Flint Kearsley junior – Bowling
A two-time all-stater and last season’s MHSAA Finals singles runner-up in Division 2, Blond is well on her way to building one of the most impressive bowling careers in state high school history. Sunday saw her add to the pile of accomplishments – Blond rolled a tournament-best 749 series including a perfect 300 games at the Flint Metro Championships to earn the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.”
Blond is averaging 219 pins per game with a match play record of 20-1 for the Kearsley dynasty – the Hornets have won five straight MHSAA Division 2 championships and carry a 115-match winning streak as they seek their 10th straight undefeated conference finish in the Flint Metro League. Blond made the Division 2 singles quarterfinals as a freshman before last winter advancing to the championship match, where she was edged by Wayland senior Sydney Urben in two-game pin fall 409-356. Her 300 game Sunday was only the fourth in Kearsley’s storied girls bowling history, and she’s also won the two other tournaments she’s bowled in this winter, with a 653 series at the Bay City John Glenn Holiday Tournament and teamed with Lawson Boshaw at the Davison Holiday Mixed Doubles Tournament.
Blond started bowling early, learning from her mother Duwana Ragland and older brother Quinton and sister Quinisha Burnett. Blond still holds the Flint youth city record with an 810 series she rolled as a seventh grader in 2015. She’s anticipating following her siblings into college bowling – both competed at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne – and is interested in studying elementary education.
Coach Robert Ploof said: “This girl gets it. She is so mature for her age, and she totally understands the team concept and she understands that she needs each and every one of her teammates for her to be successful. She has great sportsmanship as she is always rooting on the competition as well as her own teammates. She is a natural leader and was named a team captain as a freshman; this year she is a co-captain with our only senior on the team Alexis Roof. Imari and Alexis are most likely the best two girl bowlers in the state, and they work well together and both understand their roles. Imari has a very special talent, but if you spoke to her she will not tell you how good she is – she is very humble and in fact continues to work hard to be better. Imari is going places; the college coaches are calling and showing up to watch, she will be offered a big scholarship someplace, but none of that has changed her focus. She is just an incredible teammate and just a great kid, and we are very blessed to have her at Kearsley.”
Performance Point: “I got excited (about the perfect game) because I did joke around with my coach Rob before we even started the game,” Blond said. “I was like, "I'm about to shoot 300 this game" and I actually did, so I was pretty excited about that. I was just kidding around, so I was actually really surprised when I actually did it. … I'm actually very proud of how the year is going. I didn't expect it to be this good, but I started the season off with a pretty good average and I was hoping that I could keep it up there. … Right now, I just try to get better. I feel like I can be better than I am now. I always want to be better than somebody else. I look up to other bowlers like Jordan Richard (of Tecumseh High and now Professional Women’s Bowling Association fame), or other famous bowlers, and I just try my hardest to be like them or be more than them.”
Final step: “I made a really big goal for myself to try to win (the Division 2 Finals) this year. I was ready last year, I thought, but I guess my mindset just wasn't up to where it's supposed to be. I feel like I'm ready this year though. … Thinking too much is really the worst thing you can do, stressing about it. I have my sister as an assistant coach, so she helps out more with my attitude and stuff like that, and not to think too much on things and just do my game.”
Carrying on the dynasty: “I'm really happy to be welcomed into the (Kearsley) team and welcomed into the winning streak that we have. When we won the state title my freshman year, we were already planning to win the next one the year after. That's just a mindset thing. We already have it set in our minds that we're going to dominate. I honestly think it's the team themselves. If the team doesn't get along, then they won't work together. And I feel like our team gets along very well. Our spirits are always high. Usually when someone bowls badly, there's always someone else to pick you up. And we always compete with each other, so that really keeps us up.”
Following family: “My mom used to bowl in a couple leagues, and she put my brother into bowling and he was just naturally good. We didn't have a lot of coaching. He had to figure stuff out by himself. ... I was 4 when I started, and my mom usually just encouraged me to keep it on the lane and get pins. And then, more as I developed into getting into the technical things, my brother started coaching me a little more (and) my sister got into coaching a little bit.”
Student, also teacher: “I work well with kids. I work at the Richfield Bowling Alley, and I work with kids, teaching them how to bowl. Most of them are just there to be there, but some of them really care about bowling and I like that. So I try to encourage them to do better, to go and practice more and try to get more serious about it. I tell them all the time – you can get scholarship money, you can do big things with bowling.”
- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2018-19 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard recognizes a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.
The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster.
Past 2018-19 honorees
January 17: William Dunn, Quincy basketball - Read
November 29: Dequan Finn, Detroit Martin Luther King football - Read
November 22: Paige Briggs, Lake Orion volleyball - Read
November 15: Hunter Nowak, Morrice football - Read
November 8: Jon Dougherty, Detroit Country Day soccer - Read
November 1: Jordan Stump, Camden-Frontier volleyball - Read
October 25: Danielle Staskowski, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep golf - Read
October 18: Adam Bruce, Gladstone cross country - Read
October 11: Ericka VanderLende, Rockford cross country - Read
October 4: Kobe Clark, Schoolcraft football - Read
September 27: Jonathan Kliewer, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern soccer - Read
September 20: Kiera Lasky, Bronson volleyball - Read
September 13: Judy Rector, Hanover-Horton cross country - Read
PHOTOS: (Top) Flint Kearsley's Imari Blond competes earlier this month. (Middle) Blond and her teammates hoist the Division 2 championship trophy to conclude last winter. (Photos courtesy of the Kearlsley girls bowling program.)
JACKSON – The Madison Heights Bishop Foley girls bowling team was in no hurry to leave Jax 60 on Friday.
The Ventures stayed as long as they could and put on quite a show for those gathered to watch the Division 3 Finals.
Bishop Foley went the distance in all three best-of-five Baker matches, culminating with a whisker-close victory in the Final over Milan to claim the program's first championship. The Ventures won the first game 147-133 before dropping the next two 183-164 and 145-139.
They needed their anchor bowler, Jacey Thibodeau, to step up in the 10th frame of the last two to win, and she did to propel them to 155-147 and 150-130 victories and the trophy.
“It’s pretty crazy walking in here and bowling against all these great teams, and then you make it to match play and win,” Thibodeau said. “Today was full of ups and downs. I didn’t really know what I needed in the 10th, and it was probably a good thing.”
The five games of the championship could not have been closer midgame. In the sixth frame of each game, neither team held a lead larger than five pins. Milan was up by a pin in the ninth frame of the fourth game before Thibodeau doubled to force a fifth game.
Milan again led by a pin in the sixth frame before opening four straight times. Thibodeau needed a mark in the 10th to win the title and threw two strikes and a 9-count.
“I want Jacey in that spot. She’s the anchor bowler for a reason,” said first-year Bishop Foley coach Bradford Grems. “She’s clutch. That’s what she does. She’s amazing.”
Grems might be in his first year of coaching at the high school level, but he’s plenty familiar with the Ventures. He coached at Holy Family Middle School prior to this season, mentoring many of the bowlers on his current team, including his daughter, freshman Charlotte Grems.
“The program is incredible,” Bradford Grems said. “We have a lot of younger girls that are just bringing their best and even helping the seniors on the team, and the seniors are passing their leadership onto them.
“Just the way they bond together as a team is so incredible and inspiring to me as a coach. It makes me want to coach more and work with them more.”
Bishop Foley qualified third after eight Baker games and two regular games with a total of 3,139 pins.
The Ventures ran out to a 2-0 lead over Armada in the Quarterfinals before needing a 152-131 victory in the fifth game to advance. They faced 2023 champion Flint Powers Catholic in the Semifinals and lost two of the first three before winning 165-147 and 206-150 to reach the Final.
“It was so incredible to go round to round like this today and just see the intensity in each round,” Grems said. “We had to go five games in each round. A little bit of down, but the girls figured out how to pick it back up. So incredible their energy, intensity and desire to win today.”
Thibodeau will compete for an individual title alongside teammates, senior Madelyn Kubacki and freshman Teresa Schudt, on Saturday.
Milan qualified fourth with 3,099 and beat Ishpeming Westwood in five games before dispatching top seed Three Rivers in four games in the Semifinals.