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BOWLING: Richard boys hungry for another state title (PHOTOS)

Small girls' team also looks for success this season

Members of the Gabriel Richard boys' bowling team include Coach Bob Stempien (left), Jeff Wilson, Austin Stempien, Jesus Quiroz, Austin Kraemer, Aidan Paige, co-captain Zack Stempien, Sam Jakubik, Christian O'Callaghan, Cody Rich, Cameron Jones, co-captain Zach Barr and Jack Jerry. Photo by Dave Gorgon

The Gabriel Richard girls' bowling team includes Coach Bob Stempien, captain Kassandra Komosa, Julie Rutkowski, Amanda Beaudrie, Gabrielle Trela, Madison Paul, Marisa Nunez and Coach Cindy Stempien. Photo by Dave Gorgon

Opponents of Gabriel Richard High School’s boys bowling team should be aware of three facts as the 2013-2014 season gets under way:

The Pioneers are the defending Division 4 state champions, winning their first-ever state title in bowling – and fourth in school history – just nine months ago.

Every bowler from that team is back in this year’s lineup.

The bowlers worked hard in the offseason to get even better. And they are better.

“It’s a great honor to be state champion,” said senior co-captain Zack Stempien, who enters his third season of high school bowling. “We worked hard and came together as a team. There might have been another team that could have won it, but we wanted it the most.”

“We have everybody back that we had last year,” said Coach Bob Stempien, a hall of fame bowler in his own right. “They’ve gotten better as individuals and as a team.”

Stempien and fellow senior co-captain Zach Barr, juniors Jack Jerry and Christian O’Callaghan and sophomores Austin Kraemer and Austin Stempien were the six bowlers who competed for the state title at Sunnybrook Lanes in Sterling Heights.

All six practiced long and hard in the offseason. After finishing his freshman year of high school, Kraemer bowled a 300 game (and 778 series) in the Arbor Valley Youth Tournament in Ann Arbor and led his squad to the team title.

Austin Stempien won a tournament singles title with a 671 three-game series.

After that, the boys bowled as a unit in a league at Lodge Lanes, practiced often and concentrated on getting better. They worked on making spares and bowling as a unit in Baker games – a key component in winning tournaments.

“They practiced through summer and fall,” said Coach Stempien, father of Zack and Austin. “They worked hard on their bowling game and have certainly increased their average a bit. They’re looking forward to the season, looking forward to the challenge and won’t take anybody lightly.”

Indeed. As state champions, Barr said it feels like “we have a target on our back, for sure.”

“We’ve got to just go out and bowl as we know how to bowl,” the fourth-year prep bowler said. “Everybody is expecting us to bowl well and win the state championship again. I figure we’re the targets and we’ve got to show what we can do.”

The six state tournament bowlers are joined on the roster by seniors Sam Jakubik, Aiden Paige, Cody Rich and Jeff Wilson – all in their fourth year of high school bowling – and sophomores Jesus Quiroz, Nate Parks and Cameron Jones, who is the only bowler new to the team.

“We didn’t lose any seniors to graduation and we have a strong core,” Coach Stempien said. “We have a lot of experience bowling in league and tournament play and seem to do the right things at the right times.”

Having everyone back, Zack Stempien said, “gives us more confidence. We already have a skill set developed as a team and individually… I’m pretty sure no one will take us lightly.”

The Pioneers came out of nowhere to win the Catholic League championship in 2012, but fell short last year before recovering to win the state title.

They have started strong this year in the Catholic League West Division, sweeping their first matches over Frankel Jewish Academy on Tuesday at Langans Lanes in Farmington Hills and Madison Heights Bishop Foley on Wednesday at Gabriel Richard’s home bowling center, Belmar Lanes in Lincoln Park.

Barr set the pace for the rest of the league against Jewish Academy with scratch games of 234 and 227, a league-high 461 two-game series and a first-week 230 average. Coach Stempien used seven bowlers, including sophomore Quiroz, and they swept all 10 head-to-head matches and both Baker games.

On Wednesday, the Pioneers swept Bishop Foley and in the process scored the league’s team high game (949) and high series (1861). Barr and Austin Stempien averaged over 210 on the day.

This week, they bowl Cabrini on Monday and Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard on Wednesday. The eight-team division also includes Marine City Cardinal Mooney, Royal Oak Shrine and bowling newcomer Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes.

Coach Stempien said winning a state tournament might help the Pioneers “a little bit.”

“Success is a hard thing to deal with,” he said. “It came to them pretty early, in 2012, when they won a tournament – for them a big one. All the hard work paid off last year. I want them to maintain their focus and work hard and not to expect anything but to earn everything they hope to achieve.”

While the boys’ team has enough experience for two squads, the girls team barely had enough bowlers to form a team.

Three key members of last year’s team – Mary Trela, Emily Elsesser and Elizabeth Beaudrie – graduated. Only four girls returned: junior captain Cassandra Komosa, juniors Julie Rutkowski and Amanda Beaudrie and sophomore Gabrielle Trela.

Needing a minimum of five bowlers to compete, Coach Stempien invited senior tennis standout Madison Paul to join the team and she recruited classmate Marisa Nunez. Both 12th-graders are new to bowling, but have improved quickly since the first day of practice.

“They’ve been practicing together for three weeks and already have very good cohesiveness,” Stempien said. “They cheer each other on. They encourage each other. They celebrate each other’s successes and that’s a good thing.”

Like the boys, the girls picked up wins over Jewish Academy and Bishop Foley to start the season 2-0. Trela’s 134 average led the team against Jewish Academy. Nunez’s first game was a 132.

“I think we’re actually going to improve from last year,” Komosa said. “I hope we can take it step by step and improve as a team.”

Newcomer Paul said she hopes to bring a positive attitude and mentality from tennis to the bowling team.

“I’m still learning,” she said. “It’s amazing how much Coach Stempien does for us. He’s a very good instructor. He gives you guided criticism and backs it up with positive reinforcement. He helps you move along, helps you explore and grow as a bowler.

“For me, I want to help the team out and succeed, but also have fun. We’re not the best team, but no one expects us to be the best team. As long as we’re having fun, that’s the most important thing, because we will make memories that will last.”

Last Updated: 12/13/2013 3:37:21 PM EST

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