Photo by Diane Cox
Civic Memorial’s Dalton Harshbarger prepares to bowl Jan. 17 during the Alton Regional at Bowl Haven Lanes. The Eagles and Alton Redbirds both qualified for state beginning today at O’Fallon’s St. Clair Bowl.
As the boys’ bowling state tournament begins today at St. Clair Bowl in O’Fallon, two Greater Alton area schools will compete. They have two very different traditions.
The Alton Redbirds are back at state for the second straight season and eighth time in nine years. They also qualified in ‘02-03 to make it nine times total.
The Civic Memorial Eagles, on the other hand, are making their first trip to state.
“It’s actually been unbelievable,” CM head coach Shawn Callies said. “I’ve got the SRO police officer saying he’s going to give us an escort out of town on Friday. We’ve got marquees going around town. I’ve got people that haven’t even really talked to me before coming up and congratulating me, congratulating the kids. CMHS is very high. It’s unreal. It’s almost like a movie. They are going to make a movie of this.”
Alton tries to bottle that same excitement because head coach Jeff Woszczynski knows it’s never a given to return to the state stage. It’s a difficult road every year.
“It’s always exciting to go back to state regardless of how many times you might go there,” Woszczynski said. “It’s still tough to get there and that’s the one thing I’ll never forget, especially the year we didn’t go back. The kids have worked hard all year and they deserve a shot to prove they can be the best team in the state.”
The Birds and Eagles traveled the same path to state. Alton (6,234) was third and CM (6,119) was fourth at the Alton Regional on Jan. 17 at Bowl Haven Lanes. AHS (5,831) then nabbed fourth and the Eagles (5,808) were fifth at the Herrin Sectional on Jan. 24, both good enough to qualify for state.
Ryan Hayes sparked the Eagles at the sectional, rolling a 300 during his third game. The feat fired up his team, but Callies is quick to point out CM isn’t reliant on just one bowler.
Phillip Ramos led the charge at regionals. Ramos and Hayes, seniors, are joined at state by: seniors Dalton Harshbarger, Jacob Troeckler and Alex Zukas and sophomores Devin Davis and Zach Hagen.
“We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have five guys, but when we were in trouble our big guy came through and that’s Ryan Hayes,” Callies said. “All five are great bowlers, but he’s always the guy that comes through for us and he just smacked a big 300 up in there ... What’s fun about it is it’s everybody picking each other up and it’s been a huge team effort all year.”
Alton has senior Lucas Pejakovich to guide the attack. As a junior, Pejakovich finished ninth individually at state, leading AHS to seventh as a team.
Pejakovich joins fellow seniors Justin Amistadi and Mat Gorman, juniors Jacob Donahue, Matt Fritz, Nik Meggos, Chris Perkey and sophomore Tyler Stevenson in the state lineup.
Woszczynski initially worried about a down year after losing 10 seniors, but those thoughts dispersed quickly. He is confident in his team this weekend.
“The kids came in hungry,” he said. “We lost 10 seniors and I had that first little concern, but once we started practicing the kids were fine. While bowling is an individual sport, it’s still a team sport and you have to have your teammates around you and help pull and that’s just the way it’s been. No one has ever been out there for themselves. They’ve all been out there for each other and I think that carries over from the older kids to the younger ones.”
State’s first round began at 9:45 a.m. today. The second round continued at 1 p.m. The field dwindles from 24 teams to 12, but still 30 individuals when round three gets going at 9:45 a.m. Saturday. The fourth and final round begins at 1 p.m. Saturday.
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