ST. CHARLES – With just one more strike needed to bowl a perfect 300 game, St. Charles East senior Allison Heuer turned to the crowd behind her and requested some noise.
The tense silence didn’t suit Heuer, who was shaking with nerves. But despite the plea, Heuer’s final release yielded a 7-10 split, leaving her to settle for a career-best 298 game.
“That moment, I was really happy because it was my high game, so close [to a 300],” said Heuer, standing near lane No. 11 at St. Charles Bowl, the site of her brush with perfection at the recent Upstate Eight Conference River position meet. “But the next couple days I was, like, depressed. I was like, ‘Two boards [off].’ It just replayed over and over again in my head.”
While just missing a 300 yields understandable pain, Heuer’s exasperation with a 298, part of a whopping 771 series, is representative of the type of season it’s been for the East girls bowling team. As the Saints gear up for Saturday’s sectional in DeKalb, they can happily reflect on a season during which there has been little cause to complain.
The Saints have been dominant most afternoons and ran the table in conference meets. East’s lone losses were to UEC crossover foe Waubonsie Valley, considered a state title contender, and Marengo, which will be among the Saints’ obstacles toward a top-two finish and state advancement on Saturday.
Heuer’s ascent has powered the Saints toward elite status. Last year, she was No. 2 on the team behind fellow senior standout Katherine Sulaitis. But Heuer has beefed up her average by close to 30 pins, averaging about 215 in conference matches.
Heuer, leaning toward a collegiate bowling career at downstate McKendree College, said she’s taking her time more this year, and extensive offseason work with private coach Marty Miller also paid dividends.
“I know how to read the lanes a lot easier now,” Heuer said. “I can move myself and line myself up. “I think my wrist might be a little bit stronger but that’s about it. I think it’s all up here that I’ve learned,” she said, pointing to her head.
Sulaitis, averaging in the low 190s, was the lone Saint to qualify for the state tournament last year. Her narrow individual qualification was not guaranteed until two days after the sectional, making for an agonizing wait.
“This year I’m hoping to bring the team with me so that way I don’t have to go by myself and it’s not as lonely,” Sulaitis said. “It is a lot easier to breathe knowing the team has the potential to go to state.”
While the Saints’ two seniors are the clear leaders, the Saints also have received quality contributions elsewhere, including from juniors Angela Solis and Vicki Banas and sophomore Laura Crocker, all expected to be part of East’s five-person sectional lineup.
East coach Mary Ann Carrell is taking a measured approach to her powerhouse team’s bid to qualify for the state tournament, which takes place Feb. 10-11 at Cherry Bowl Lanes in Rockford.
“You always still have to take things with a grain of salt and realize anybody else can have an outstanding day and, God forbid, we could have a bad day,” Carrell said. “But I’m not anticipating that. The girls are really up for this.”
A state berth might help Heuer forget about the 300 that wasn’t. If only Saturday would arrive.
“This week is going so slow and I want it to go so fast because I want to be there already,” Heuer said. “I really want to make it to state.”
IHSA DeKalb Sectional
When: 9 a.m. Saturday at Mardi Gras LanesThe field: St. Charles East, St. Charles North, Kaneland, Jacobs, Bartlett, Dundee-Crown, DeKalb, Elgin, Larkin, St. Edward, Westminster Christian, Huntley, Marengo, Lake Park, Schaumburg, South Elgin, Streamwood, SycamoreNote: Geneva is set to bowl in the Plainfield South Sectional at Joliet’s Town & Country Lanes