No 'Just Missed' This Time as GR Christian Champ Heerema Rolls Perfection

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

December 14, 2023

GRAND RAPIDS – Zeke Heerema had come close to perfection so many times before.

West MichiganThe Grand Rapids Christian senior bowler wasn’t going to let another opportunity slip away.

Heerema rolled his first 300 game Saturday during the Grand Rapids Christian Invitational at Park Center Lanes.

“I had gotten really close a lot of times,” Heerema said. “So I was really excited when it happened. I’ve been trying to do this for a while now, and I’ve gotten so close. I was just ecstatic, and honestly, it was almost a sigh of relief finally doing it.”

Heerema’s close calls included a 279 “countless times,” and at last year’s MHSAA Division 2 Final he recorded a 289 en route to winning the singles title over Tecumseh’s Owen Williams by a narrow margin, 388-382.

As he had done so many times before, Heerema found his rhythm early Saturday in the quest for 300 and began racking up strikes.

He avoided the slip-ups that had plagued him in earlier attempts.’

“I obviously realized after the fourth or fifth frame that it’s starting, and it happens all the time,” Heerema said. “I kind of thought at some point I would mess up because I always do. I always get really close and then mess up late.”

This time, however, there would be no miscues.

And he wasn’t doing it alone. He had his teammates and a crowded bowling center anxiously watching every shot as he got deeper into the game.

“The pressure started building a lot, and whenever I would throw a shot, the whole place would be silent,” Heerema said. “I honestly didn’t think I would get it until the 11th shot. And then I struck there, and thought I just have to get one more. I was pretty confident in the last one.”

Ironically, Heerema's last ball was the one he felt the least amount of anxiety throwing.

“Honestly, I think I felt the least pressure on the last shot for some reason,” he said. “I felt really nervous the last part of the game and then it got to the last shot, and I don’t know, I kind of knew I was going to make it.”

Grand Rapids Christian's Zeke Herrema bowls during a match.Grand Rapids Christian coach Dan Vander Ploeg said it was a “joy” to witness his team captain roll his first 300 game.

“Zeke is a dedicated and loyal person with a great work ethic,” Vander Ploeg said. “He has an inner drive and a competitive thirst which pushes him towards success.”

Heerema, whose previous best was 10 consecutive strikes in a game, was overwhelmed by the support.

“I'm glad I did it with my family there as opposed to being at practice, and my brother, Levi, once had a 300 in practice,” Heerema said. “I think it was pretty sweet to have my parents there and some of my friends.”

Heerema entered this season with heightened expectations after last year’s Finals title run, but he’s taking it in stride.

“I feel like there is a little bit of added pressure, but honestly I try not to really think about that,” he said. “I’m just going out there and bowling every day, trying to win conference and Regionals, and then hopefully repeat.”

Heerema is the leader of a youthful Eagles squad.

“We have some talent and some young kids who have promise,” Heerema said. “I’m trying to work with them every day in practice to try and improve them and improve our team and hopefully make a run at it this year and in years to come.”

Heerema attributes his success to a consistent routine.

“I try to do the same thing before every shot,” he said. “When I’m grabbing my ball or setting my feet up, and then I've worked a lot on trying to get my mechanics to be consistent. That’s probably the biggest part, keep your mechanics the same on every throw and that’s what's going to lead to consistency.”

All four Heerema brothers have competed in the sport. The oldest, Nolan, bowled as a senior in high school, while Elijah and Levi both bowl collegiately at Cornerstone University.

“My brother Elijah taught me how to throw in eighth grade, and that’s when I started to take it seriously and joined the team,” Zeke Heerema said. 

Grand Rapids Christian athletic director Jason Heerema took pride in watching his youngest accomplish a feat that was long overdue.

“As a dad, I have watched him bowl many times and nearly get 300,” he said. “So I always enjoy it, and I’m hopeful, but I don’t get too high or too low, which is likely part of being an athletic director. 

“I am very proud of him in these days of specialization to be able to play at a high level in three sports. He gives great effort in whatever he does, and I’m grateful for that.”

In addition to bowling, Zeke Heerema was a starting wide receiver and long snapper for the football team. He also was the starting center fielder for the baseball team, which won the Division 2 championship in the spring.

Dean HolzwarthDean Holzwarth has covered primarily high school sports for Grand Rapids-based WOOD-TV for five years after serving at the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years along with shorter stints at the Ionia Sentinel and WZZM. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties. 

(Photo and video courtesy of the Heerema family.)