It would be nicer were his teammates bowling alongside him, but St. Charles East's Alex Garza is downstate.
The Saints' second individual state bowler in four years -- current assistant boys bowling coach C.J. Logue made it in 2010 -- on Friday Garza settles into lane 37 at St. Clair Bowl in O'Fallon for the two-day state championship.
The senior qualified for the first time at last Saturday's St. Patrick sectional. Averaging 216 pins on the season, at sectional Garza's 1,120 series score was the fourth-highest on the unfamiliar lanes of Chicago's Habetler Bowl.
"He's a great kid, he's a hard worker. He's gotten a lot of outside help in the sport, invested a lot of time and energy," said Saints head bowling coach Steve Dessauer.
"He came in freshman year with an interest in the sport but had never really participated in it, and he fell in love with it."
Dessauer would have loved to have his whole team in O'Fallon, but it was not meant to be. At Habetler Bowl the Saints led after four matches, trailed winner Lake Park by 40 pins after five matches, then were passed by St. Patrick for the second qualifying slot. St. Charles East finished 5 pins behind the Shamrocks, who had practiced several times on the tricky surface.
"It was a very tough (oil) pattern, something we'd never seen before," Dessauer said.
Overall, St. Charles East tied Lake Park for the Upstate Eight Conference title and went 37-11 (by game, not match) in conference matches. Overall the Saints were 57-13 and the junior varsity was 64-11 and won its level of the UEC.
Seniors Garza and Nick Binetti and Strauss and Aaron Mudlong all averaged over 200 with Chase Wealther and senior Brad Basic over 190 on varsity.
As for Garza in O'Fallon, Dessauer thinks his performance will come down to simply trusting his ball will hit the pocket.
"Ninety percent of bowling is just having these kids believe in themselves," Dessauer said.
A wrestler whose achievement is unparalleled at Geneva and a team that can say the same thing will be honored at the 13th annual induction ceremony for the Vikings' Athletic Hall of Fame on Feb. 2, during halftime of the 6 p.m. boys basketball game against Quincy.
Three-sport athlete Ray Soto, out of Geneva's Class of 1990, is the sole Viking to win a state wrestling title. At 171 pounds he went 36-5 his senior season and won the title, 10-6, over Chad Kelly from Kewanee. Soto went on to serve in the Marines, then a stint as a St. Charles firefighter. He remains in the area.
Geneva's 1962-63 boys basketball team has been the only one to reach the Elite Eight in the boys state tournament. The 30-3 Vikings cruised through the Little Seven Conference unbeaten and won 28 straight games until losing to Carver in the quarterfinals of what was then a single-class tourney.
Late head coach Mel Johnson's entire starting five -- Bob Johnansen, Tom Busch, George Peck, Peter Burgess and Dick Krell -- plus Bob Liden, Rick Tornberg, Mike McCleary, Chuck Radovich and assistant coaches Bob Schick and Bill Owen have indicated they'll attend the induction ceremonies.
As always, well-wishers can join the inductees at a reception following the boys basketball game.
On Jan. 8, 11 proposed by-law changes were approved in the annual Illinois High School Association member school referendum. Proposal 9, which passed 303-159 among participating member schools voting electronically, may be of particular interest.
In full, the proposal: "Removes the automatic eligibility provision for first-time transfers from a private school to a home public school, or from a private school to another private school, and requires in the case of any transfer not accompanied by a change in residence to another high school attendance area that the transfer be necessitated by (a) a change in the family's financial position or (b) extenuating circumstances documented by the sending school."
In other words, unless those two parenthetical conditions are met, a first-time transfer who has not moved must sit out a year. Until the proposal takes affect July 1, first-time transfers could have immediate eligibility.
IHSA assistant executive director Matt Troha said member schools "wanted more of a vetting process in place."
"Really, it's just going to allow us the opportunity to review it a little more closely," he said.
In light of recent transfers that have caused some commotion and angst, we checked in with Marmion football coach Dan Thorpe. When asked how many transfers he's had he said, "None," at least after their freshman year unless they came in from another state.
"We went to state (in 2010) with Marmion program kids, kids that had been in the program all the way through, and we're very proud of that," he said.
"This new rule would definitely even it out," he said. "I'm sure the IHSA is trying to address all these transfers for athletic reasons. And it is in all sports and not just football. Watching the state championships on television ... saying how two, three kids had transferred in. So it's not just an upper-division level. In Illinois high school football it's at all eight divisions of football."
Thorpe said he has felt pressured to enter the transfer circuit, but Marmion's "Benedictine monks and the principles that this school's founded on" have dictated otherwise. In addition to being a Catholic college prep school, Marmion students are required to take four years of theology, LEAD (Leadership, Education and Development) or JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps) studies.
"It takes a special student-athlete to achieve a Marmion diploma, and that's a great thing to be a part of," Thorpe said. "It's a little frustrating at times, but I understand and accept those parameters and am proud to be part of those parameters."
Northern Illinois University's Division II-level men's hockey team visits the Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva for a pair of games against Illinois State. The split-doubleheader occurs at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday.
Northern Illinois, 17-6-0 with losses in overtime and in a shootout as well, hopes to move up a notch in regional standings. The Huskies are currently ranked seventh in the Central Region of the American Collegiate Hockey Association while Illinois State (20-5-1-0-1) is No. 5.
Mike Hansen of St. Charles is second on the Huskies with 28 points on 16 goals and 12 assists, and 14 penalty minutes. Aurora's Nick Leon also skates for Northern. Illinois State has players from Naperville, Bartlett, Glen Ellyn, Darien and Bolingbrook.
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