The 19th MHSAA Bowling Finals will be rolled this weekend, with Team Finals on Friday and Singles Finals on Saturday for four divisions at four sites.
At just under two decades, it’s still a young sport by MHSAA sponsorship standards. But years from now as we recall the early days, we will certainly look to the Flint Kearsley girls.
Their dynasty is still growing – the Hornets are returning to the Division 2 Finals this weekend after winning last season’s championship. We’ll know by Friday night if last year was the start of another winning streak to go with the six straight championships Kearsley claimed from 2014-19.
Last year’s title put Kearsley’s overall count to eight, one more than Vandercook Lake for most Team Finals wins. The Hornets also finished Division 2 runners-up in 2010.
Kearsley also has produced three MHSAA singles champions, most recently Megan Timm in 2020.
The other two names on that singles list are part of a family woven through Kearsley’s rise. Lindsay Ploof was the Hornets’ first singles champion, claiming a 24-pin victory to clinch the 2011 Division 2 Finals title. Younger sister Hannah won in 2016 by 49 pins in her championship match.
Their coaches throughout were their parents Robert and Pam; Robert served as head coach for 15 seasons until retiring after 2019-20. According to the Michigan High School Interscholastic Bowling Coaches Association, his 162 wins (with only 13 losses) are third-most for a varsity girls bowling coach in MHSAA history, and his .926 winning percentage also is among the highest on that list. He was named to the MHSIBCA Hall of Fame in 2016.
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PHOTO The Ploofs, from left: Pam, Lindsay, Robert and Hannah, after Hannah won the 2016 Division 2 singles championship. (MHSAA file photo)
Before she was big enough to properly hold a bowling ball, Hannah Reid was spending countless hours at the lanes.
At the former Town and Country Lanes, which was run by her grandmother, Reid would hold the ball with both hands near her chest, and toss it down the lane with all the might in her 3-year-old body. But it better have stayed out of the gutter.
“Never used bumpers,” said her father, Mike Reid. “She had to earn every pin.”
The Flushing senior has continued to earn every pin for the past 15 years, and this past season, it led to an unlikely run to the Division 1 Bowling Singles Final championship match. She finished runner-up, which just means there’s more pins to knock down and one more step to take.
“I have a lot more confidence, but it’s also scary,” she said, “because the only way I can get better is being the state champion. But I have to push for that.”
It’s a lot to ask of herself, but so was overcoming the odds to get to the title-deciding match a year ago.
Reid was bowling in her first Finals tournament and found herself outside the top 16 after the first four games of the qualifying block. She closed with a 207 and 217 in the final two games to sneak in as the 16th seed by two pins.
“I struggled in the first part of the game,” she said. “But once the lanes transitioned, I transitioned with them in a good way.”
Even then, Reid was facing long odds, facing No. 1 seed Melanie Straub of New Baltimore Anchor Bay in the first round. Straub had dominated qualifying, finishing 54 pins ahead of the second seed. But after the first game, Reid trailed by only six pins. She caught up and pulled away in the second to pull off a massive upset.
“I think she probably surprised herself more than anyone,” Flushing bowling coach Jeremy Jurvelin said. “Once she beat (Straub), it definitely became more on her radar that she could make a run for the Finals.”
Reid did just that, winning her next two matches before her Cinderella run came to a close in the championship match against Clarkston’s Katie Stephens.
“That was one heck of a run,” said Mike Reid, a volunteer coach for Flushing who handles the girls program. “It was awesome. It’s still a tear-jerker, especially with how close she came to being a state champion, which is huge. Hopefully, we can make that run again. But I don’t like that 16 seed. Top five would be great.”
Mike Reid has been there every step of the way in Hannah’s bowling journey, from those days when she was two-hand pushing a ball down the lane, to now, when she’s entered her senior season having already signed to bowl collegiately at Lawrence Tech and is bowling some of the best games of her life.
She bowled her high series – 734 – during a rec league match in late November. That came one day after her dad rolled a 733.
It wasn’t a direct victory over Dad, but it was a victory. And Dad was OK with it.
“It’s still kind of cool that she topped me by one pin the next day,” he said. “Maybe one day she’ll get to my 857. I can’t wait until she gets her first 300 game.”
Hannah very nearly did get that perfect game a year ago. She bowled a 287 on Jan. 8 in a tournament at Richfield Bowl in Flint. As she neared the end, all eyes started to turn toward her. Going through that, she said, was more nerve-racking than competing in the Division 1 Final.
Perhaps that helped as she recently won an Under-18 Michigan Junior Masters Association tournament in Westland. It took a comeback in her semifinal, which she wound up winning by one pin, to pull it off.
“It’s not over until it’s over,” she said, which may be cliche, but fitting of her record in the biggest bowling tournaments of her life.
Reid opened her high school season with 248 and 204 games to lead her team to a win against Goodrich.
This year’s Flushing team returns every bowler from a year ago and has a chance to qualify for the Team Final for the first time since 2020.
Having strong teammates to push her has only driven Reid more this season.
“During practice, we do different drills and competitions,” she said. “So winning those competitions sets you up for everything.”
Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.
PHOTO Flushing’s Hannah Reid shows off her Division 1 Final runner-up medal last season with coach Jeremy Jurvelin, left, and father and coach Mike Reid. (Photo courtesy of the Reid family.)