Girls high school bowling can get tense. Even when the girls are not bowling.
St. Charles East coach Mary Ann Carrell hovered over the computer Monday morning, waiting for the Illinois High School Association's confirmation of the individual qualifiers for this weekend's state tournament at Cherry Bowl in Rockford.
Carrell surmised the same thing was happening at the Crocker household. Saints junior Laura Crocker was on the bubble for an at-large bid to become one of the 30 qualifying individuals.
"She was right on the edge," Carrell said.
Crocker's total of 1,183 pins at the Schaumburg sectional made her a candidate to secure the sixth and last statewide at-large spot. Saints sophomore Erin Heuer had already qualified, third at sectional with 1,203 pins.
By midmorning on Monday the results were up and they were good. On Thursday Crocker was bound for Rockford along with Heuer, Carrell at the wheel, for an hour practice at Cherry Bowl before finals began Friday morning.
Same day, different vehicle, St. Charles North junior Bobbi Jo Buhlman and North Stars coach Lindsay Madej likewise made for the state tournament. Buhlman, in her third year on varsity, rolled the best score at the Schaumburg sectional, 1,217, though the host school and Lake Park were the two squads that advanced into the 24-team state field.
"She deserves this trip to state, and she is going to gain valuable experience so that she can lead her whole team back to state next season," Madej wrote in an email Thursday. "One step at a time, but I see only positives coming out of this weekend."
Buhlman may be a downstate rookie competitor, but the name is familiar at the state level. Older brother Ben, who now bowls at St. Ambrose University, was part of the senior core that led St. Charles North's boys to a 12th-place state finish in 2012. Their father, Ken, has coached junior bowlers for years, Madej noted, and he's now a North Stars assistant.
"My job is to keep (Bobbi Jo) calm and composed mentally," Madej wrote in the email. "Coach Buhlman's job is to help her outsmart the oil. If we all work together, I think we'll see Bobbi Jo bowling on Saturday."
Ah, yes, the oil. From the IHSA site St. Charles East coach Carrell downloaded a computerized version of the oil pattern that will be coating the lanes at Cherry Bowl, and gave it to the folks at the Saints' home lanes at Bowling Green Sports Center in West Chicago.
Heuer and Crocker, who had the second- and seventh-best averages in the Upstate Eight Conference's River Division while leading the Saints to the title -- Buhlman ranked fourth -- practiced on the pattern Tuesday and Wednesday.
"They're just a couple great girls," Carrell said. "I'm really excited for them and I'm hoping they do really well. They have the potential."
A charity drive months in the making culminates in Saturday's boys basketball game between Batavia and host St. Charles East.
St. Charles East's first "Hoops for Hope" event is a fundraiser for the V Foundation for Cancer Research, named for the late North Carolina State men's basketball coach Jim Valvano. A video of Valvano's famous "Never give up" speech will be played before the 6 p.m. varsity game, but that's just part of a multipronged event.
It started back in committee meetings in September, said Jill Adduci, a cancer survivor herself whose son, Dominic, scores bunches of points as a Saints varsity guard.
Shortly thereafter Saints players and cheerleaders set out to provide community service; instead of being paid for dog-walking, baby-sitting and the like they either had people send donations to the V Foundation or sent an in-kind donation themselves. For example, Jill Adduci said her son had five people sign up for basketball skills lessons and he donated the proceeds.
In addition, 400 Hoops for Hope T-shirts at $10 a pop were sold, the last on Thursday. Still available for purchase up to game time are links to a "Chain of Hope" honoring cancer patients, that will be rolled out at halftime of the varsity game. Raffle tickets will be sold during the sophomore and varsity games for prizes such as a flat-screen television.
In addition, the Jersey Mike's of St. Charles was donating a dollar for every regular-sized sub sandwich purchased Monday through Friday.
At the games themselves each Saints and Batavia player, sophomore and varsity alike, will announce to whom they are dedicating the game. Cheerleaders will do the same before performances at halftime of both games.
"If this is successful we'd like to do this on an annual basis, definitely," Jill Adduci said.
One year removed from winning the 2008 Class 5A football championship, St. Francis was reduced to hosting a playoff game against Montini at West Chicago due to rains that settled on the floodplain that is the Spartans' home field. The past three seasons' home games have been played at College of DuPage.
The football team practices on the St. Francis field, and a couple levels of soccer will play on campus, but no varsity sports. Scott Nelson, the Spartans' 25-year coach of track and field, has never been able to host a meet on the remaining gravel encircling the field.
His boys and girls will practice on the oval when it's dry, he said. If not, it's to the parking lot or the back field when there's no softball or baseball -- but he certainly can't run a track meet there. A chariot race would be iffy. It'd be hard to find another coach who has done so much for so long with so little as Nelson.
That is why, with more than $2.3 million in verbal or written pledges so far dedicated to the $3.6 million Phase 1 of a capital campaign titled "Bring it All Back Home" -- synthetic turf field, new bleachers to seat 1,200 people, a new press box and a six-lane, 400-meter, all-weather track -- Nelson can barely contain himself.
"Of course it's awesome," he said. "I've got no complaints whatsoever. In fact, I'm like a kid in a candy store."
Nelson will also get long- and triple-jump pits, a pole vault pit, a high-jump apron and an area for shot put out of the deal. He echoed St. Francis principal Tom Bednar's previously stated goal of breaking ground this May. Among "a lot of us," Nelson specified Bednar and football coach and developmental officer Greg Purnell for getting this moving.
Phase II, estimated to cost $1.4 million, consists of a "gateway" building housing a new locker room, concessions, restrooms, a storage area and ticket office. A second story would contain practice areas for the Spartans wrestling, cheer and dance teams.
Kudos must be granted Ron and Teri Kuhn, 1960s-era St. Francis graduates who donated $1 million to start the campaign. The Kuhns also donated a bundle in 1999 to fund the school's cultural arts center.
Of the outdoor athletic facility, Nelson said, "It's going to be great for everybody."
"St. Francis has an excellent gymnasium, weight room and fine arts center. What this does is help take care of our outdoor activities -- girls and boys lacrosse, girls and boys soccer, track and football," he said.
"I think our kids deserve the opportunity to have a home-field advantage, and this will enable us to get back to that. Also, our Friday night crowds have grown, and because of that we need to replace the existing bleachers. We need to put in new bleachers and a new press box that will be similar to the one at College of DuPage,"he said.
Purnell noted that more than 100 student-athletes leave campus for off-site practices in both the fall and spring athletic seasons. Between facility maintenance and transportation costs he estimated annual savings of $30,000-$35,000.
"That is a tremendous advantage for our entire school," Purnell said.
"There's been a rich history and tradition of playing football here, and a lot of our alumni love this setting here in the back of the school. It'll give our kids the opportunity to bring it back home. That's the name of our campaign. That's what it's all about."
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