The house was alive with the sounds of pins rattling, rolling and ricocheting all around St. Clair Bowl the past weekend. Illinois’ best high school alley cats converged on O’Fallon.
And you had to be in the fast lane to keep up with the scorching scores.
State boys’ bowling returned to Southwestern Illinois and there was little room to spare for those waiting to see strikes galore. The IHSA brought one of its tournaments to the southern part of the state and that was refreshing to see.
After all, there aren’t any other IHSA finals in this part of the state and nothing south of old Collinsville Road — the site for St. Clair Bowl — all the way to southern tip Cairo.
My, my. What a shame. Yet that’s another story for a different day.
Today, it’s about bowling.
Lucas Pejakovich of Alton finished seventh in the state finals and Jacob Troeckler of Civic Memorial snared 26th. For Troeckler, it was an opportunity to boost a growing CM program that reached state for the first time in school annals. Pejakovich, meanwhile, secured a top 10 showing for the second consecutive season. The senior placed ninth last year.
No doubt, it was a fitting finish for both of them.
In Pejakovich’s case, the delight of successful bowling equals the thrill he gets from racing sprint cars on dirt tracks. There’s plenty of drive in him and that’s why he eagerly awaits studying aerospace engineering at Wichita State of the Missouri Valley Conference.
“Bowling and racing are very similar,” said Pejakovich, who should know. “You need to have the mindset to be quick to change.”
So you have to adapt to the conditions, plus the fortunes and misfortunes that go with it. You could be on the top of the world for one game, but the next one you might find yourself underneath it, trying to lift the world off your shoulders.
There’s such a slight difference among the best bowlers that one game, one frame or one shot can determine winning or losing. Every pin counts.
Then again, you could be way ahead of the curve like Jacob Nimtz of team runner-up Machesny Park Harlem. He was on fire for the entire tournament and logged a score of 3,011. That made him the only bowler to surpass 3,000 pins.
His early-morning effort defied description. Nimtz bowled not one, but TWO 300 games in an 805 series. A 205 game separated the pair of perfectos. Only seven other bowlers in IHSA state finals history, covering 13 years, have rolled one 300 game. The 822 record series, shared by Chicago Brother Rice’s Bryan Thompson and Salem’s Alex Henseler, withstood Nimtz’ pin assault. Henseler spun a 300 game on his way to the 2008 state championship.
St. Clair Bowl isn’t shuttering the lights just yet for high school competition this winter. It will play host to the O’Fallon Girls Sectional on Feb. 14, following regional action this Saturday.
Alton welcomes 14 teams to its regional Saturday at Bowl Haven. Roxana, East Alton-Wood River and CM will join the host Redbirds as the Greater Alton squads in the field.
Cahokia and Herrin are also holding regionals, where the top teams and leading individuals funnel into the sectional at St. Clair Bowl. From there, it’s on to The Cherry Bowl in Rockford for the IHSA finals.
Perhaps there will be a local girl that will follow in Pejakovich’s footsteps and make those pins shake and splatter.
Keep the faith and maintain that strong mindset, he recommends. One more thing:
“It’s always good to have tough skin,” he said.
Tough enough usually works. Just ask Pejakovich and spare me the details.