Preview: Championship Chances Abound

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 4, 2020

Considering the majority of Michigan high school bowling divisions have recently enjoyed frequently-changing champions, it’s especially impressive that Flint Kearsley’s girls will enter Friday’s MHSAA Team Finals seeking their seventh straight Division 2 title and Bronson’s boys will be going for a third straight in Division 4.

Those teams are two of six 2019 champions returning to contend for titles this weekend at four sites: Division 1 at Allen Park’s Thunderbowl Lanes, Division 2 at Waterford’s Century Bowl, Division 3 at Jackson’s JAX 60 and Division 4 at Lansing’s Royal Scott.

Saturday’s Singles Finals, meanwhile, will produce at least five new champions across the eight boys and girls tournaments, as only two of last year’s winners will be back for this season’s final day.

Below is a look at possible contenders for all eight championships, both team and singles. Action begins both days at 8:25 a.m. Click for the full list of qualifiers, and come back to Second Half all weekend for coverage from all four Finals sites.

Division 1 Girls

Team: Reigning Division 1 champion Jenison was among six Regional title winners last weekend, rolling the second-highest score in the Division at 3,700. The high score was produced by No. 4 Lake Orion, which won at Grand Blanc Lanes with a 3,923 that outpaced No. 3 Flushing by nearly 300 pins. New Baltimore Anchor Bay, last season’s Finals runner-up, also won its Regional with a 3,592, and top-ranked Westland John Glenn finished second at Canton’s Super Bowl but did qualify for this weekend. Total, seven of the top 10 in the most recent coaches poll advanced to the Finals. No. 8 Salem, No. 5 Farmington and No. 7 Warren Cousino also won Regional titles.

Singles: Jenison senior Anna Bartz was a Finals semifinalist last season and won her Regional on Saturday with a 1,299, and senior teammate Lauren Slagter also was a semifinalist in 2019 and qualified again. St. Clair Shores Lake Shore junior Dani Decruydt was the Finals runner-up last year and will compete again as well after snagging the final qualifying spot at Sterling Heights’ Five Star Lanes. Flushing senior Evelyn Cano, Lake Orion senior Cheyenne Washington, Wyandotte Roosevelt senior Alicia Rager, Anchor Bay junior Kaitlyn Cavender and Farmington junior Carrington Beaman also will be back for the Singles Finals after making the match play last season. Grand Blanc junior Leah Williams, North Farmington senior Lyric O’Steen, Anchor Bay freshman Melanie Straub, John Glenn junior Anna Maxwell and Roosevelt freshman Angelita Rodriguez also won Regional titles last weekend.

Division 1 Boys

Team: We’re guaranteed a new champion as 2019 winner Farmington Hills Harrison closed its doors last summer. Last year’s runner-up and current No. 6 Oxford had the second-highest Regional score in Division 1 last Friday, rolling a 4,330 to win at Grand Blanc Lanes. No. 3 Macomb Dakota rolled a Division-best 4,354 at Five Star Lanes and is plenty familiar at the Finals, finishing runner-up in 2018. Only five of the top 10 ranked teams advanced to this weekend: Dakota and Oxford will be joined by No. 1 Utica Eisenhower, No. 2 Waterford Kettering and No. 4 Farmington in the field of 18. Farmington edged Kettering by 62 pins at Waterford’s 300 Bowl, and Eisenhower finished just 27 pins back of Dakota at their Regional.

Singles: Walled Lake Central senior Jarrod Willbur and Salem senior Jon Hall both made the semifinals last season, but only two others will be back from that larger match play group – Livonia Franklin junior Ken Kloth and Midland junior Izaac Goergen. Goergen rolled the fourth-highest Regional score (1,357) although it was the second highest at Grand Blanc Lanes behind Davison senior Brendan Ashley’s 1,400. Grand Haven junior Justin Strait, Farmington senior Julien Stout, Utica Eisenhower senior Dylan Kelley, Salem senior Noah Samuels and Dearborn Edsel Ford junior Aiden Newman also won Regional titles.

Division 2 Girls

Team: Top-ranked Flint Kearsley has won six straight Division 2 championships and rolled a 3,844 to win the Regional at Gaylord Bowling Center by more than 550 pins. However, No. 8 Coldwater had the day’s highest Division 2 score, winning its Regional at Kalamazoo’s Continental Lanes with a 3,864, nearly 650 pins better than that field. No. 2 Tecumseh, No. 3 Carleton Airport and No. 7 Mason also are among Finals qualifiers, Tecumseh and Mason after winning Regional championships. Tecumseh has finished Finals runner-up to Kearsley the last two seasons.

Singles: Reigning champion Omani Morales will be seeking a repeat as a senior and won her Regional at Comstock Park’s Westgate Bowl last week with a 1,146. Coldwater junior Noella Keplinger made the quarterfinals last season and was another Regional champ Saturday, rolling a Division 2-best 1,238. Muskegon Mona Shores senior Lindsay Cross, Flint Kearsley junior Allison Eible and Croswell-Lexington senior Katelyn Heiden also will be back this weekend after playing in last year’s match play. Kearsley junior Megan Timm, Warren Woods Tower senior Cassie McCarren, Charlotte junior Abigail Mather and Tecumseh junior Liza Verrier rounded out Saturday’s Regional champs.

Division 2 Boys

Team: Eight schools have finished either champion or runner-up in Division 2 over the last four years, but reigning champion New Boston Huron enters this weekend ranked No. 1 and rolled the highest Regional score in Division 2 last weekend – a 3,972 to win at Westland’s Town and Country Lanes. No. 2 Dearborn Divine Child also was at that Regional, and No. 4 Jackson Northwest, No. 5 Cadillac and No. 7 Owosso also made the Finals, Northwest and Cadillac winning Regional titles. Three other teams broke 3,900 – Westgate Bowl champion Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills and Continental Lanes top two Byron Center and Middleville Thornapple Kellogg.

Singles: Cadillac’s Kyle Vermilyea was the only non-senior to make last season’s Division 2 quarterfinals, and he’ll be back among expected contenders after also finishing as singles runner-up in 2018. Warren Woods Tower senior Noah Tafanelli also qualified for the Finals match play in 2019 and won his Regional last week at Westland’s Oak Lanes, while Grand Rapids Northview senior Dan Frey was a match play Finals qualifier last year and finished second at his Regional last week at Westgate Bowl to freshman teammate Kyle Pranger. Petoskey senior Nathan Waldron, Thornapple Kellogg junior Michael Willshire, Jackson Northwest sophomore Damein Milliman and Allen Park sophomore Nathan Roberts also won Regional titles.

Division 3 Girls

Team: Coloma is the reigning champion and returning. But top-ranked Flat Rock rolled the highest Division 3 Regional score last week, 3,591 at Flat Rock Lanes, and will be seeking its first championship since 2012 after reaching the semifinals a year ago. No. 2 Jonesville, No. 3 Midland Bullock Creek, No. 4 Clare, No. 5 Coloma, No. 8 Caro and No. 10 South Haven all qualified for this weekend as well, with Clare, Coloma and Caro among the Regional champions. Unranked Essexville Garber joined Coloma and Clare in breaking 3,500 pins last Friday.

Singles: Clare senior Jenna Betts is the reigning Division 3 champion and won her Regional on Saturday at Cheboygan’s Sparetime Lanes. Adrian Madison senior Isabell Young also will be back at the Singles Finals after making the semifinals in 2019, and Flat Rock senior Amy Jackson was the Regional runner-up at Flat Rock Lanes and made the quarterfinals last season. Hillsdale junior Karissa Manifold and Otsego senior Carley Blanchard also are returning after advancing to last year’s match play, and Livonia Clarenceville senior Madilynn Kieling made the quarterfinals in 2018 and should be a top contender coming off a Regional title Saturday at Flat Rock Lanes. Caro’s Baylee Hutchinson was the only bowler in Division 3 to outscore Kieling on Friday, posting a 1,238 to win at Richmond’s Strikers Bowling Center. Whitehall junior Karli VanDuinen won her Regional at Wyoming’s Park Center Lanes and should be in the mix too after making the Division 2 semifinals last year. Hopkins junior Kennedy Gill and Birch Run sophomore Cheyenne Brown also won Regional titles.

Division 3 Boys

Team: Seven schools have won Division 3 championships over the last seven seasons, and there will be a new champion Friday as reigning title winner Gladwin did not qualify for the Team Finals. Neither did top-ranked and 2019 runner-up Ogemaw Heights. But No. 2 Jonesville – the 2018 champion – posted the highest Regional team score in Division 3 of 4,054 at Flat Rock Lanes. No. 3 Sanford Meridian, No. 5 Flint Powers Catholic and No. 10 Paw Paw also qualified for this weekend, Powers and Paw Paw winning Regional titles. Belding fell just shy of joining Jonesville over 4,000, winning its Park Center Lanes Regional with a 3,957.

Singles: Cheboygan senior Dawson Campbell snagged the final qualifying spot at Sparetime Lanes to earn the opportunity to go for a repeat after winning last year’s final by 64 pins. Similarly, the opponent he defeated in last year’s semifinals – Muskegon Oakridge senior Josh Felcoski – snagged the final qualifying spot at Park Center Lanes. Saginaw Swan Valley junior Braydon Lemmer, Capac junior Adam Savage and Livonia Clarenceville sophomore Jacob Johnson also will be back after making the match play last year. Savage won his Regional at Strikers Bowling Center with a 1,347, second only to Jonesville junior Logan Teubert’s 1,401 in winning at Flat Rock Lanes. Cheboygan freshman Cole Swanberg, Garber junior Braedyn Hofmeister, Durand senior Cooper Neyman and Remus Chippewa Hills senior Bradyn Fate also won Regional titles Saturday.

Division 4 Girls

Team: Bronson broke Vandercook Lake’s two-year hold on Division 4 last season and will have a chance to repeat after snagging the final qualifying spot at Jackson’s JAX 60. Finishing just above Bronson there was reigning runner-up East Jackson, and both trailed champ Quincy by more than 100 pins at a Regional that also saw No. 5 Hanover-Horton and No. 10 Vandercook not advance. Bronson is ranked No. 2 and Quincy No. 7, and they will be joined this weekend in part by top-ranked Oscoda, No. 4 Bad Axe and No. 8 Sandusky, the only top ranked teams to make the Finals field. Quincy’s 3,414 was the Division 4 Regional high, and the Orioles will be rolling for their first Finals championship.

Singles: Two-time champion Mackenzie Johnson from Vandercook Lake graduated, but last season’s runner-up Dakota Smith will be back in contention now as a senior. Only five non-seniors made the match play last season, and all five have qualified for Saturday’s Finals. Joining Smith from that group will be Rogers City junior Chandra Ganske, Pittsford junior Kathryn McArthur, Hudson senior Kaitlyn Yates and Hanover-Horton junior Kassidy Alexander. Alexander won her Regional last weekend with a Division 4 high of 1,201, while McArthur was first and Yates second at Tecumseh’s Ten Pin Alley. Ishpeming Westwood freshman Kylie Junak, Fowler junior Siera Feldpausch, Byron junior Allison Glass and Bad Axe freshman Destiny Ranquist also won Regional championships.

Division 4 Boys

Team: Two-time reigning champion Bronson will go for the three-peat after finishing runner-up at the JAX 60 Regional, three pins behind Vandercook Lake. But the competition should be fierce, with top-ranked Grass Lake rolling a 3,895 to win its Regional at Ten Pin Alley and Rogers City throwing the Division 4 high 3,903 to win at Lucky Jack’s in Traverse City. No. 2 Whittemore-Prescott was second to Rogers City, and No. 4 Manchester was second to Grass Lake. No. 5 St. Charles was first and No. 3 Ithaca second at Bay City’s Bay Lanes at a Regional that saw No. 6 Unionville-Sebewaing not advance.

Singles: There is lots of opportunity as all eight quarterfinalists from last season graduated. Westwood junior Robert Papp, Burton Bendle junior Nick Love and Grass Lake junior Sean Wyers all are back after making the match play in 2019, with Wyers a Regional champion last weekend. USA senior Ethan Androl rolled the highest Division 4 Regional score, 1,284, and joining him and Wyers as Regional winners were Bronson senior Bryan Foote, Byron senior Kurtis Hatch, Ravenna senior Ethan May and Traverse City Christian junior Hunter Haldaman.

PHOTO: A Clinton Township Chippewa Valley bowler steps into his approach during last weekend’s Division 1 Regional. (Photo courtesy of C&G Newspapers.)

Fast-Building Fowlerville Bowling Program Growing Into Striking Success

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

January 26, 2023

HOWELL – The Fowlerville bowling program started with a question.

Mid-MichiganBrent Wood was an eighth grader, bowling in the local rec department junior high league, when he saw the Howell High School team practicing a few lanes over one afternoon. He’d enjoyed bowling with his family growing up, but what grabbed his attention that day was the friendly atmosphere at the Highlanders’ practice – everyone seemed to be having fun.

So he asked his mom Denise, a speech therapist in the Fowlerville district, why their school didn’t have a team too.

She went to athletic director Brian Osborn for the answer, and it was a pretty simple one – the athletic department hadn’t been able to find a coach to start one up.

“I’m the kind of mom that if my kid wants it, I’ll see how I can make it happen,” Denise Wood said. “And when Brent is driven by something, I know he’ll do well at it.”

Denise Wood figured out how to bring high school bowling to Fowlerville – and then some.

Never before a coach, nor a bowler outside of family fun, she agreed to start a Gladiators high school bowling program – one that four years later has two varsities and a JV team and had to make cuts this winter for the first time.

Building any program from ground level is full of challenges. Throw in a pandemic, and it gets tougher for sure. But knocking down obstacles has been like knocking down pins – it’s a bit of a theme for the quickly-growing program, its coach and the now-senior who got things rolling.

Bowling began for Brent

Brent Wood had played baseball and flag football and wrestled growing up. He tried everything his mom would let him, and that’s impressive enough – he doesn’t have a complete right hip, just bone on bone where the femur and pelvis meet.

Brent Wood shows his left-handed, left-footed bowling style. Considering that challenge, opportunities in those other sports faded as he grew older. And he wasn’t a big fan of school either. But Denise Wood knew a bowling team would motivate Brent to stay active and do well academically.

Does it hurt where that hip padding should be? Brent said no – it just feels like what he knows to be normal. But Mom said she can tell when it does, and he’s had 13 surgeries over the years. Brent still managed to play those sports and learn how to ride a bike with just his left leg – “and I still manage to bowl somewhat decent some days,” he said.

He’s actually become an all-league bowler – most recently finishing ninth at the White Lake Lakeland Invitational last weekend – while employing an uncommon style.

Generally, a left-handed bowler will land on the right foot when releasing the ball. Wood instead lands on his left, or opposite foot, to stay off the right one.

Denise Wood describes it as being a “very non-traditional single-handed lefty who has figured out how to make it work.” Brent said when he first started this bowling style, it was a little complicated – but last summer he took lessons and upped his knowledge by competing in a number of tournaments and against a variety of oil patterns. Additionally, “Over the summer I’ve seen one or two people land on the wrong foot like I do,” Wood said, “so I know I’m not the only one who does it.”

He'll be the second Fowlerville bowler to continue at the college level. He’ll join friend Trevor Cockerill, who graduated last year, at nearby Cleary University where he’ll compete for coach Hayley Dann – who impressed the family by telling them that instead of trying to change Brent’s style, she’ll “work with him with what he’s got,” Denise Wood recalled.

“That’s the coach I need, because that’s what Brent does – he works with what he’s got,” Denise said. “Brent is naturally athletically talented, and when it comes to stuff that’s athletic he’s quite the problem solver. He figures out how to do things.”

Starting from scratch

Mom figured things out, too.

Denise Wood calls herself a “google coach” – as in, she googles to learn drills and pick up tips on how to better guide the Gladiators. But considering the system she and her assistants have built over a short time, she’s not giving herself enough credit.

When Wood first asked Osborn why there wasn’t a program, she followed up by asking if a potential coach needed to be a good bowler. Osborn said not necessarily – if she was willing to learn the bowling side, he would help with how school-based sports work and take care of as much paperwork as possible.

Fowlerville’s girls and boys teams this season, including head coach Denise Wood, top row far left, and assistants Kevin Mahon and Kelli Wilbur. Challenge accepted.

First, the team needed somewhere to bowl. Fowlerville has made its home at Howell’s Bowl-E-Drome, about a 20-minute drive for practices twice a week.

The bowlers arrived. Fowlerville’s first season in 2019-20 saw 10 boys and two girls come out, making up a co-ed varsity and boys junior varsity team.

Next came “learning the bowling side” – and definitely, the internet helped. Mining various bowling websites and coaching resources, she’s put together a series of drills – all of her bowlers have copies of each in a folder they keep on hand – and with assistants Kelli Wilbur and Kevin Mahon designed practices to begin at the start of the season with skills assessments and then be organized by ability level to provide for more focused attention and instruction. The bowlers also make use of the school’s weight room one day a way – adjusting all of this around schedules for students who also dance, play in the band and train for other sports.

Wilbur and Mahon are experienced bowlers, and their additions have allowed Wood the last few years to focus more on team-building activities and administrative responsibilities like signing up for tournaments and data collection. For competitions, the three coaches take turns coaching each team so that all three become familiar with all of the Gladiators’ styles.

The majority of the bowlers are newcomers to the sport. Junior Emma Wilbur – Kelli’s daughter and the top roller on the girls team – counted herself and two more teammates who had grown up bowling.

“A lot of kids that come in, come in with no bowling experience whatsoever. They just heard it was fun, they wanted to be part of a team,” Wood said. “So this year we actually did an interview for the kids – they had to fill out a personal interview for why they came out for bowling. A lot of it was to have fun, become part of a team, and some kids said to become a better bowler.”

Turning to Paige

After a promising start, the program simply had to survive its second year.

With COVID-19 making everything more complicated, Fowlerville found itself with only five bowlers for the 2020-21 season – and couldn’t even bowl as a team at its Regional with Emma Wilbur in quarantine. Families weren’t allowed to watch competitions, and just getting the word out was a challenge.

Fowlerville’s Paige Frazier, top, and Emma Wilbur. But Paige Frazier saved the day, figuratively speaking – and more realistically, potentially the program.

She solved some of the information block by starting Facebook and Instagram feeds for the bowling program that included video streams of competitions and updated information on cancelations and quarantines. “It definitely brought in a lot of attention,” Frazier remembered.

“If we hadn’t had Paige our COVID year, we wouldn’t have had a season at all,” Wood said. “Paige, I call her my female rock, because she kept the team alive.”

The work done during the COVID season paid off as the team got back in gear for last winter. The bowlers added to their social media marketing by hanging up fliers and getting word out on the program in the school’s morning announcements, and for 2021-22 enough bowlers came out to have separate girls and boys varsities for the first time.

“I had a lot of people ask me about it. A lot of people didn’t even know about it for a good two years,” Emma Wilbur said. “I had a couple friends who said they would try it out.”

Off and rolling again

The interview results from tryouts this season check out. While the team is serious about competing and succeeding, having fun and being part of a team are top priorities for most. The car rides to practices and bus rides to competitions are the best parts.

There’s still some convincing to do among classmates who might not consider bowling a sport. “They laugh about it until they find out we have a 1:30 dismissal for all the meets,” Wilbur said. But she and Frazier both play other sports too – Wilbur soccer and Frazier tennis – and realize the value in what they’ve helped create.

“I think being able to do something that you love to do, with all of your friends, a sport that you can go and do on the weekends and go and do after school … anytime that you want to you can go and do that,” Wilbur noted.

“Bowling's a really social sport,” Frazier added, “so you just learn to get along really well with your teammates, and just kinda relax and enjoy it.”

The Gladiators bowl in league matches once a week and have tournaments most January and February weekends through the regular season. Osborn said he’s excited to see so much interest at each grade level and is hopeful the program will continue to grow.

Brent Wood asked a winning question. The answer has been even better.

“It’s nice to see that we got everyone together that loves to do what we love to do,” Brent Wood said.

“Just seeing everyone enjoy the moment.”

Geoff Kimmerly joined the MHSAA in Sept. 2011 after 12 years as Prep Sports Editor of the Lansing State Journal. He is a senior editor of  MHSAA.com's editorial content and has served as MHSAA Communications Director since January 2021. Contact him at Geoff@mhsaa.com with story ideas for the Barry, Eaton, Ingham, Livingston, Ionia, Clinton, Shiawassee, Gratiot, Isabella, Clare and Montcalm counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Fowlerville bowler Ethan Hall begins his approach. (2) Brent Wood shows his left-handed, left-footed bowling style. (3) Fowlerville’s Paige Frazier, top, and Emma Wilbur. (4) Fowlerville’s girls and boys teams this season, including head coach Denise Wood, top row far left, and assistants Kevin Mahon and Kelli Wilbur. (Photos courtesy of the Fowlerville bowling program.)