Heather Buck competing in bowling action earlier in the season. ~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory
After an exciting day of team play at Thunderbowl Friday, March 1, in Allen Park, the MHSAA D1 singles competition returned to conclude the 2018-19 season. Sixty hopefuls that survived out of the six regions arrived at the lanes in the early hours of the day to take their shot at the title. The 16 best scores after a grueling six-game qualifying set would advance to match play, which would again conclude in the Thunderbowl Arena where the championship teams were crowned a day earlier. Rockford's Heather Buck was the Ram’s lone participant at the event, with the Region 1 qualifier proving to be among the hardest of all the regional contests to advance out of.
Buck started slow, by her standards, with an opening 192, which left her just out of the top 16. But, in typical fashion, she fired a 256 in game 2, followed by an even better 259 to post a 707 three-game score and share of second place overall at the halfway mark, 50 pins behind overall leader Stephanie Schalk of St. Clair Shores Lakeview. Not letting up, she then posted scores of 248 and 224 to pull within 11 of Schalk with one game to go. Heather finished qualifying with a 227, while Schalk managed 216, resulting in a tie for the tournament lead at 1406, with Buck winning the tiebreaker by rule of best final game. Heather was joined by four other Region 1 participants, including Wildcat juniors Lauren Slagter (ninth-1280) and Anna Bartz (11th-1191), two bowlers from newly crowned team champion Jenison. Buck and Schalk's 1406 total not only bested the D1 women's field (and all other divisions as well), but also outpaced the entire men's field across all divisions by 50 pins!
The first round of match play remained in the main bowling area, where Buck defeated 16 seed Utica senior Makenzee Barthlow 199-246/445 to 143-160/303 to advance to the Final 8 in the Arena. In a rematch of team anchors from the prior day's event, Buck advanced to play Slagter in the round of 8. Both players struggled on the new playing surface for game one with Buck managing to roll a 174 to Slagter's 150. While Buck was able to improve Game 2 slightly with a 184 and a total of 358, it was Slagter who finally figured out the lanes, throwing 232 for a 382 total to eliminate the No. 1 seed's hopes to finally bring a women's individual crown home for Rockford. Slagter would go on to lose her effort to pair her team trophy with an individual title, losing to 13-seed Oxford senior Megan Armbruster in the next round. Armbruster would advance to claim the title in her next and final match, beating St Clair Shores Lakeshore sophomore and No. 7 seed Dani Decruydt, by 49 pins.
Heather finished her Rockford career as easily the most accomplished and decorated Lady Ram bowler in the program's history. She will be long remembered in both the record books and the memories of all who got to watch her amazing skills on the lanes!