By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half
STERLING HEIGHTS – And to think two years ago, Caledonia senior Brittany Schnicke didn’t know if she would ever bowl again.
During her sophomore year, Schnicke had the tips of the middle finger and ring finger on her left bowling hand severed off in an accident suffered during a woodshop class.
“It was on the jointer,” Schnicke said. “I was trying to sand down a piece of wood and I guess the pilot got caught on the guard and my finger slid off.”
Schnicke immediately was taken to the hospital to get her fingers repaired, but understandably was shaken as to when and if she would be able to pick up a bowling ball next.
Ultimately, Schnicke was told by doctors despite two surgeries that she would bowl again, which made Saturday’s MHSAA Division 1 singles tournament the ultimate fairy tale ending.
In the last high school tournament of her career, Schnicke won the individual title, beating Brighton senior Natalie Klein in the championship match, 440-404.
Schnicke, who steadily adapted to a new bowling grip following the accident, stormed back in the second game after falling behind during the first to Klein, 243-206.
“My coach said stay aggressive and stay down, and that’s what I did,” she said. “I came out strong.”
Also coming out strong was Davison senior Dillon McArthur, who won the boys title after finishing as the No. 15 seed out of the qualifying block.
McArthur, who advanced out of the qualifying block two years ago, drew from that experience and rolled to the title, beating Portage Northern senior Brenden Kosanke in the championship match, 418-336.
“I was in that position before and I knew I just had to make my shots,” McArthur said. “Once you qualify, the pins reset and it’s fair game.”
After the qualifying block, McArthur beat Jenison senior Noah Casarez in the Round of 16, 456-385, Hudsonville junior Brendan Bentley in the Quarterfinals, 407-364, and then Macomb Dakota senior Jason Scanlon in the Semifinals, 399-379.
A day after the Davison girls team won its fifth Division 1 title in six years, McArthur was more than happy to bring a banner to the boys side of the Davison program.
“We have to look at them all the time, so finally we get a little bit of bragging rights,” McArthur said.
Kosanke finished as the No. 12 seed out of the qualifying block and started his run with a 406-391 win over junior Trevor Morgan of Kalamazoo Loy Norrix.
In the Quarterfinals, Kosanke beat senior Taran Heersma by a score of 406-402 to set up a Semifinal match with Grand Haven senior Jimmy Mitchell, who was the top seed out of the qualifying block.
Kosanke trailed by 14 pins after the first game, but on the strength of six straight strikes in the final five frames, rallied to earn a 447-441 win over Mitchell.
Schnicke was No. 11 out of the qualifying block in the girls portion and started off the elimination round with a 419-320 win over senior Caity Cox of Flint Carman-Ainsworth.
Schnicke then beat Clarkston freshman Hannah Turk in the Quarterfinals, 378-358, before beating Macomb Dakota senior Hannah Forton in the Semifinals, 412-393.
Klein was the No. 5 seed out of the qualifying block and started her run by beating Carly Scanlon of Macomb Dakota in the Round of 16 by a score of 343-312.
Klein then beat Megan Valentic of Brownstown Woodhaven in the Quarterfinals by a score of 457-372 before knocking off Victoria Giardina of Utica Ford, 399-355.
Giardina in the Quarterfinals upset reigning champion and the No. 1 seed out of the qualifying block, Davison senior Taylor Davis, by a score of 412-394.
PHOTO: Davison senior Dillon McArthur and Caledonia senior Brittany Schnicke.
Rogers City’s bowling team is on a roll. And the Hurons haven’t even had their first competition of the season.
Rogers City has a decorated past, including winning the first state bowling championship in 1999, organized by the Bowling Center Association of Michigan, against a field including schools of all sizes and five years before the addition of MHSAA Finals in the sport. The boys team also was the Division 4 team runner-up at the first Class C-D Finals hosted by the MHSAA in 2004.
The Hurons hope to return to those glory days by bringing back experienced bowlers on both the boys and girls teams. Rogers City last qualified teams for the Finals in 2020 – when both the boys and girls advanced – and both teams hope to make a run at the Northern Michigan Conference title and land a spot at this season’s Finals in March.
The boys did find success last year — with just four bowlers — placing ahead of a handful of teams at its Regional. This year, Rogers City has a full boys team, and more, including junior Gavin Rhode, who qualified for the Singles Finals last year. The Hurons also are returning senior Conner Muller and sophomore Gabe Mina; Muller narrowly missed qualifying for the Finals last winter. And they are excited to see how first-year bowlers Blaise Szatkowski, Cooper Heinzel, George Karsten, Jacob Wickersham and Ryan Morgan perform.
The girls are returning seniors Arianna Anderson and Sophia Mina and sophomore Olivia Reyes. First-year bowlers Ruby Svay – an exchange student – and freshman Brooke Crawford compose the rest of the squad.
Both the boys and the girls have added strong bowlers with incoming freshmen, including Wickersham, a 180-average bowler.
“With a small school you kind of know what is coming along,” long-time coach Brian Bannasch said. “Even with our limited numbers last year, we were still competitive.”
The Hurons will open their season Jan. 6. As has been the case for years, matches will take place on Saturdays for optimal lane availability.
“After the success previous to COVID, the last couple years have really been a letdown just not having enough bodies,” Bannasch acknowledged. “We still sent kids to the state finals individually, but team-wise were just lacking numbers with a small school that has under 175 in the high school.
“When you lose any number of kids, it is tough to replace them,” he continued. “We are really excited to have numbers this year.”
The bowling program has been battling lower overall school enrollment and competing with basketball and wrestling teams for roster numbers.
Long hours in the alley for practice, traveling for matches and competing are paying off for the Hurons. Those long hours are the same for the coaches, forcing absence from the family business.
But it’s being done with a focus on a road trip to the Division 4 Finals in March, at Northway Lanes in Muskegon.
The boys and girls Regionals, hosted by Traverse City Christian, will be held at Lucky Jacks in Traverse City.
“We definitely have individuals expecting to qualify as individuals on the boys side,” Bannasch said. “We have three girls that have bowled before and fewer teams in each Regional.
“We had a pretty powerful Regional,” he continued. “Maybe with fewer teams, it could work to our advantage.”
Bannasch, whose family owns the local bowling alley Nautical Lanes, has been the boys and girls bowling coach from the beginning at Rogers City. The school started with a club team prior to making it a varsity sport.
Bannasch has seen a lot of talented bowlers develop through his youth programs and then vie for championships in high school. The Hurons often have had more than a dozen bowlers on the boys team.
Bannasch points to every bowler in Rogers City history competing in at least one varsity match every year as key to the team’s historical success. His unique philosophy of participation often has paid dividends.
“One of the things that has helped us be successful is that I have a little different philosophy than most coaches,” Bannasch noted. “We’ve had years where we’ve had 12 or 14 boys and 10 girls.
“We had JV matches, but we never consider it JV – they were all part of the varsity bowling team,” he continued. “In the next year, they have experienced that and know what the varsity match is all about.”
Bannasch also has watched other conference schools win or contend for Finals titles, something he points to with pride.
Bannasch spotlighted Cheboygan’s boys having won the Division 2 title in 2009 and Boyne City’s boys — as a newer program — finishing Division 3 runners-up in 2020 and 2021. Cheboygan’s girls finished Division 3 runners-up in 2022.
“Our success has been great, but I take just as much pride in the success of our conference,” Bannasch said. “We’re such a close-knit conference, it is great to see anybody up here be successful at it.”
Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Rogers City’s bowling teams have high aspirations this winter with their first competitions coming up next month. (Middle) Gavin Rhode, a Finals qualifier last season, practices recently. (Below) Arianna Anderson, left, and Sophia Mina are seniors on the girls team. (Photos by Richard Lamb/Presque Isle Newspapers.)