Here's how Harlem came back to claim national bowling titles for both boys and girls

·4 min read
Harlem's boys bowling team celebrates after winning the national championship in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday, June 18, 2022.
Harlem's boys bowling team celebrates after winning the national championship in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday, June 18, 2022.

This time, both the Harlem girls and the boys raised the national championship trophy together.

The Harlem girls won their fourth national title in the past five tries and the Huskie boys joined them, winning their first national championship at the U.S. High School Bowling Foundation national bowling tournaments in Louisville, Kentucky, last weekend. The event ran from June 18-20 and featured 640 participants with the team event running on the first day and the singles' tournaments going on the second and third days.

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"I'm still in awe with what they just did," the Harlem girls head coach Jim Heathscott said shortly before the team was celebrated upon its return to Machesney Park on Tuesday. "It was quite impressive... With one of our starters on the sidelines on crutches, to be able to do this, it's just incredible."

Harlem's girls and boys bowling teams pose with the two national championship plaques on Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Louisville, Kentucky.
Harlem's girls and boys bowling teams pose with the two national championship plaques on Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Louisville, Kentucky.

On the singles' side, last year Harlem's Olivia Watton edged teammate Jocelyn Eggert to win the national championship in Dayton, Ohio. They both now bowl at Rock Valley College.

This time around, Hononegah's Kyley Olson placed seventh and Harlem's Eric Roberts finished eighth in the individual single' national tournaments, each making it all the way through the fifth round. Jermarrion Simmons took 27th overall on the boys side. Simmons and the Harlem boys both finished second at IHSA state last winter.

But headed into the singles' events this past weekend, the Harlem crew was exhausted after battling late into the night (and even into early Sunday morning) to win the two team national titles.

Here's how they did it:

Harlem girls win 4th of last 5 titles

The Harlem girls bowling team smiles in unison after winning the U.S. Bowling Federation high school girls national championship in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday, June 18. 2022.
The Harlem girls bowling team smiles in unison after winning the U.S. Bowling Federation high school girls national championship in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday, June 18. 2022.

Miranda Klenz recently tore the ACL in her knee and was out for the tournament, but she traveled with her teammates and was part of the squad. She was joined by since-departed seniors Paige Carpenter and Carolyn Richards, incoming seniors Hailee Kerr and Stephanie Windsor, sophomore to be Hannah Herdklotz and freshman to be Riley Gilbert.

And after a slow start, they steamrolled their way to their fourth national championship in the last six years. They took third last year, there was no tournament due to COVID-19 the year before, and they won titles every year from 2017-19.

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This year, they were not to be denied.

"This one was a little bit different," Heathscott said. "This time we were way back, and somehow found a way to fight all the way back. We dug ourselves quite a hole. It's pretty amazing."

The Huskie girls couldn't find a rhythm and were in sixth place midway through the team tourney, but they set three national tournament records in the second half to post the comeback. They set the record for the single-high Baker game (268), for the 6-Baker game high series (1,296) and for the 12-Baker game high series (2,504).

Harlem defeated Hononegah by 29 pins to get to semifinals, and then continued to roll from there. The Huskies also beat Lockport along the way, which was the only team that knocked them off in the state finals last winter. Harlem crushed Sun Prairie (Wisconsin) by more than 100 pins in the finals to win it all.

Harlem boys rally for 1st national title

The Harlem boys bowling team raises the trophy after winning the U.S High School Bowling Foundation national championship in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday, June 18, 2022.
The Harlem boys bowling team raises the trophy after winning the U.S High School Bowling Foundation national championship in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday, June 18, 2022.

The Harlem boys were even farther away from a national title than the girls were at the midway point of the tourney last weekend. Harlem was in 10th early on, and in eighth place at the mid-point.

But sparked by Roberts, a graduated senior, and Simmons, a senior to be, the Harlem boys caught fire down the stretch, and won the program's first national championship.

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"We made some changes, and, well, I'm kind of superstitious, so I went and changed my clothes and stuff," said Harlem boys head coach Nick Whitmire of the break they get at the midway point. "And I told them that if they wanted to win their first national title they were going to have to really start pushing. They sure did. They just kept getting better and better and better."

Joined by Ryan Apgar, Braden Schuld, Jeremy Martinez, Ben Smith, Devin Titus and Brayland Carpenter, Roberts and Simmons sparked the Huskies. Harlem shot a 709 Baker game to get back into it in Round 3, and then the Huskies never slowed down.

"It was just about execution, and making a lot of good, quality shots," Whitmire said. "It was fun to watch."

Jay Taft is a Rockford Register Star sports reporter. Email him at jtaft@rrstar.com and follow him on Twitter at @JayTaft. Sign up for the Rockford High School newsletter at rrstar.com. Jay has covered a wide variety of sports, from the Chicago Bears to youth sports, for more than 20 years at the Register Star, and for nearly 30 years all together. He was a four-sport athlete himself, and is the father of five that went on to be jocks of some kind as well.

This article originally appeared on Rockford Register Star: Harlem claims national titles in both boys and girls bowling