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Girls Bowling: Shepard and Stagg finish strong at first state finals

By Randy Whalen
Correspondent

The new teams on the block proved they belonged.

The Shepard and Stagg girls bowling teams both made it to the IHSA state finals for the first time in their programs’ histories this season, and put the icing on the proverbial cake by advancing to the tournament’s second day.

The finals were held February 18-19 at The Cherry Bowl in Rockford.

“We made it to the second day and that’s an accomplishment in itself,” said Shepard coach Sue Szajek. “That’s an accomplishment in itself. What a great ride. I knew we had the team to qualify, it was just a matter of making it to the second day.”

The Astros finished ninth with 10,949 pins.

The mission was the same for Stagg, which placed 12th with 10,524 pins.

“The goal was to make it to state,” sad Chargers coach Rich Kowalczyk. “Then when we did, we refocused and made it to Day 2. With two sophomores and a junior (as the team’s top three bowlers) we hope to be back next year.”

With a pair of Top 10 bowlers, Lockport won the state title for the second straight contested season and sixth time in school history with 11,743 pins, by 207 pins over Harlem (11,536).

Oswego (11,321) placed third, followed by Hononegah (11,219), York (11,203), LaSalle-Peru (11,198), Salem (11,005) and Freeport (10,963). Anna-Jonesboro (10,725) placed 10th.

Cameryn Landers led Shepard with a 2,340, which placed her 32nd overall. The junior had highs of 234 in Game 2 on the first day and 233 in Game 2 on the second day.

“Anytime I made bad shots I came back,” Landers said. “It was very emotional to have the team there with you. I’m proud of us, we came a long way.

“The best part of state was just being with my teammates. It’s fun, it’s different, it’s loud, it’s great. In order to get back, we just have to work very hard every day.”

Seniors Taylor Sprenkle (2,213, high 236) and Saniah Calvin (2,192, high 233), and junior Kahlen Ranson (2,142, high 257) and senior Tiffani Carlsen (2,062, high 243) rounded out the Astros lineup.

Shepard opened the tournament with its high game of the weekend, a 1,032 that put them in second at that point. It was one of just 15 games that went over 1,000 at the tournament.

“To start like that was excellent,” said Szajek, who is in her first season as head coach. “That helped carry us.”

It was a dream season for the Astros, who won the South Suburban Red and all but one dual meet — that being a loss to Stagg by 26 pins on Jan. 27.

“The team had talent and they were willing to work for it,” Szajek added.

Stagg, which went 14-2 in dual meets and won the Eisenhower Tournament as well as the Brooks Regional championship, had a 5,371 after the opening day. A 917 in the sixth game topped Collinsville by 74 pins to send the Chargers to Day 2.

Stagg entered the second day 23rd out of 24 teams.

A lot of teams would have potentially folded but these girls fought and battled back,” Kowalczyk said.

“That speaks volumes about the girl’s will to succeed in the face of adversity,” he added. “That’s why we have a special group and use the hashtag ‘RaiseTheBar.’”

Sophomores Arianna Araujo (2,290, high 236) and Holly Gubernat (2,122, high 210), and junior Hannah Radosevic (2,028, high 214) bowled all 12 games for Stagg.

Seniors Nyjah Branch (1,945, high 209), Gianna Locascio (1,512, high 197) and Katie Recchia (627, high 169) rounded out the Stagg lineup.

“It feels good to be a part of the team and to collectively get it,” said Araujo, who rolled a personal-best six-game series of 1,404 to win the individual title by 204 pins over Landers at the Brooks Regional. “To see everybody fighting and confident in each other, that’s what brought us to day two.

“The difference at state is that there’s just more competition. The best bowlers are here. Finishing 12th feels really good. We made a name for ourselves and I look forward to working with our younger bowlers to be back here next year.”

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