Karli VanDuinen brings home bowling state title for Whitehall | Sports

Karli VanDuinen could do nothing to change her fate in the quarterfinals of bracket play at last Saturday’s Division 2 bowling individual tournament, staged in Canton’s Super Bowl alley.

She’d already finished her second game, a 181, giving her a cumulative score of 357. She’d missed the chance to lock up her quarterfinal matchup against Livonia Clarenceville freshman Caitlyn Johnson by failing to convert a spare. Now Johnson was standing at the lane with the chance to eliminate VanDuinen if she could take care of her own.

Johnson, perhaps succumbing to freshman nerves, missed converting hers as well, and VanDuinen survived by one pin. That was the last time she was threatened, as she bowled scores of 200 or more in each of her four games of the semifinals and finals, scoring the state title to end her Vikings’ athletic career on the highest possible note.

“I’ve been in that situation many times, and I know it could go either way,” VanDuinen said of watching Johnson line up her final shot. “I was prepared for either one, win or lose. I was ready or whatever was going to happen.

“I kind of reset my mind after that and I took a step back and realized I had to buckle down and finish strong. This is where I have to use my strong suit and go the rest of the way and finish strong.”

VanDuinen certainly did that. She dispatched semifinal opponent Kadence Bottrall of Wayland 441-385, then beat Wayland’s Bella Harnish 460-381. Those two scores were the #1 and #2 series recorded by anyone in the 16-player bracket, and #3 was 27 pins behind her semifinal 441. The #4 score was VanDuinen again – a 409 in her first-round win over Chloe Fisk or Cedar Springs.

“She was unstoppable after that (quarterfinal),” Whitehall coach Tyson Jasperse said. “She’d gotten that out of her system. It was all strikes and high scores from there. She dominated the rest of the tournament.”

VanDuinen easily qualified for the 16-player final bracket, placing third in the six-game qualifying round with a total pinfall of 1,236. Her high game was a 249, and each of her last four games were 200s or better.

VanDuinen’s consistent play and ability to power through downturns has been a standout quality throughout her career, and it’s one that permeated the rest of the team.

Karli VanDuinen brings home bowling state title for Whitehall

“She’s a really even bowler,” Jasperse said. “She doesn’t let things get to her when pins aren’t falling. That’s honestly one of her biggest strengths. She doesn’t get emotional. that happens in bowling. You’re going to have those downswings. She plays evenly through those.

“That evenness and what she brings to the team is more important than just the high scores she can put up on the scoreboard. She really brings that energy to the rest of the team. She was just as important to the success of our team as she was her individual season.”

She’s also an intimidating opponent given her resume. VanDuinen said each of her last two opponents have bowled with her before, and she could sense some nerves from each of them, nerves that probably weren’t alleviated by her impressive performances.

VanDuinen is far from done with bowling; she signed with Arkansas State, a last year’s Division I runner-up, last fall. She said Red Wolves’ coach Justin Kostick was excited for her win as a “feather in her cap” before she goes to Jonesboro next year. She’s excited for her future, and thankful for the last four years.

“I look back and it kind of makes me excited and sad,” VanDuinen said of her bowling and golf careers. “I’m realizing that pI robably won’t play competitive golf again, and (in) bowling, I will. I loved every second and I wouldn’t change anything.”

Ava Garcia also competed for the Vikings in the individual finals, finishing 53rd of the 60 qualifiers. Her total pinfall in the six-game qualifiers was 910. Caitlynn Duffey of Reeths-Puffer took 57th place with a pinfall of 888.

The Viking team also qualified for the state finals, placing 13th out of 18 teams last Friday. Their total pinfall in the eight Baker games and two traditional games that comprised the qualifying round was 2,831, 122 pins short of reaching the eight-team final bracket.

Also in the state meet, Jace Ayala of Reeths-Puffer placed 55th of the 60 players in the individual boys meet, with a six-game pinfall of 1,030.

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