ROGERS CITY-Being a freshman in high school can be a hair-raising experience. This is especially true for student athletes as freshmen have to make a name for themselves quickly against upperclassmen with varsity experience.
That is unless that athlete is Bailey Budnik of Rogers City.
Budnik, a freshman bowler for the Hurons made a huge name for himself in his first varsity year by not only making it to the individual state finals, but winning the Division 4 individual state title.
News Photo by Eric Benac
Rogers City freshman Bailey Budnik won the Division 4 individual state bowling title earlier this month, becoming the first Huron bowler to win such a championship. Budnik defeated Burton Bentley freshman Jeffery Green in the final and was the top bowler out of a field of 60 contenders.
"It feels pretty good (to win the state championship). I guess I'll be the one to beat next year," Budnik said.
Going into the finals, Budnik remembers feeling a lot of pressure to perform and prove himself.
"It was a lot of weight on my shoulders. Everybody is thinking I'm just some freshman. My goal was to just get into the top 16. I never thought I'd make it to the finals," he said.
"I've never been the best at anything in my life. Being the best is a cool feeling."
- Bailey Budnik, Rogers City bowler
Budnik's victory is even more interesting when you consider his competition at the championship. There were 60 bowlers in the championship, 30 of whom were seniors.
Despite that, Budnik finished seventh in the initial qualifying block and his competitor in the final was also a freshman, Burton Bentley's Jeffery Green, who Budnik defeated 336-322.
The Rogers City bowling team has a solid history of competitiveness. The team was state runner-up in 2004 and 2010 before finally winning a state title in 2012. The Hurons also had two state runners-up before Budnik won, including star bowler Zach Hazel last year. Hazel was a key component to Rogers City's success, but it took Rogers City three tries to snag their championships.
"I guess the third time was the charm with us," Rogers City coach Brian Bannasch said.
Bannasch was also a professional bowler for some time, had nothing but praise for Budnik.
"Bailey is a good kid, very level headed and serious about bowling. He didn't seem to let it (the competition) get to his head or make him nervous at all," Bannasch said.
Budnik is polite and intelligent young man who does well in school and regularly makes the honor roll. He has been bowling from about the age of five and has developed the techniques and skills necessary to be the best in the state. He is considering trying out for the cross country team as well as the golf team next year, but is likely to focus heavily on bowling.
"I think bowling is a lot of fun. I really like the mental aspect of the game. It really tests me mentally," he said.
Budnik's win came off of years of experience as an amateur bowler as well as the practice routine he and his teammates undergo every day.
They spend a few weeks at the beginning of the season practicing form. Bannasch gives his bowlers advice on their approach and form and helps them fine tune it as much as possible.
After perfecting their style, they begin practicing for competition by bowling baker games. The upped their baker game routine into overdrive just before the regionals and during their preparation for further rounds of the playoffs. Baker games involve five-player teams bowling ten frames on a rotation.
Baker games are designed to introduce bowlers to the competitive nature of meets. A meet is won by the team with the most cumulative points between all the bowlers. Baker games help the bowlers understand the importance of playing as a team.
Budnik's championship win was a huge confidence booster for him and undoubtedly a great experience for a young man starting the years that for many are often both the best and worst of their lives.
"I've never been the best at anything in my life. Being the best (by winning the individual state championship) is a cool feeling," Budnik said.