BETHALTO — The Alton Invitational set the stage for a grueling day of bowling Tuesday at Airport Bowl in Bethalto.
With 14 boys' squads and 13 girls' teams in attendance it made for a long day with a lot of action and a lot of drama. In the end, the Cahokia Comanches took the boys' title, Herrin grabbed the girls' championship and Collinsville secured the grand championship with both teams' scores added together.
The host Redbirds finished second in the grand standings with 11,560 pins, 123 off of CHS' 11,683. AHS was also second in the girls' standings with 5,778 pins, 97 behind Herrin's 5,875.
Alton (5,782) was sixth on the boys' side, while Civic Memorial (5,895) was fifth. The Eagles only competed in the boys' division.
It's a lot of work hosting and playing in the tournament, but AHS head coach Jeff Woszczynski said he's got a lot of help to pull it off.
“I organized it, coach (Mike) Brey organized it,” Woszczynski said. “We've just got a lot of great help. The people out here at Airport do a great job of letting us use the place. I've got great help with the scorers. These are guys that aren't just bowlers, but they're always good friends of mine. It's takes a lot, but we do it every year. I wouldn't say I can snap my fingers and put it together, but I can just make a few phone calls and we can put it out.”
Alton's day was paced by its girls. Junior Eryka Graham took top honors with 1,314 total pins. She was 53 pins in front of Herrin's Rachel Henson (1,261) in second place. The Birds also had Becca McBride (1,200) in fifth, Ashley Heistand (1,183) in sixth and Allison Steines (1,128) in 14th to all make the top 25.
“(Assistant) Dave (Meyer) did a great job with these girls today,” Woszczynski said. “Herrin just jumped up and had some really good games at the end. Overall, Eryka and Becca did a great job leading the team today.”
Meyer added, “They all did a great job. They all worked hard, they paid attention and listened. They stayed together as a team and that's huge.”
Graham was pleased with her team's performance as well as her individual showing on Tuesday. She's happy with how her whole season is going, too.
“Our communication was really good and we were a team all day,” she said. “I think that's why we came in second place. Our last couple games weren't very hot, but we stuck together and pulled it out.
“I think this has been my strongest season. I just hope I keep improving and getting better and with the help of the coaches I think I'll have a good future.”
Graham also logged the highest series on the day with a 1,314 and the third highest game with a 245. McBride's 1,200 series was the fifth highest individually, too.
Amanda Menke rounded out the Redbird girls' bowlers on Tuesday with a total of 953 pins.
On the boys' side, the Birds were paced by Lucas Pejakovich's sixth place finish. Pejakovich gathered a total of 1,306 pins and was 72 pins off of winner Micheal McGarry of Cahokia's 1,378 total pins. McGarry padded his stats with a flawless 300 game during his third game of the day.
Jacob Donahue (1,217) nabbed 15th to join Pejakovich in the top 25 for Alton. Other Redbirds to compete were: Mat Gorman (1,127), Justin Amistadi (1,098) and Tyler Stevenson (1,034).
“Their potential is enormous,” Woszczynski said of the AHS boys. “It's just right now trying to put it together and having our own tournament they might have thought about it a little more. We don't normally bowl out here either. Today we didn't bowl that great, but instead of being upset about it we've just got to go back and say, 'Why weren't we doing this?' We'll all talk about it and we'll talk to the kids and get their feedback.”
For CM, a strong start was unfortunately followed by a slow finish. The Eagles found themselves in second place, just 51 pins behind the Comanches, after the morning round with 3,111 total pins. They dropped into fifth by tournament's end.
Three CM bowlers climbed into the top 25, led by Jacob Troeckler's (1,216) 17th place. Ryan Hays (1,213) was 19th and Phillip Ramos (1,203) took 23rd place. Other Eagles bowling Tuesday were: Alex Zukas (1,138) and Dalton Harshbarger (1,125).
“The whole year we've had success and today we left for lunch and were just 51 pins beyond No. 1 and we're excited, jacked up, and then we came back and the other teams are great teams, coached very well, and you can't just hang your hat on that second place because you never know what's going to happen,” CM head coach Shawn Callies said. “What is cool is we played six teams and the first five we beat every team we faced and then in the last one the kids just ran out of gas.”
Callies praised Ramos' day, saying he battled throughout along with some of his other Eagle teammates.
“Individually I have to go with Phil Ramos,” Callies said. “I know Ryan Hays ended up averaging higher, but Phil just came through on some big ones when we needed a strike and he already had a turkey going, which is 30 points, boom, right there. The guy just comes on strong whenever I need him.
“And Troeckler started strong, a 228 average (first half) and then he ended up with a 177 (average) second half. He really kind of faltered towards the second half, but what a great start. The boys, I've had a blast, they're awesome kids.”
The bowling teams will now sit idle through the remainder of the Christmas break.