Photo by Theo Tate
Granite City seniors Kennedy Rainwater (left) and Justin Simpson were named to the all-Southwestern Conference bowling team last year.
On March 9, Justin Simpson and Kennedy Rainwater walked out of Memorial Gymnasium with the biggest awards of their high school bowling careers.
Simpson and Rainwater were named to the all-Southwestern Conference bowling team. Both bowlers earned third-team honors. They picked up their awards at the Granite City Winter Sports Awards Ceremony.
“It was a total surprise to me,” Rainwater said. “I haven’t been the best bowler. I’m not the worldwide bowler. But I was very surprised to get it.”
Simpson added about the honors, “It was huge. All of my work has paid off.”
Simpson and Rainwater were the top bowlers for the Granite City boys’ and girls’ bowling teams, respectively, last winter as juniors. Simpson averaged a 198 and was one of three Granite City bowlers who qualified for sectionals. Rainwater led the girls with a 155 average.
This winter, Simpson and Rainwater are looking to pick up right where they left off from a year ago.
“I would like to have a high average,” Rainwater said. “My average has always been around a 130. I would like to have it at a 160 or 170 for me especially. But I really just want to help the other girls become better bowlers themselves.”
“I didn’t bowl my best in sectionals (last year), but it’s going to help me this year to have a fire and hopefully do way better and hopefully make it to state and advance and win,” Simpson said.
Both Rainwater and Simpson have competed with the Granite City bowling team since their freshman seasons.
“I heard it on the announcements and my mom needed me to do another activity to keep me in shape for the marching band in the spring,” Rainwater said. “So she’s like, ‘Yeah, do some bowling.’ My mom and dad are bowlers, so that really encouraged me.”
Simpson just wanted to follow in his brother’s footsteps.
“I started in eighth grade because my brother used to bowl,” Simpson said. “I just wanted to be like him. I thought it was cool. I started and worked really hard and that’s where I’m at today.”
Rainwater and Simpson credit Granite City coach Melanie Williams for their successful junior seasons last winter.
“We have an amazing bowling coach,” Rainwater said. “Melanie works so much with us and she teaches you so much because she has been through so much with the high school. She really helps you step by step with everything that we do.”
Simpson added about Williams, “She has been a huge help. Whenever I need spare shooting or showing my consistency, she’s always there helping me with whatever I need.”
Rainwater and Simpson will be going their separate ways after they graduate from GCHS in May. Simpson will continue his bowling career at Lindenwood-Belleville.
Rainwater will attend Hickey College in St. Louis but will not bowl.
Simpson said he’s looking forward to bowling in college next year.
“It’s huge,” Simpson said. “They’re going to allow me to bowl with them and I couldn’t be more excited because I love bowling. I could do it every day and I just want to get better.”
But first, Simpson is looking to help the Granite City boys’ squad turn in a strong season. The Warriors began their season on Nov. 19 with a victory over Alton at Airport Bowl in Bethalto. Simpson bowled a team-best 691 series.
“The boys’ team winning against Alton by 134 pins was a pretty big deal,” said Williams, who is in her fourth season as Granite City head coach. “Last year, we were in a slump, but this (win over Alton) totally brought us out of it. I see us going very far.”
Simpson is part of a Granite City boys’ team that includes brothers Corey and Ricky Hard, Cody Kuenkle, Chandler Ballion and Dylan Adams. The Hard brothers also competed in sectionals last year.
“When we come in there and bowl and they’re all in one sync, I think we can totally do some damage,” Williams said. “It’s just trying to get them all at the same time.”
Rainwater is part of a girls’ team that includes Ashley Heiman, Leanna Staples and Courtney Awalt. The Warriors were scheduled to start their season on Tuesday against Edwardsville.
“I see very high hopes for her (Rainwater) this year,” Williams said. “If we can make a few changes and get things going, I can see her going to sectionals at least, if not state.”