Photo by Diane Cox
Lucas Pejakovich termed it a fitting finish. The Alton High bowler capped his senior bowling season with his best outing. It served as his finest hour.
He placed seventh in the IHSA finals at St. Clair Bowl in O’Fallon. Pejakovich earned All-State status and closed his high school career in style. That’s why the lefty kegler has repeated as AdVantage News’ Prep Boys Bowler of the Year.
“When you are at the state tournament with all the surroundings, it really pumps you up,” Pejakovich said. “I think it brings out the best in each bowler and you tend to get higher scores.
“You have to be 100 percent focused on every shot.”
He did that in shooting a score of 2,675, an average of 222.9 per game. Pejakovich finished 336 pins behind state champion Jacob Nimitz of Machesney Park Harlem, but just 81 pins from runner-up Tom Ochal of Niles Notre Dame. So he was in the mix of things for his two-day, 12-game journey.
“It was definitely gratifying to be an All-Stater,” said Pejakovich, owner of a 219 average during the 2014-15 season. He averaged 208 as a junior.
Alton coach Jeff Woszczynski said Pejakovich deserved everything he accomplished during his years with the Redbirds.
“He works very hard at his craft and continually tries to get better,” Woszczynski said. “Lucas takes a different approach by being more of a cerebral bowler.”
Woszczynski added, “Because of Lucas’ experience, he figures out which ball he should use by figuring out the lane conditions. He also passes that knowledge to his teammates.”
Pejakovich’s awareness and ability to adapt to various situations grew as the season progressed. He reprised his role as the top gun for a team that competed for the Southwestern Conference championship.
Then come regional time, Pejakovich spun a 1,235 score — 12th-best in the competition at Bowl Haven — as the Redbirds took third behind champion Collinsville and runner-up O’Fallon.
In the sectional at Herrin, it was Pejakovich rolling a team-best 1,278 total in leading the Redbirds to a fourth-place showing and a berth in the state finals. He was sixth overall in the sectional.
The Birds didn’t make it past the first day at state, but Pejakovich did on Friday. He logged six games with scores of 206 or higher, including a 259 effort. His 691 series in the first three games Saturday put him in position for a top-10 finish. He closed with a 617 series, elevated by a 227 game in his last one.
“I had a good rhythm going, even though I had a little rough patch at the end,” Pejakovich said. “But I was able to keep my momentum going.”
That thrust ensured him of evolving as one of the elite boys’ bowlers in AHS annals. He produced a pair of top-10 finishes, including a ninth-place one as a junior in the IHSA finals. Only Jason Krankel, fourth during the 2002-03 season, has done better in a single season at state.
It’s no wonder Woszczysnki noted, “Lucas will be hard to replace next season.”
Pejakovich, who plans to attend Wichita State and major in aerospace engineering, might consider bowling for the Shockers. However, his school load will dictate if that’s feasible. Engineering is foremost on his mind.
“I’m moving on to bigger and better things,” he said.