Photo by Diane Cox
Eryka Graham (left) and Ashley Heistand
They emerged as the Terrific Tandem. Or better yet, the Dynamic Duo.
Eryka Graham and Ashley Heistand made the pins fly and the scores rise for the Alton High girls’ bowling team the past season.
That’s why Graham, a senior, and Heistand, a junior, share the AdVantage News’ Girls’ Bowler of the Year award. They were forceful in directing the Redbirds to the Southwestern Conference championship and runner-up in the Collinsville Regional. Alton finished 12-2 overall and both bowlers earned first team, all-conference honors.
“Eryka and Ashley were the 1-2 punch that we needed in order to win the SWC title,” AHS coach Jeff Woszczynski said. It’s the third Player of the Year award for Graham and the first for Heistand.
Graham will bowl for Lindenwood University at Belleville next season and Heistand will serve as a leader for the AHS squad.
“I’m really excited about going to college next year and I hope to major in psychology, but my options are still open,” Graham said.
She won’t forget her years at AHS and making a vital contribution to the program, including a key player on the SWC championship team.
“When one of us were down in a match, somebody would step up,” Graham said. “We all meshed together.”
Heistand said, “It was a good season for our team because we won the conference championship. There was a positive part to it.”
She supplied her own positive vibrations in sporting a 196 average and shooting a season-best 256 game at Bel-Air Bowl in Belleville.
“I thought I was pretty consistent all season,” Heistand said. “And I was pleased the way I bowled at state. It was my first time alone at the state finals and I was a little intimidated at first there. But I settled down and bowled well.”
Heistand finished with a flourish, rolling a 2,158 score in the IHSA finals at Rockford and placed 28th. She averaged 209.8 for six games.
Woszczynski said, “If I had to describe Ashley in one word, it would be competitor. She wants the bowling ball in her hand on must-have shots. She won the Taylorville Tournament and Eryka was second.”
Graham carried a 225 average and reached her high point of the season when she won the Collinsville Regional. Graham bowled a 1,302 and finished 17 points ahead of Triad’s Lainey Snow for first place at Camelot Bowl.
“Winning the conference was pretty much the highlight of our season,” Graham said. “Personally, I had the highest average of my career and had a conference for average.”
Woszczynski said, “Eryka set a SWC record for girls with her average. Bad breaks kept her and the team from advancing to the state tournament.”
Graham noted, “I was kind of bummed about not making state, but I did my best. I was happy with the way I finished my season. I’m really sad it’s over, but I’m happy with my career.”
While Graham embarks on a college career, Heistand will try to keep the Redbirds flying high. She’s primed for a stellar senior season.
“I think being focused is one of the most important things,” she said. “You have to work on your focus as much as you do the physical part of your game. And if everybody is together on the team, your focus is a lot stronger.”
There’s much to be said for camaraderie, Graham said. She said the close, personal ties are what makes bowling her favorite sport.
“It has made me competitive in what I do,” she said. “I used to be super shy, but bowling has helped me to become more sociable and outgoing.”