By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
BATTLE CREEK – There has not been a better day in Bronson’s brief bowling history, or more specifically, a more exhilarating hour than between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. Friday.
On one end of M-66 Bowl, the Vikings boys team opened up a big lead after the first Baker game and in a workmanlike manner clinched its second straight Division 4 championship with a 1,282-1,173 win over Unionville-Sebewaing.
Minutes later, Bronson’s girls team won its first MHSAA Finals title on the lanes, riding a 55-pin swing to down East Jackson 1,043-935.
As the action ramped up during both championship matches, parents milled between them, passing score updates like a baton as they crossed paths. The Bronson coaches couldn’t help but hear the cheers as their other team rallied, and at the end of the championship double, the two teams came together for one giant huddle.
“It wasn’t easy, but the kids come through – the boys and girls both, they come through. I couldn’t be prouder,” said Bronson coach Roger Wisman, who coaches both teams but directed the boys Friday while assistant Tammy Smith led the girls as the teams bowled simultaneously.
“I can’t put a word on it. But it was awesome – the greatest thing that happened. That bus ride home is going to be cool.”
And not just because the bus driver is another assistant coach and mother to the boys team’s lead roller.
Linda Hyska stayed with the girls through most of their Final, but at the end had to drift down to the boys side as her senior son Brandon led the Vikings to their second championship in only four years as a program.
Brandon Hyska rolled a 300 during qualifying – his first perfect game. The 2017 Division 4 singles champion had rolled a 298 once, Mom said, but he needed those last two pins Friday as Bronson earned the top seed by two ahead of Grass Lake.
The Vikings boys beat two of their three bracket opponents by more than 100 pins and the third by 59. In the Final, Bronson took a 72-pin lead out of the first Baker game, saw the margin go down to 62 after the second, but then won the regular game 865-818. Hyska rolled a 195 in the Final, followed by senior Bowen McCollough at 187.
Junior Brandon Taylor and Hyska were the only holdovers from last season’s lineup to score in Friday’s championship match.
“We had a couple guys not come back (this season), and we had to battle through a lot to get where we were,” Hyska said. “We had a lot of guys that had to step up to their roles, and it’s big.”
The Bronson girls had taken a serious step toward title contention in 2018 as well, making the Finals as a first-year standalone team (after two seasons with girls on the boys team) and advancing to a semifinal matchup with Vandercook Lake.
The Jayhawks won that match by only 33 pins and went on to win the championship. They then also finished first with Bronson second at last week’s Regional. But the Vikings were able to get past Vandercook 1,242-1,099 in Friday’s semifinal rematch, then come back to beat East Jackson – which had finished third at the same Regional – by a score of 1,043-935.
“We have one senior (Avery Rees), so it was great for her to finally win a state championship before she’s gone,” Smith said. “We have a couple juniors on the team, and going forward now they know they can do it.”
Bronson trailed 182-145 after the first Baker game, but early in the regular game had swung the match all the way back to take the lead – on the way to fulfilling a promise.
“I promised our senior that graduated last year (all-stater Araceli Hernandez) that we would win it with her sister,” junior Dakota Smith said, referring to current freshman teammate Idalia Hernandez. “And look what happened – we won it, and it’s amazing. She knew we were capable.”
Smith led the Vikings in the regular game with a 178, with Rees at 170, and sophomore Aubrey Weinberg followed at 169. Senior Lailah Maull led East Jackson in the regular game with a 155. East Jackson had earned the top seed after the 10-game qualifying block, followed by Vandercook Lake and Bronson.
Ethan Androl rolled 194 for USA in the championship match regular game, and Nick Ewald added a 192.