility, Campbell's answer would have been a resounding no.
"Not a chance, no way," he said after accomplishing just that with a 427-363 win over Hopkins' Brenden Gossman in Saturday's championship match at Northway Lanes.
It's not that Campbell hasn't had success in the past. He was a two-time Finals qualifier heading into the season, but failed to advance past the qualifying stage his freshman and sophomore years. So what's the difference between those two tournaments and Saturday's? Campbell, seeded No. 6 among the 16 finalists, said it was a matter of trusting a grueling process that includes bowling 30 games a day, seven days a week for the last three years.
Campbell said the work left him more of a finished product. Proof of that, he said, came after he converted tough back-to-back 2-8 and 2-4-8-10 shots in the quarterfinal. It was that sort of success under pressure that led Campbell to believe he could win a Finals championship.
"After that I felt I had a chance," said Campbell, who averaged 188 across four match wins. "It just kinda happened. It shows if you put in enough practice, you can win and that one day you could become a state champion.
"I feel real happy, amazed. But I've put in the work. At the end of the day, it's part of my life."
Jenna Betts of Clare won the girls title with a 418-305 win over Lainey Meader of Coloma.
Like Campbell, Betts had minimal success in previous Finals tournaments, also never making it past the qualifying round. And also like Campbell, Betts believed winning the Division 3 championship was likely beyond her grasp.
"I had no reason whatsoever," she said of possessing title hopes. "But you have to believe in yourself and do the things you need to do to win."
Betts said much of her confidence came from Clare coach Kelli Dingo, whose chief work with her junior bowler was teaching fundamentals such as how to hold a ball and how to incorporate movement with her shot. The rest, Dingo said, was up to Betts.
"I taught her to bowl, not tell her," Dingo said. "She was very open (to coaching). Everyone knows she's an excellent bowler, and they expect a lot from her. She used to overthink the process; now she just bowls."
Betts, who also plays volleyball and runs track at Clare, said two things which struck home for her this season were gaining confidence and the ability to bowl consistently. Both were on display in winning Saturday, she said.
"I was very consistent. They weren't really high scores, but I was consistent," she said of averaging a 194 in her four wins. "You're going to have some high and low games, but confidence is a key."
Betts said her work with Dingo left her with the confidence she belonged among the top bowlers in Division 3.
"I think the past couple weeks that's grown by leaps and bounds, believing in myself," she said. "I feel incredibly happy now. Coach has given us all confidence, not just me. She's given us what we need to do well."
Over the last decade, media days have begun to emerge as a way for some of the state’s largest leagues to kick off their sports seasons. The Kensington Lakes Activities Association, for example, hosts them in a variety of sports.
To get this winter rolling, the KLAA for the first time added bowling to the list – highlighting one of its strongest but often less visible sports by welcoming bowlers and coaches from all 16 of the league’s schools Nov. 8 to Westland John Glenn.
The KLAA is one of the top bowling conferences in the state – a combined five teams made the MHSAA Team Finals last season for girls and boys, and Wayne Memorial’s boys won the Division 1 championship. That actually was the third season in a row that a KLAA team won Division 1 boys – Livonia Franklin was the champ in 2022 and Salem in 2021 – and Belleville’s girls finished Division 1 runners-up in 2021. Franklin and John Glenn both have produced a Division 1 singles champion over the last three seasons as well.
The media day celebrated that success – while looking ahead to possibilities for more to come this winter.
The event was organized by John Glenn athletic director Jason Malloy, the league’s commissioner for that sport (and also a member of the MHSAA Representative Council). Interviews and the video below were compiled by Westland John Glenn senior Lizzy Fall. Photos are by Olivia B. Photography.