GODFREY – Eryka Graham found a comfort zone bowling for the Alton Redbirds the past season.
She hit the pocket often and that was to her liking.
So Graham, a sophomore who sported a 201 average, has been selected AdVantage News’ Prep Female Bowler of the Year. It’s well-deserved, AHS coach Jeff Wozczynski said.
“Eryka takes her bowling seriously and you can find her at Bowl Haven most afternoons after school,” he said. “She’s always honing her craft.”
Graham enjoyed a successful season after averaging 189 as a freshman.
“I was happy with it and we came together as a team,” she said. “We went to state and that was important.”
There’s no doubt Graham had an impact on the Redbirds’ positive fortunes. She finished second in the regional with a score of 1,203 pins and was fourth in the sectional with a score of 1,239.
Graham came within two pins of tying for the regional championship. Meagan Mayo of Edwardsville won it with a 1,205 score. In the IHSA finals at Rockford, Graham proved tops for the Alton bowlers. She compiled a score of 2,397, good for 55th in state.
“The coaches and the other girls on the team helped me this season,” Graham said of her significant improvement. “If I was doing something wrong, they would point it out and I’d correct it.”
Wozczynski said Graham’s ability to absorb situations and make adjustments were vital to her improvement.
“She does about her business in a professional way,” he said. “Although she isn’t very vocal, Erika leads by example.”
He added, “Her best trait is consistency on the lanes. She is able to hit her mark over and over without much change in ball speed. She attended a bowling camp last summer at Wichita State and that helped her.
“Going to a bowling camp at Wichita State is like going to Duke for a basketball camp.”
Graham said she learned plenty at the camp and drew from her experiences as an AHS freshman to polish her skills the past season.
“I had to work on my arm swing and how to release the ball the right way,” Graham said. “I was releasing the ball a little too early and I wasn’t getting the right rotation on the ball.”
She refined her stroke and kept the Redbirds flying high. Alton won its regional and finished third behind champion O’Fallon and runner-up Collinsville in the sectional. The Birds were 19th at state.
“Making it to state was the highlight of the season,” Graham said. “It was an honor to be with the girls at state.”
She said, “I thought I bowled my best in the Collinsville Invitational. Overall, I bowled so much better than I did my first year.”
And Graham’s seeking to extend that improvement.
“I want to keep getting better because I have all kinds of things I want to work on the next two years,” she said.
Woszczynski figures Graham will continue her ascent and the Redbirds will follow her.
“She’s a great kid and we are really looking forward to next season,” he said.