It's crowded at the top as teams roll into this weekend's girls state bowling tournament.
Instead of a favorite or two, "You might call them clusters," said Glenbard East coach Jerry Anderson, whose Rams qualified to Cherry Bowl in Rockford along with Hinsdale South out of the Reavis sectional.
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Those two teams shot 5,777 and 5,267 at Reavis, respectively. At the loaded Plainfield North sectional seven squads dropped at least 5,810 pins. Even in the state's best sectional only two teams can advance, and Marty Miller's Waubonsie Valley Warriors, who trailed only Oswego East in a battle above 6,500, will try to better their third-place finish in 2012.
Lake Park also qualified, the sole DuPage County school to send both its boys and girls teams to the finals. Fenton senior Toni Barton will compete as an individual.
"Rockford has some heavy teams over there, but if I had to put money on it I think Oswego East is a pretty big contender," said Anderson, a junior bowling coach 20 years at Brunswick Zone in Glendale Heights. He coached at Driscoll until the school closed in 2009 and has since coached in both boys and girls programs at Glenbard East.
"And Waubonsie Valley," he said, "they have always been a contender, I'd say they're up there. It's hard to pick a favorite because any day of the week some of these guys can step up."
Now is definitely the time to step up.
"If you can get all five of the girls clicking at one time then you're going to be winning some matches and sectionals and state," Anderson said. "I've got two girls (senior Amanda Mackie, junior Ashlee Putney), they keep trading back and forth who's going to be a better bowler. If I can get them both to click on the same day then your other three get up there and bowl strong, then you've got something going for you."
Putney, Amanda Mackie and her younger sister, Hannah, and Jennifer Emmert all were on Glenbard East's downstate squad last year. Lefty Karly Bowden makes her first trip. Amanda and Hanna's older sister, Dayna, is a sophomore starter at Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Anderson's challenge is to match the right equipment with the changing oil conditions on the lanes to get that proper 6-degree angle of ball rolling into the pocket. Putney will bring six to seven balls to Rockford to deal with specific situations, the coach said.
And the situation at Cherry Bowl is this: "Don't look past anything."
"You take everything by steps," Anderson said. "The first step, there's 24 teams to bowl on Friday, then you cut it in half and 12 advance to Saturday. Our first goal is to get to the second day. Then you get to the second day, you take it frame by frame."
Pro debut a lulu
Chris Derrick, the 2007-08 Gatorade national cross country runner of the year while a senior at Neuqua Valley, began his professional racing career in style. On Saturday the 2012 Stanford graduate won the U.S. Cross Country Championships in St. Louis.
"Probably my best win ever," he said Monday over the phone.
No doubt. Reporting on the event, LetsRun.com cited the 22-year-old Derrick as "arguably the greatest American runner not to win an NCAA title ...." Despite 14 All-America finishes spanning track and cross country and Pac-10 athlete of the year honors, the Napervillian never placed better than second.
So it had to have been satisfying Saturday, in front of parents Richard and Janet, to defeat two of the three runners who edged him out of a 10,000-meter Olympic berth in the 2012 U.S. Trials last summer.
Trials winner Galen Rupp wasn't there Saturday, but Derrick's time of 35 minutes, 38.6 seconds on the 12-kilometer Forest Park course bested Olympians Dathan Ritzenhein and Matt Tegenkamp, who like Derrick runs for Nike's Oregon Track Club Elite. The three leaders made a move at 8 kilometers, Derrick and Tegenkamp again down the stretch.
"I wouldn't say I had a ton left," Derrick said. "I made my move at the right time at the last 2K to get the win."
Not one to rest, Derrick planned on training Sunday had not travel issues sabotaged the idea. He said he was looking forward to an unspecified 5K in March and in a post-race USA Track and Field interview said he intends to compete at the World Cross Country Championships in Poland also in March.
Derrick's main short-term goal, he said on the phone, was to run the 10K at the World Championships in Moscow in August. The United States trials are at Drake University in June. This Saturday's win, he said, was a "positive step."
"It's a positive start to my pro career," Derrick said. "I'm hoping it's going to give me some good momentum heading into my goals for track."
Redwings of the Midway
In what sounds like a really neat event, Benet's hockey team is playing St. Viator at 7 p.m. Friday as part of the High School Hockey Faceoff at Soldier Field. That itself is part of the OfficeMax Hockey City Classic Winter Festival at the football stadium through Feb. 18.
The Benet game -- Redwings defensemen Declan McGuire and Michael Gullott have earned all-state recognition for the 22-12-5 club -- is among seven prep games that comprise the Hockey Faceoff, with the other two nearest teams Fenwick and Oak Park. The two-day exhibition concludes at 7 p.m. Saturday with powers New Trier Green against Loyola Gold.
The capper is the following week at Soldier Field when Notre Dame plays Miami of Ohio followed by Minnesota versus Wisconsin.
Participating high schools were selling tickets; Benet coach Jon Grzbek said tickets should still be available at the school, but if not there's always Ticketmaster: (800) 745-3000.
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