By Sarah Jaeger
Special to Second Half
WATERFORD –Flint Kearsley swept the MHSAA Division Bowling Finals as the boys took home their first championship trophy and the girls claimed their second title in three years Friday.
"It's awesome. It'll never get old," Kearsley girls coach Robert Ploof said.
"Just to have the whole program be successful is just a dream come true. We had our AD here. We had a principal. We had a superintendent here. I mean, just to have everyone here to see it is amazing. It couldn't be any better."
But who knew the secret to winning an MHSAA championship was a good book?
It turns out a paperback was the calming factor to help the girls team through the brackets and eventually clinch the title over Bay City Western in the final match at Century Lanes.
Ploof would have his girls read chapters from "With Winning In Mind" by Olympic gold medalist Lanny Basshamm to keep them focused throughout the competition.
"What a fantastic book,” Ploof said. “It keeps their mind on something else, and it's a mental thing that gets their head in the game as well."
While the book may have keep their heads in the game, a motto kept their hearts in it.
"One Team, One Heart, On Goal," said junior Kayla Emmendorfer, who also was part of the 2012 championship team and threw a 233 during Friday’s final match against Western.
"From the beginning, we fill out a sheet of paper what are our main goals, and we all said state championship, regionals, and conference, and we did it. So it worked."
It worked so well, in fact, the Flint Kearsley boys adopted their own motto.
"’Never give up, never let up’ and they've done that all year long," coach Bart Rutledge said. "Never once have they thought they were out of it."
While the Kearsley boys led the morning qualifying block with a score of 3,548, they had to fight back in the Semifinals and Final after falling behind in the Baker set.
"We started that last match and everyone was tight and a little nervous. Now they know what to expect, and I think it will be better for them," Rutledge said.
He will have seven bowlers returning next year as seniors. However, the championship brought this year's lone senior, Peter Sorsen, to tears when accepting the team trophy.
"I've seen it since I was a freshman and wanted to do this, and now I'm here," Sorsen said. "I couldn't ask for a better team or a better coach."
On their way to the championship, the Kearsley boys beat eighth-seeded Ortonville-Brandon and fifth-seeded Mount Pleasant before facing Marysville, a team with a Regional championship and undefeated record, in the Final.
"I don't think I've ever sat on the edge of my seat so much in my life. It was just a great day," Marysville coach Debbie Lietzow said.
"I'm very proud of them. All the way to the end. They came into it wanting to win. That's all I can ask."
"I think we did really good," Marysville junior Brandon Armstead added. "It was really hard toward the end, but I still think we did a good job."
For their road to the championship, the Flint Kearsley girls faced off against eighth-seeded Ionia and fifth-seeded Escanaba before meeting third-seeded Bay City Western in the Final.
"They did awesome today," Bay City Western coach Rick Dodick said of his team. "We worked hard all year, and this was one of their goals – that we get back to the state tournament for the fourth year in a row. Last year we finished third. This year we finished second. So we've been improving every year, so I'm very proud of them and very proud of the effort they put forth today."
However, getting to the championship match takes more than just getting lucky one day of the year.
"They worked very hard and took practice very serious, and worked hard as a team this year," said Dodick.
Despite making it to the MHSAA Finals in previous years, Western senior Haley Delestowicz admitted she still had some jitters during her last tournament.
"I don't usually get nervous, but today I can say I was a little nervous and I was super excited to take a run at the title,” she said. “We bowled against some great teams, and they were great competition. But you had to keep your cool to make your spares and strike out."
PHOTO: The Flint Kearsley bowling teams pose with their MHSAA championship trophies Friday. (Photo by Sarah Jaeger.)