By Tim Robinson
Special for Second Half
CANTON — A fast start proved to be the difference for Wayland’s Sydney Urben on Saturday.
She rolled strikes in the first four frames of her Division 2 Singles Final, and used that momentum to claim her school’s first MHSAA bowling championship.
“It gave me a lot of confidence,” she said, “because I knew Imari (Blond, of Flint Kearsley) is a really good bowler. I knew she would be tough competition. I knew I had to hang with her, and I did.”
Urben is no stranger to Finals. She was on the Wayland softball team when it won the Division 2 championship in 2015, and reached the Bowling Singles Finals the next year as a sophomore before losing to Flint Kearsley’s Hannah Ploof.
“My mindset (Saturday) was it’s my last time I’m ever going to be here,” Urben said. “(Winning the title) has been my goal since my sophomore year. I couldn’t get it done (last year). This time I gave myself a chance just by making the cut. So I might as well finish strong, you know?”
Urben won the first game 225-171, which gave her more than enough cushion as Blond won the second game 185-184.
Urben’s coaches, Sherry Miklusciak and Mike Omness, were proud both for their athlete and for their school as Wayland alums.
But they laughingly won’t take any credit for her success.
“She makes her own moves, all her own ball changes,” Miklusciak said. “She really coaches herself. We really don’t have a lot to do with her (bowling) at all. She is just amazing and powerful.”
And, Urben admitted, a little numb moments after her victory.
“It hasn’t really hit me yet,” she said. “I’m just really happy.”
Kearsley, which won its fifth consecutive team title Friday, had a chance to have an all-Kearsley final. Blond was on one side of the bracket and teammate Barbara Hawes in the other. But Urben beat Hawes by seven pins in the semifinals.
On the boys side, Alec Keplinger capped off a big week for Coldwater by winning the school’s first individual title in any sport in decades.
Keplinger, a junior, defeated Cadillac sophomore Kyle Vermilyea 431-325 in the championship match.
Keplinger also bowled Friday, when the Cardinals finished runner-up in the team meet, the best team finish in school history.
“I was here last year and made it to the top 16 and struggled after that,” Keplinger said.
That experience helped him Friday as well.
“It definitely was easier,” he said. “Not as much nerves and stuff.”
He held off Vermilyea in the first game, 199-172, then got on a roll in the second in a 232-152 victory.
“I was just staying calm in the second game, and I knew I had it,” Keplinger said. “I was just excited (afterward). I’ve been very close in many different (events), and I was super happy for my parents and my coach (Frank Demond). He’s been coaching a long time. It means a lot.”
Although Keplinger has plans to pursue a repeat title next year, he’s also looking ahead, having committed to bowl in college at Wichita State University.
In the meantime, he’ll continue to be a three-sport athlete. He plays tennis in the fall and golfs in the spring.
For now, though, he’ll savor his MHSAA Finals championship.