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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

2021-22 Highlands Bowling Preview

Numbers High for Highlands Programs

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands junior Jake Veneman is a key returning bowler from last year.

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The Highlands Bluebirds bowling programs on both sides can now say they have had one individual state champion.

Abby Bach won the girls individual state crown last year in a season delayed by the Coronavirus 2019 pandemic. Andy Campbell won the individual state title in 2018 for the Highlands boys. Bach qualified for state winning the Region 5 individual crown.

Things like that have contributed to more of an interest in the programs. Third-year Head Coach Andy Eckerle welcomes 14 boys and 11 girls this season. A lot of them came out this year. But that's where Eckerle and assistant coach Brian Huseman are working on consistency with the players.

"(That's) with your approach, with your arm movement and with your follow through always finding your mark, always finding your spot on the floor is the key," Eckerle said. "Trying to integrate that in them is the challenge."

Eckerle agreed it helps to think before firing the ball down the lane. That's where the coaches are working on the players' focus patterns.

"A lot of them really want to throw the ball hard down the lane and that's not what really needs to happen," Eckerle said. "We need to work on stepping back and taking some simple steps forward."

Bach graduated on the girls side along with Tessa Killen and Amanda Parrott. Eckerle said senior Kristen Egan is the team leader. Senior Madison Clore has also been with the team for years. 

Highlands lost to Campbell County in the Region 5 title game qualifying for state. The Bluebirds then lost 3-2 to Harrison County in the first round of the state tournament after earning the 13th seed out of 16 teams.

"They're going to have to step up and be consistent with their bowling," Eckerle said. "They not only need to lead these new bowler, but teach them as well."

A number of senior soccer players came out for the team last year such as Greta Noble and Kenzie Nehus. The same happened this year with Macy Hedenberg and Chloe Bramble. Senior Carissa Armstrong is bowling this year after playing basketball last winter. Senior Helen Helbauer and her sister Jo Helbauer are also bowling this year.

"More people found out about it so more joined this year," Armstrong said. "(Coach) Eckerle made an effort to get it out there that more people are playing. Since COVID has settled down a little bit, we don't have to wear masks all the time as long as we're out doing stuff. It's made it easier for us to communicate and cheer each other on."

The Highlands girls have been to the state tournament seven times. The Bluebirds own three region championships with the last one coming in 2018.

The Highlands boys return more experience than last year led by juniors Jake Veneman, Kurrin Frank and Nick Gilkerson. Seniors Kyle Tierney and Aaron Cunningham graduated from the team that lost to Newport Central Catholic in the region quarterfinals.

"That's the goal. That's what we're relying on them for is to step up their game," Eckerle said. "With the amount of students that we have, it's great to have that extra set of eyes (Huseman) to see what players are doing right and what they're doing wrong and try to fix it."

Highlands does not have any seniors. But three new juniors hope to help the Bluebirds back to the state tournament for the first time since 2016. They are Jack Haggard, Graham Lecky and Dana Brown.

"The boys don't really cheer as much as the girls," Veneman said. "But (Coach) Eckerle wants us to work on cheering a little more. We've been coming up with our own cheers and having a lot of fun with it."

Highlands owns one Region 5 crown in 2016. The Bluebirds have been to state twice finishing state runner-up to Scott County in 2014. 

Highlands opens the season Nov. 4 at Bellewood Lanes against Lloyd Memorial at 3:30 p.m.

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