Photo by Aaron FitzPatrick
Richards qualified for state for a second straight year. From left to right: Phoenix Lopez, Katie Strache, Gina Bartkus, Caitlyn Solomon, Alexandra Wozniak, Peyton Attig, Sarah Coffman and Mia Jones.
You can’t beat perfection.
For 12 frames, Richards High School senior bowler, Alexandra Wozniak, was as good as a bowler can get at last week’s Oak Lawn Sectional Saturday at Palos Lanes in Palos Hills. In the sixth and final game of the tournament, Wozniak rolled a perfect 300 and helped lift the Lady Bulldogs to the state tournament, which starts Friday at Cherry Bowl in Rockford.
Richards head coach, Emily Gesell, said Wozniak is “the calm through the storm,” for the Bulldogs.
That description was tested in the sectional Wozniak continued to post one “X” after another on the scoreboard. As the strikes piled up, so did the crowd around her lanes to witness a rarity in the sport. Wozniak, whose previous best was a 279, appeared to be calm and just having fun after each frame. However, inside, she said it was just the opposite, especially in the later frames.
“I’ve been shaking since the ninth frame,” Wozniak said. “I had a rhythm going but I pulled that last ball. You need a little luck in bowling sometimes.”
Wozniak said the thought of a perfect game never enters her mind during a match.
“Of course it would be awesome if I did but I didn’t think it was going to happen today,” she said. “Well, maybe after seven strikes I thought maybe I could do this.”
Gesell said Wozniak has always had the potential for a 300 game.
“I knew she had it in her. She’s one of our most consistent and level headed bowlers,” said Gesell. “I knew she had the potential to do that this year but over those last couple of balls is was, ‘Alright, Alex. Stay calm. Just stay calm.’”
How does a coach deal with the situation as she watches one of her own try to achieve perfection?
“I may appear calm, but inside I’m a little bit jittery,” Gesell. “It happened. So I guess I was calm enough.”
Wozniak’s score solidified a spot for Richards in the state tournament for the second year in a row and propelled her to a second place individual finish with a 222.7 average. She finished just six pins behind sectional champion Serenity Quintero of Waubonsie Valley. Waubonsie Valley also brought home the sectional title with a 6,212 followed by Richards (5,949), York (5,428) and host Oak Lawn (5,407).
It is Richards’ ninth appearance in the state tournament and the Bulldogs finished fourth in 1977 and 1986. Last year, the team took 13th and Wozniak finished 36th.
This is Oak Lawn’s state debut as a team.
Oak Lawn high scorer, Allison Hebel, said the team is looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s crazy,” said Hebel. “We’ve been looking forward to it this whole season. We thought we had a really strong team coming this year and we have a lot of great freshman and sophomores who are helping us. It’s great to finally make it.”
Sandburg junior Emily Schrader, who finished 10th in the state last year, took fourth place in the Andrew Sectional Saturday at Orland Bowl and earned a return trip to Rockford. She opened with a 169 and needed a big finish in her last five games to qualify.
She followed with a 257-227 to finish the morning session with a 653. She rolled a 204-228-266 for a 698 to vault up the standings.
“I was thinking too much the first game,” she said. “I was overhooking and changed my ball. It seems like lately my first game of each set has been lower. But I can’t get down on myself.’’
Eagles junior Sophia Jablonski became one of the first two bowlers in Illinois to compete in the wheelchair division and she rolled a 459 in four games to qualify for state.
--Sports Editor Jeff Vorva contributed to this report