ROCKFORD -- Grant senior Sami Jo Zak practiced day after day over the last few years, harboring a dream of making it to state one day.
She ended up carrying the dream farther than she ever imagined possible on Saturday afternoon in the girls bowling state tournament at Cherry Bowl Lanes.
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Zak wasn't sure if she was in line to receive one of the top 12 medals, even after throwing a final game of 257.
The final announcement that Zak finished 11th place with a 12-game total of 2,554 pins caught her by a total surprise.
"Oh my gosh, I didn't think I was going to make it out there," Zak said. "Going into the afternoon, I could barely get a strike. I was missing spares and nothing seemed to be going right.
"Finally, in the last game it picked me up and I didn't think I would make it. I thought in the very back of my mind, 'It's my senior year, last game and just finish it up strong.' "
Indeed: Zak put together a string of 7 strikes in that final game.
"It was a good way to end it," Zak said. "But I thought I was too far behind."
Starting the day, Zak was in the fifth spot. She rolled games of 189, 225 and 181 in the morning found herself in seventh place.
In the afternoon, she threw games of 172 and 191, which dropped her to 19th place and set the stage for her big finish.
"I really didn't think it would work this time," said Zak, who is the first girls bowler at Grant to get a state medal. "Previously, for me it has worked for me but I didn't think so this time.
"It's great to get the medal and it's what I wanted since freshman year. All the years . . . wanting this to happen. I was on the bottom of the leaderboards always as a freshman and barely on varsity. I was working my way up and finally got into a rhythm as a senior. Finally, two weeks ago, I made my way to state and placing? It's more than I asked for."
Sarah Littleton of Grayslake North finished 41st with 2,390. She had rolled a 616 over the first three games and 594 for the final three.
Libertyville freshman Emma Devellis finished 58th with a total of 2,318, including a high game of 243.
Giselle Poss of Oswego East was the tournament champion with 2,727. She beat Emily Malone of Rockford Jefferson by 28 pins.
Waubonsie Valley won its first state championship with a 12-game total of 12,512 pins. Oswego East finished second (12,286) and Rockord Jefferson placed third (12,190).
"We didn't want to do the same thing and we wanted to do something different this time," said Waubonsie Valley coach Marty Miller, whose team finished third last year.
This year's bowling team joins three girls soccer squads as Warriors team state champs.
"My girls stayed focused and they came together as a team," Miller said. "Third place was an achievement for us. We had won some tournaments leading into all this. They got used to winning, and they took it and ran with it."
There was a breakdown on a pair of lanes adjacent to Waubonsie Valley, so the Warriors had to wait for the other lanes to finish after the fourth game on Saturday.
That meant about a 30-minute delay before starting the next game.
"We just had time to relax, and we maintained our focus," Miller said. "I just wanted them to focus on the execution. If you execute, then the pins will fall down. I thought the break helped us.'
Waubonsie Valley bowled its best game of the day early with 1,141 and followed up with 1,053.
Julia Bond led the Warriors with 2,634 and finished fourth individually. She rolled a 248, 236 and 258 for an incredible 742 morning series and shot a 569 in the afternoon.
"I thought all this was amazing after all the hard work," Bond said. "We felt like we really deserved this but no one was going to hand it to you."
Bond's teammate Sara Barsotti bowled a 653 for the first three games and followed up with a 684. She also tossed a 238 in game five. Barsotti finished seventh.
"This was my first time bowling at state," said Barsotti, who was a sub last year. "I just kept going because I knew my team needed me and I was trying to get big scores."
Other Warriors contributors were Rachael Felton (2,482), Charley Barbary (2,451) and Marianna Guerrieri (2,337).
Ashlee Putney of Glenbard East finished 27th with 2,477 pins and Toni Barton of Fenton placed 49th with 2,345.