Dundee-Crown junior girls bowler Karissa Gonio has enjoyed quite the rookie season.
But this is no case of beginners luck.
A bowler dating back to her childhood, Gonio decided to go out for the D-C bowling team for the first time this season.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
To start the week, Gonio was averaging a team-best 183.50 a game. She had 8 three-game series above 500, including a 660 against Huntley and a 615 at the D-C Charger Scramble.
Her 265 high game broke the school record. In that game she bowled 9 strikes in a row, which set the school record. The 9 strikes in a game tied a school record. Her 183.50 average will likely turn into another school record (the current school record is 170.85).
"She's the best bowler we've ever had in the history of the Dundee-Crown program," said sixth-year D-C coach Dave Mensching, the program's only coach since its inception. "I wish I could take any credit for her. Karissa's father (Dennis) has been a huge influence. She's a real good learner and follows instruction well. She limits her bad games. Even when she struggles, she makes her spares until she figures it out."
Gonio started bowling in a local parents and kids league when she was 8 and has been bowling ever since.
"I wanted to join the high school team because it was something different," said Gonio, whose extra curricular activities at D-C have also includes choir, softball and poms. "I got more interested in bowling as the years went on and figured I would try out for the team. I have friends on the team so that helped."
Gonio enjoys the team aspect of the sport.
"It's not an individual sport, even though it is," she says. "At the same time you have your teammates supporting you. They are behind you even though you are bowling yourself."
Gonio admits her first high school bowling experience brought with it some butterflies.
"Practice is just another day working on bowling," she said. "When the meets came around I got nervous a little. I'm bowling varsity and I'm the anchor. We had a little conference get-to-know-each other competition and I placed first. After that I realized what I could do with my team behind me. It wasn't that bad."
Gonio, who calls Liberty Lanes in Carpentersville her home house (and it's D-C's home house as well) has been working hard at grabbing as many spares as possible.
"I've improved a lot at that," she says. "My average has improved a lot. My average has gone up at least 20 pins this year. I've changed the way I approach each spare. I make sure I think about them instead of just going up there and bowling. Practicing with my team and coaches has helped as well."
Her success this season has been a bit of a personal surprise.
"I've been pretty overwhelmed," she says. "I don't mind all the attention, but I don't want all the attention on me. It's about our team. It's been surprising what I've done, but that's a good thing."
Gonio is thrilled to be part of a D-C team that heads into Saturday's Fox Valley Conference tournament at Raymond's Bowl in Johnsburg in first place. D-C, whose previous high finish in the FVC was fourth, holds a 1-point lead (48-47) over District 300 rival Jacobs. However, the conference tournament holds significance in that 8 teams are bowling 6 games each. The winner of each game receives 8 conference points. A second-place showing in a particular game is worth 7 points and so on down the line. If a team sweeps all 8 games, it earns 48 conference points.
"There isn't as much pressure on one individual on our team," Gonio said. "All our teammates help each other. They pick you up by having good games. It balances it out. We've had a successful season. I want us to win conference and see how far we can get in the state tournament."
Besides Gonio, D-C has received key contributions from Angie Tripp (176 average in conference) and Amanda Smith (170). Gonio averages 185 in FVC action.
Gonio, who sports a 3.9 grade-point average at D-C and does lyrical dance in her spare time, would like to pursue bowling at the collegiate level.
"It would be nice to get a bowling scholarship," she says. "I can't see it being my career, but I would like to pursue bowling in college."