Listen to their voices.
“It was a great tournament for me,” Lincoln-Way West’s Morgan Flaherty said after she captured individual medalist honors at the IHSA girls bowling state tournament. Her comments first appeared in an article by Dennis Nelson of the Sun-Times News Group along with those of some other newly crowned champs.
“Today is one of the best days of my entire life,” Andrew’s Ashley Stefanski said after the T-Bolts captured their first girls bowling state title on Saturday at Cherry Bowl in Rockford.
“We didn’t expect this at all,” Andrew coach Julie DeChene said.
And did you catch what Sandburg coach Joe Geiger had to say after the Eagles’ Nicole Powell placed second? “She had ice running through her veins,” Geiger said.
You can hear the emotion—and sense the excitement—as the girls and their coaches express of their feelings. I’ll bet the memories will last a lifetime. And isn’t it interesting that these young girls and their coaches will share a bond that comes from participating in a lifetime sport?
I love football, but who plays anything but an occasional game of two-hand touch on Thanksgiving weekend after graduating from high school? The answer is a only a select few, the biggest and best of the bunch.
Bowling is a sport you can play at the age of 9 or 99. Bowlers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are tall and skinny. Others are short and fat. They are not measured by how much weight they lift or how fast they run 40 yards.
Rather, they are measured by their ability to knock down pins and stand up in the face of pressure, all eyes cast on those who dare to push themselves to new heights of achievement.
I’d like to congratulate Flaherty for becoming the first individual state champion in the history of Lincoln-Way West. I’d like recognize Powell for becoming Sandburg’s first all-state medalist in girls bowling. She rolled games of 257 and 258 on Saturday and finished with a pinfall total of 2,684—80 back of Flaherty.
And I’d like to pay tribute to the entire Andrew team for bringing home the T-Bolts second state bowling title in two weeks. Andrew’s girls rallied from 20 pins down to overtake Minooka (12,349 to 12,327) and duplicate the feat of their boys counterparts.
The T-Bolts called on contributions from a lineup that went six deep: Stefanski, Nicole Zapf, Cassie Boat, Jenny Halas, Stephanie Garrick’s and Ashley Sparred. Boat bowled a 278 game on Saturday morning. That’s smokin’ hot.
Flaherty bowled a 278 game and 741 series on Friday afternoon. That’s heat-seeking-missile hot. She wrapped up state-tournament play with a 12-game average of 230.3, third-highest in the history of IHSA-sanctioned girls bowling. And she turned the trick during her junior year of high school when nobody touted her as a contender.
I would need to bowl two games to reach a 278 total. Yes, I bowl on a rare occasion. That’s the point. The game is one you can enjoy for the rest of your life—just as Flaherty will enjoy being called the Warriors’ first state champ for the rest of her life. Her portrait will be the one that lords over all the others on the wall at school.
My hope is when people look at that photo they will look beyond the smile on her face. Bowling is a game. In high school competitions, victories are important, to be sure. In the bigger picture, the lessons these girls learn from participating now will serve them well as they move forward.
Some will have opportunities to bowl in the collegiate ranks. Yes, a handful of colleges offer scholarships to bowlers.
Who knows? One or two might make a pro career out of bowling. More likely, the sport will become one they turn to for laughs as well as recreation. You can build friendships on the lanes—and hot fudge sundaes at the ice cream shop after your rental shoes have been dutily returned.
Call me naive. I believe a well-rounded education goes beyond the 3 R’s: Reading, ’Riting and ’Rithmetic. I believe in extracurriculars. You build self-esteem in band, drama and sports. You get back what you put into those experiences.
And you can hear the deafening sound of that reward in the voices of these girls and their coaches. Standouts, one and all, and forget about strikes and spares for a moment. Listen for the bigger takeaway. Hear the flip of that switch. See that light bulb go on. Now you’ve stepped forward in life.