Photo by Diane Cox
You can call it a duplicate performance for Eryka Graham of the Alton Redbirds. Better yet, a sweet repeat.
The junior received AdVantage News’ Prep Girls Bowler of the Year honor for the second consecutive season. Graham, who won it as a sophomore with a solid year, proved just as reliable and durable during the 2014-15 campaign.
She carried a 202 average and improved 23 spots at state. As a sophomore, Graham averaged 201 pins and finished 55th at state. She spun a 2,515 score for 12 games in this year’s IHSA finals at The Cherry Bowl in Rockford.
Coach Jeff Woszczsynski said Graham has contributed mightily to the Redbirds’ cause, but her best may be yet to come. She awaits her senior season.
“Eryka is a very determined person and she wants to succeed as a bowler at the highest level she can achieve,” Woszczynski said. “Although she has already accomplished quite a bit, she still is trying to get to the next level and perhaps bowl in college.”
For Graham, that higher level could be a shot at All-State recognition, and Woszczynski figures that if she continues to improve, that’s within her reach. Graham saw an upgrade in her game the past season and hopes she will take the next step in 2015-16.
“It seems like the girls on the team were a lot closer this year and we communicated more,” Graham said. “There was more support and that helped me a lot. I wanted to do better because of all the support.”
Graham maintained her consistency throughout the winter and then went to work in postseason competition. She shot a score of 1,185 in the Alton Regional to finish third — and one pin behind teammate Becca McBride — as the Redbirds claimed the team title at Bowl Haven Lanes, their comfy home.
The Birds finished fifth at the O’Fallon Sectional and narrowly missed qualifying for the state finals. Nevertheless, Graham strung together a score of 1,305, second-best to O’Fallon’s Madison Kasza, who had a 1,344 total.
At state, Graham spun a 667 series the first day and 639 the final one. She recorded games of 235, 225, 207, 237, 220 and 182. Her steady scores kept her on the path of consistency.
“I had more knowledge and I knew what to do more this season,” Graham said. “I think I improved not only as a bowler, but as a person.”
She added, “I thought I was doing my best bowling at the end of the season and that’s what I wanted to do. I improved more than 20 places in the state finals and doing that has motivated me more for next season. I’d like to keep progressing and eventually, I want to bowl in college.”
Graham said she has developed an affection for bowling.
“I like how it challenges you mentally and physically,” she said. “It takes a lot of practice and I bowl almost every day. I can’t wait to start next year.”
Neither can Woszczynski. He may have another All-Stater waiting in the wings.
“Eryka — and Lucas Pejakovich — have been quiet leaders as well as role models for the middle school bowlers,” he said. “We are looking forward to having Eryka back next season.”