The Leyden girls bowling team has been one of the top athletic programs in the school the last four years, and now they're adding to that distinction.
After Friday's opening session of the state tournament at Cherry Bowl Lanes in Rockford, the talented Eagles are poised for their best finish ever.
Leyden, whose senior-laden team has been to Rockford for four consecutive years, ended day one in second place -- just behind leader Waubonsie Valley, the defending champs.
And as usual senior Reba Hall, who has taken ninth and third individually in state the last two seasons, is leading the way.
Hall has a great chance to win the individual state title. All six of her games Friday were over 200, with high marks of 279 and 257. The senior sits just 9 pins behind Julia Bond of Waubonsie, who is in first place after rolling a 6-game series of 1445 to Hall's 1436.
"It's anybody's race," said Hall. "I think we all bowled pretty good. We're definitely hoping to take home some hardware as a team this year."
Eagles senior Erika Pimentel also scored 6 games over 200, with her best a 279 as well. Pimentel is fifth overall, just 85 pins behind Bond.
"I was pleased with the way we bowled today," said Leyden coach Chris Aylward. "The girls came out with a positive attitude and went about their business.
"We tried not to get overexcited and kept everything on an even keel."
Mid-Suburban League champion Hoffman Estates was one of 12 teams (out of 24 who participated Friday) to advance to the second day of the tournament.
The Hawks were in 10th position, led by senior Brandy Hoglund, who opened the meet by rolling a 257 in her first game.
Hoglund and teammate Jordan Fera each had series totals of 1221 on the day while one of their MSL rivals, Hersey freshman Emma Wrenn, made her state debut in style.
Wrenn, the only individual from the MSL not part of a team to qualify for Cherry Bowl, is in 13th place overall helped along by games of 247 and 238.
"Emma was unbelievable," said Hersey coach Julie Arias. "She was so relaxed and focused. If she was nervous, she didn't show it. She was just lined up shot after shot."
"We knew that she had this kind of performance in her. We worked during the season on getting her more prepared for oily lanes, and she's so confident now."
For her part, Wrenn said she was only able to relax once she got on the lanes.
"There was such a buildup of nerves on the ride here," said the freshman. "But once I got here and threw my first practice shot and saw ball come back on the ball return, I felt relaxed. It was so weird."
"When I think about high school bowling, I think, 'Oh my gosh, this is such a big deal,' " added Wrenn. " I want to do well here to start my career out on a high note and I've got to give a shout out to my teammates Delanie Steinweg, Zoe Sarbekian and Kaitlyn Roscoe who are here supporting me."
Senior Danielle Yohe led Schaumburg's campaign with a 1,221 series that included a 266 game 4, while senior Kayleigh Duff topped Elk Grove's effort with a 1265.
On a day when a downstate frosh, Katelynn Wirtel from Collinsville, electrified the crowd by firing a 300 game, other local players made their mark as well.
Hoffman Estates senior Sarah Wille was consistent with a 1173; Kaitlyn Azevedo of the Saxons bowled an 1180 series; while Jamie Hicks of the Grenadiers had a 235 game.
Ashley Kriston of Leyden helped her team's cause with an 1177 series, while the Eagles got a big boost with a strong morning performance from an unlikely source.
Senior Marlo Townsend, who was just brought up to varsity about a month ago, rolled games of 252 and 221 before the break so send Leyden into an early lead in the team race.
"This was fun," said Townsend. "It's the first time I've been in a situation like this so it was a very cool experience. It just feels good to help the team."
"Marlo was fantastic today," added Aylward. "She had a wonderful morning."