The Rapidian

High School Bowling Enters 13th Year in Grand Rapids

The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) bowling season is underway for its 13th year of competition, the longest of any state in the country. In addition, high school bowling in Michigan has the most participants of any state in the country.
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The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) bowling season is underway for its 13th year of competition, the longest of any state in the country.  In addition, high school bowling has more participants in Michigan than any other state in the country.

Aaron Groendyk graduated from Grandville High School in 2009.  He led his team to the state finals his junior year and qualified for the state finals his senior year.  Groendyk now works at Mike Marks Pro Shop, a store dedicated to selling, fitting and drilling bowling balls.  He also bowls in several leagues around Grand Rapids.  Groendyk says high school bowlers need to enjoy the team-oriented game while they can.

“I loved the format of high school bowling, especially the baker games,” said Groendyk.  “Once you graduate, almost every bowling competition you take part in is individual in nature.  High school was always about the team, and that’s the way it should be.”

High school bowling began as a varsity sport in Michigan in 2001.  Many things have changed since then, but the format has remained the same. 

In a high school bowling match, five bowlers are in the “starting lineup.”  The first two games are called baker games.  In these baker games, the first bowler bowls the first and sixth frames.  The second bowler bowls the second and seventh frames, and so on.  Each match is composed of 30 possible points.  These baker games make up 10 of the 30 points.  Four points are awarded to the winner of each game with the final two points given to the highest two-game total.

The second portion of a high school match is the two individual games.  The five starting bowlers for each team go against each other.  The winners of each of these matchups earn their teams one point.  Four points are awarded to the winner of the total team score.  The final two points of the match are given to the team with the highest cumulative two-game total. 

In one of the early season matches, the Caledonia Fighting Scots and the South Christian Sailors faced off on Dec. 12 at Middle Villa Lanes.  On the boys’ side, Caledonia defeat South Christian 27-3.  The Sailor girls defeated the Fighting Scots 29-1.

After winning both baker games, Caledonia was led by Justin Tuuk with a 426 two-game series.  Nick Aldrich and Taylor Colligan chipped in with 421 and 416 series respectively.  Matt Dekevers led South Christian in defeat with a 389 two-game series.

Eric Bottrall has been coaching high school bowlers for 12 of the 13 years it has existed in Michigan, including six at Caledonia High School.  He has also been the bowling manager at Spectrum Lanes since 2009.  According to Bottrall, the Fighting Scots have a chance to do something special this season.

“The guys bowled great,” said Bottrall after the match.  “They kept on filling frames.  It was nice to see the seniors step up and bowl well against a good South Christian team.”

Similar to the boy’s matchup, the South Christian girls won both baker games to start the match.  Karie VanSledright and Laura Kuipers led the Sailors with high games of 240 and 238 respectively.  Brynn Schwab led Caledonia in defeat with a 260 two-game series. 

Gordy Fransen is in his second year as South Christian’s head coach.  He has been bowling in local bowling leagues for 20 years.  He was elected to the Grand Rapids Bowling Hall of Fame in 1999.  Although the season has just begun, Fransen is getting his girls’ team ready for regionals.

“The girls are beating everyone right now,” Fransen said.  “We didn’t perform well at regionals last year.  That’s our focus this season, peaking for regionals.”

Some parents that attended the South Christian versus Caledonia did not know the bowling scoring system.  Fransen believes this is the biggest problem with high school bowling. 

“It’s like going to a basketball game without a scoreboard,” Fransen said.  “Scores should be posted somewhere so parents know where the match is at.”

Some bowlers, however, try not to look at their score.  They believe they bowl better without looking at the score.  One such bowler is Zac Huizinga.

Huizinga graduated from South Christian in 2009.  He bowled all four years of high school and now works at as a mechanic at Spectrum Lanes.  According to Huizinga, the reason high school bowling in Michigan and the greater Grand Rapids area has such high participation is because of the nature of the sport. 

“Bowling is a life sport,” Huizinga said.  “You don’t have to be super athletic to bowl.  It is more of a mental game that takes a lot of concentration.  I encourage all high school bowlers to stick with the sport after high school.”

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