Girls bowling: Songer signs with Statesmen

Mar. 22—OTTUMWA — When it comes to bowlers that have experienced high-pressure situations, Hannalee Songer has seen it all.

As a junior, Songer could only watch after missing a spare that would have kept state championship hopes alive for the Ottumwa High School girls in 2023. One year later, Songer came up with clutch strike after clutch strike for the Bulldogs to help bring home the program's 11th state team championship as part of an all-state season on the lanes for the Ottumwa senior.

Songer will take those all that experience with her to the next level, becoming the most recent Ottumwa bowler to sign a letter of intent to compete at William Penn University. Songer will be reunited with former OHS teammate Olivia Pilcher, who was part of state championship teams in 2020 and 2021.

"It's nice having Olivia up there. All the bowlers on the (William Penn) team are all really nice," Songer said. "It feels good to conclude the year signing a letter of intent. William Penn's got a nice campus and the team is really great."

Songer's road to William Penn goes well beyond the past four years spent as a member of Ottumwa bowling teams that won two state titles and finished as the state runner-up twice during that span. Songer has also spent several years bowling in Ottumwa's youth league as one of the top bowlers while also competing in several state and national tournaments.

"That's the neat thing about bowling. You start at a young age and progress through the years through different leagues before you get to the high school level," Ottumwa head girls bowling coach Doug Techel said. "If you're dedicated like Hannalee is, there's an opportunity to bowl in college to get a scholarship that helps you move forward in life.

"We love when the kids get the chance to bowl in college. For us, it's like a sense of completion for them on the high school level. Now, we get to see what they can do in the college ranks."

William Penn head women's bowling coach Kirstin Foster has led the Statesmen to a pair of NAIA National Championship appearances, placing as high as third while producing six all-Heart of American Athletic Conference bowlers. The 2014 William Penn graduate was a four-time letterwinner for the Statesmen bowling program and has seen first hand the benefits of the pipeline William Penn has produced with Ottumwa bowling.

"Olivia's been a part of our varsity roster since her freshman year. Before that, we've had so many great bowlers that have come through our program from Ottumwa," Foster said. "Bailey Palmer was another great bowler that came from Ottumwa to be a big part of our success. Cybil Lennie. Kaylee Fountain. It seems like every successful team we've had at William Penn has featured at least one bowler that has come through Ottumwa's program."

When it comes to that tradition of success, Foster credits Techel and the rest of the coaches within the Ottumwa bowling program and community for teaching the Bulldogs the fundamentals of the sport from a young age.

"They do such a good job building the kids up and working on that foundation that sets them up to be successful in college," Foster said. "That can't be said for every high school bowling program. They do a really good here in Ottumwa and it doesn't go unnoticed. I know there are other girls that are going other programs."

Songer joined fellow Ottumwa seniors Brooklyn Welch, Katelin Valentine and Brooklyn Welch in closing out their prep careers as state championships back in February sweeping Iowa Alliance south division rival Des Moines Lincoln in the 3A state finals. Songer and Welch both earned second-team all-state honors from the Iowa Girls and Iowa High School Bowling Coaches' Associations while joining junior teammate Mackenzie Clubb on the Class 3A All-East District teams.

"Every senior on our team had that drive to win a state championship. Every member of our team learned a lot over the past year, including myself," Techel said. "We put the pressure on the other teams. That's how we wanted it.

"Hannalee has a lot of talent and a willingness to learn. You're not going to be bowling on your house shot ever again. You're going to go to these college tournaments and they're all going to be sport shots. They're all going to be different. There are going to be some where you have to different shots on different lanes. It's going to be that ability to adapt to different conditions. I think Hannalee has that ability."

— Scott Jackson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.