STERLING HEIGHTS — Macomb Dakota bowlers finished the season strong at the Feb. 28 and March 1 MHSAA Division 1 team and individual state finals at Sunnybrook Lanes in Sterling Heights.
The Cougars girls team reached the semifinals before being knocked out by eventual and now three-time defending state champion Davison High.
Dakota senior Nicole Mikaelian and junior Justin Taylor also advanced to their respective semifinals in the individual competition the next day, falling just short of the finals.
In the team competition, the Cougars girls advanced from the qualifying block as the seventh seed. The boys team reached the state finals competition but did not make it out of qualifying.
The Dakota girls were paired with second-seed Belleville in the quarterfinals. The Cougars beat their opponent with the highest output in the quarterfinal round, 1,456-1,350. But next up was Davison, which defeated Dakota 1,498-1,272.
“I’m very happy with the way they bowled,” Dakota girls coach Kevin Wemyss said. “To qualify was great, and to make it into the (semifinals) was super. Davison just bowled great.
“So I think it was a really, really good year for the team. We would have liked to have won first, but fourth place — I’m happy.
Wemyss said the competition both days was tough.
“The talent on our team is great, but the talent across the board for girls bowling in Michigan, especially in this division, is unreal,” the coach said.
Mikaelian said she was proud of her teammates for faring well against the competition.
“The teams were incredible this weekend — scores were really high,” she said. “I’m proud of how we did. We’ve had a great season.”
In the individual competition, Mikaelian went to work in the knockout rounds after qualifying as the 11th seed. First, she edged Lake Orion’s Courtney LeBlanc 413-403 before beating Davison’s Taylor Davis 445-375 in the quarterfinals.
In the semifinals, Mikaelian rolled a two-game score of 449, one of the top scores throughout the entire girls knockout competition, but Westland John Glenn’s Julia Huren topped her with a 490.
“There’s a lot of talent here,” Mikaelian said. “Scores again today were crazy high. I wasn’t expecting the cut to be above a 200 average. I’m happy with the way I finished. I’ve had a great year. I’ve had a great four years.”
Wemyss said Mikaelian, who will be bowling in the collegiate ranks at Arkansas State, was “rock solid” for the Cougars. The coach also noted that junior Jenna Nottle “bowled awesome” at the state finals.
Nottle reached the knockout portion of the individual competition but fell in the round of 16 to Davison’s Davis 441-378.
In the boys competition, meanwhile, Taylor represented Dakota well, reaching the semis before falling to the eventual state champion Josh Kukla, of Grandville.
“I’m pretty proud of what I’ve accomplished,” Taylor said. “I’ve got one more year. There’s a lot of good bowlers out there. It’s a good experience.”
Taylor, as the nine seed, began knockout competition with a close win over Davison’s Rodney Hoover, 405-401. Then, he defeated Utica High’s Andrew Venturini, the top seed, 446-353 in the quarterfinals. Taylor found himself in another close match in the semifinal but fell 411-409 to Kukla.
Taylor noted there was little room for error in both the team and individual competitions.
“The team, this year, we did outstanding,” he said. “Yesterday, we just weren’t on at all. We tried to make good shots. It just wouldn’t fall. You don’t have much room for error at all.”
Also locally, Macomb L’Anse Creuse North sophomore Samantha Gainor, and Utica Eisenhower freshman Chris Ireland and senior Elizabeth Ireland, reached the round of 16 in the Division 1 individual tournament.