GLADWIN COUNTY – Gladwin County bowlers will kick off the 2021 winter sports season tonight at Valley Lanes in Midland. Due to the pandemic the boys and girls will be split this season to meet the capacity restrictions placed on bowling centers. Currently no spectators will be allowed at matches and only six bowlers from each team may be present in the center during a match due to those restrictions.
Kent Crawford returns as the Gladwin head coach and is also the Secretary of the Jack Pine Bowling Conference this season. Dan Hager who works with the boys and Kevin Van Tiem assist him with the girls. Ray Van Tiem also helps out wherever needed.
Crawford mentioned that the Gladwin program has gotten better over the years because they have done some extra bowling outside of the conference. Getting the kids some extra experience has been helpful. They are not allowed to do that this year. The singles tournaments have also been eliminated this season.
Ryan Hager returns for his senior year. He was a key member of the 2019 State Championship Team. Also returning are seniors Zach McCummings, and Logan Priest along with junior Riley Dotson. Newcomers this year include Devin Null, Harvey Zelt, Zander Easlick, Brady Weston and Hunter McDowell.
The team is fairly young, but the incoming freshmen are experienced athletes that will definitely help the team according to Crawford. Weston is already bowling for a high average and should be one of the top bowlers in the conference this season. He is also mature for his age and should be able to handle the pressure that goes along with being a top bowler. “Hager is not going to sit back and watch other kids walk away with it,” said Crawford. He is also used to performing on a big stage.
Crawford thinks that his boys team will be good this year and with the young talent will get better. “With the coaching that we give them they will get better. Most of them have a good idea of what they are doing I’m excited to see what’s going to happen.”
Sophomore Skylar Davey, and juniors Brielle Dick and Brooke Last return from last year. New this year are freshmen, Charity Dick and Ashlyn Martinson. “I think we will be ok this year. There are some good girls in the conference this year.”
I had the chance to talk to Ryan Hager at practice and he mentioned that he has bowled his entire life. He comes from a family that bowls so it was natural for him to get involved. “Bowling is one of those sports that you can do for competition and for fun.” He mentioned that you don’t have to compete all the time, which makes it enjoyable. He said that bowling is also as much mental as physical, which he likes. “I just find it really fun.” Hager participates in theater at school when it is allowed and is also a part of the choir. He plans to attend college next fall and major in chemistry.
The Beaverton Bowling Team also gets started toning at Valley Lanes. Nicole Blades takes over the boy’s team this year while Troy Frasher returns as the girl’s coach.
The girl’s team returns five bowlers who were all freshman last season. Becca Claypool, Ellie Minkina got a lot of experience last year and are expected to take leadership roles this season. Elizabeth Wolpert, Mackenzie Haapala and Elizabeth Hoag also return. Newcomers include Julian Stacey Eva Reader and Kaeylyn Fischer.
“Its nice to have a young team because we will get to work with them for more that one year,” said Fischer. He mentioned that in the past when new girls joined the team they were often seniors, which didn’t allow much time for the coaches to develop them.
“We are young this year so I am hoping that builds on what they did last year,” continued Fischer. “Ellie and Becca both made it to states last year as freshmen so I’m looking forward to them improving. Neither one gets nervous, it didn’t bother them to go against some of the best in the state and they did well.” They are also very helpful with the rest of the team.
The boy’s team is made up entirely of seniors this season. Only two are returning bowlers the rest are new recruits. “We were in danger of not having a team,” said Blades. Zander Dell and Nic Claypool return. Dell and Claypool both have experience bowling at a high level as the Beavers boys’ team qualified for state last year and Dell qualified for the individual tournament.
Gage Swartzmiller, Clayton Varner, Daniel McCormick and Bryce Jehnsen round out the team. “I think we have the potential to improve and have a fairly decent team,” said Blades. “Based on the first practice I think we have a lot of good kids that are willing to work. I’m excited to see how they improve.”