By Steve Gunn
Special for Second Half
MUSKEGON – After three years of varsity bowling, and zero trips to the MHSAA Finals, one might have expected Corunna's Javen Howes to just be happy to qualify this year.
But Howes did a whole lot better than that.
The senior bowler, who was the 10th and final qualifier at his Regional last week, caught fire Saturday and captured the Division 3 boys individual championship at Northway Lanes in Muskegon.
Howes defeated Portland's Jack Dalman in the tournament final, 429-317.
That score was a bit deceptive, because the match was close after the first game, which Howes won by only a 194-181 margin.
But he took command in the second game, beating Daman 235-136 to claim a comfortable victory.
"I just took my time and made sure my feet were slow and made sure I hit my mark," said Howes, an emotional bowler who's not afraid to show his excitement after throwing a strike.
Anyone watching Saturday's tournament would be amazed to learn Howes failed to qualify for the Finals in his three previous years of varsity competition.
While he admitted that was an annual disappointment, he also said it was extra motivation to make it on his last try, and do as well as he could.
"I'm glad I made it this year for the first time," Howes said. "I bowled really good today from the very start, I got lined up on my very first ball, so I knew it was going to be a good day."
Corunna coach Jason Scott noted that Howes had a lot of high scores throughout the tournament.
"He was very solid all day long," the coach said. "He had a 255 game, a 235 game and a 268 game in one of the rounds. He had multiple games with a lot of strikes.
"He was very confident. We tried to keep him calm and in a good mood all day long, and it worked. He was tough to beat."
The other seven boys bowlers who made the quarterfinals and won medals were Dalman, Justin Wolffis of Muskegon Orchard View, Devon Wert of Perry, Hunter Peterson of Ishpeming, Ryan Day of Gladwin, Isaac Solis of Adrian Madison and Kyle Nohel of Sanford Meridian.
Solis and Nohel were semifinalists.
Unlike Howes, Algonac's Shelby Kapanowski is a veteran of the Finals. This was her third trip in four years, but she never did particularly well before Saturday – finishing 44th as a sophomore and 23rd as a junior.
But Kapanowski's fortunes flipped dramatically at this year's tournament. She defeated Birch Run's Tessa Birchmeier 372-320 in the final to capture the championship.
Unlike the boys final, this outcome was never really in doubt. Kapanowski took command with a 194-167 win in the first game, then sealed up the title with a 178-153 victory in the second.
"I was nervous in the first round of match play, but as the day went on I found my shot and the lanes never broke down on me, so I was able to handle it very well," said Kapanowski, a senior.
Algonac coach Chris Viney may have been more excited than Kapanowski about her championship.
"Earlier in the season, in back-to-back tournaments, she lost her match play by one pin," Viney said. "It was rough, but we kept saying that it's OK, it was good experience. We told her that bad things are happening right now, but good things will happen later, and they did.
"Every year she got closer. This year we got her in more tournaments and got her more experience. She constantly got better and better and better. She's a winner. She has tenacity. She works hard."
The other seven girls medalists were Birchmeier, Kendyl Hofmeister of Essexville Garber, Madilynn Kieling of Livonia Clarenceville, Ashley Hoskins of Leslie, Lynsey Blonshine of Stanton Central Montcalm, Kayla Kern of Wyoming and Megan Wilkins of Ishpeming.
Kern and Wilkins were semifinalists.