A flurry of excellence from Leyden at Valhalla
Fremd girls bowling coach Deb Pietrucha said this was the first year where snow hadn't caused at least one team to arrive late to her annual tourney.
Not this season, though -- there were warm temps and sunshine outside, while inside Arlington Lanes the spotlight was shining directly on the Leyden Eagles.
Leyden, led by individual champion Reba Hall with an outstanding 231.00 average, won Saturday's Vikings Valhalla Invite with a pinfall of 4,747.
The Eagles advanced all the way to the a sixth-place state tournament finish in 2011-12 and according to Hall, there's a big reason they can do even better this season.
"We keep improving," said the junior, "and it's all about teamwork."
Hall was one of the top individual competitors at state last year, taking home the third-place medal -- just 93 pins away from a state championship.
"We've improved in a lot of areas," she added, "especially hitting our marks. As a matter of fact, in practice our coach (Chris Aylward) puts a shield up over the pins, just so we can concentrate on that."
Lake Park was second in the 20-team field with 4,394 pins knocked down, and coach Joe Regilio knows why his young team is having so much success.
"They practice hard," said Regilio, "they practice smart, and they practice with a purpose."
The Lancers started three freshmen Saturday, one of whom, Kaitlyn Keith, was second overall with a 212.00 average and games of 236 and 202.
Not bad for the frosh's first-ever prep tourney.
"I wasn't really expecting this," said Keith, "but I was hopeful."
Elk Grove (4,345) finished fourth in the tourney, which featured an afternoon Baker format, where five bowlers from each team bowl two frames each in every game.
"I like the Baker," said Grens junior Kayleigh Duff, who took home the sixth-place medal by posting a 197.00 average. "It makes you feel like you're contributing more to the team. You've only got two shots so you've got to make them count."
In the team race, Stevenson (4,209) placed sixth, Lake Zurich (3,776) was 11th and Vernon Hills (3,745 ) rolled to a 12th-place finish.
Individual scores of note included a 551 series from Elk Grove's Jamie Hicks; a 202 game from Kayleigh Burnitz of host Fremd; a 522 series from freshaman Samantha Sztym of Lake Park; and a 552 by Kaitlyn Rudy of Stevenson.
Two other local bowlers cracked the individual top ten as Meghan Calderone from Vernon Hills posted a ninth-place finish (190.33) while Lake Zurich's Dani Sikorski (197.33) was fifth.
"It was a little intimidating out here with all the great teams," said Sikorski, "but I was able to keep my head in the game."
The high mark of the day was rolled by another Leyden junior, Erika Pimentel, who fired a 279 in her third game.
Pimentel knows that because the Eagles excelled at the state tourney in Rockford last year, a lot of eyes will be on them when they bowl this season.
"It's exciting," said the junior of Leyden's status as an up-and-coming power. "But once you start bowling you just have to push all of that aside.
"The great thing is that no matter what happens, you have your teammates there to support you."
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