Schaumburg’s Starkey shows she’s a natural on the lanes

When Abby Starkey began bowling, it was mainly because her mother, Beth, just wanted to get the kids out of the house.

It’s clear, though, the Schaumburg girl was a natural. Her skills have led to a future scholarship to the University of Nebraska, a spot on Junior Team USA, and support by the Evolution Program of Storm Products, a bowling ball company.

Storm sponsors the Jan. 18 Beat the Champs contest, starting today in a live-streamed event at Poplar Creek Bowl in Hoffman Estates, Starkey’s home lanes. Storm asked her to “set the score” girls youth-league bowlers statewide will try to beat in a contest that continues in February and concludes at Mardi Gras Lanes in DeKalb on March 17.

“She’s an outstanding bowler,” said Pete Albert, Poplar Creek operations manager.

“Back when she was 9-10 years old she was beating people older than her. She’s been a star in the making for years,” he said.

Setting the score with Chicago’s Jos Weems for the boys, it’s the first youth event in Beat the Champs’ 61 years. Adult bowlers will try to beat the scores of professionals Kelly Kulick and Jason Belmonte.

Good luck. Starkey has bowled five 299 games, including just this week during a fifth-place finish at the PBA Junior National Championship Finals in Wichita, Kansas.

“I was disappointed. I feel like anyone would be,” said Starkey, who left the 7 pin on her last delivery. “I’ve been going for this since I was like 10. I had my first one (299 game) when I was 12.

“But there’s always more bowling, and there are always more opportunities for it.”

Yes, frames and frames and frames of bowling. So many that after Starkey’s sophomore year at Conant High School she enrolled in the U.S. Performance Academy, an online school for athletes.

While Illinois prep bowling teams are limited to three tournaments outside of Illinois High School Association events, Starkey, 17, competes annually in about 25-30.

“My sophomore year I realized bowling was getting serious and super-competitive, and I needed to travel more,” said the two-time Pepsi Illinois champion.

From Jan. 2-7 she was at the United States Bowling Congress Team USA Trials in Las Vegas. Chosen for Junior Team USA, Starkey will attend a camp in Dallas to vie for a roster spot for the International Bowling Federation World Youth Championships in Korea in July.

She chose Nebraska after also visiting Vanderbilt and Jacksonville State in Alabama. She clicked with Cornhuskers coach Paul Klempa and assistant Julia Bond, a former IHSA champion at Waubonsie Valley who has been a Team USA bowler since 2017.

“I see myself as a very competitive youth bowler,” Starkey said. “My life these past nine years has really shown me that hard work does really pay off, and that if you really put your mind to something it’ll 100% happen one day.”

St. Charles North coach Todd Genke celebrates his team’s third-place finish at the 2016 Class 4A state tournament. Baseball teams saw their 2020 season canceled, and Genke has mixed emotions about the proposed 2021 season. Daily Herald file photo

Not old, just good

St. Charles North baseball coach Todd Genke got the call from one of his veteran assistant coaches, Terry Ayers, and was blown away.

Nominated by Ayers and Lake Park’s Dan Colucci, Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association hall of famers themselves, Genke also was getting inducted.

“This is a thing that happens to old guys,” Genke said he told his wife, Maureen. “And I took a look in the mirror and I thought, ‘I guess I’m an old guy now.’”

No, he’s not. But with a record of 474-169 in 18 seasons and counting as North Stars head coach, a Class 4A runner-up finish in 2019 and third-place in 2016, nine regional titles and eight conference titles, he’s deserving.

Genke and five others will be honored at a reception and dinner Saturday at the Westin Chicago Lombard.

He’s humbled and honored.

“It’s certainly not about me and it never has been. It’s been about the great kids I’ve been able to coach. I’ve been so fortunate, I’ve kept my coaching staff together for about 15 years,” Genke said, mentioning Ayers, Justin Moriarty, Brett Wikierak.

“I think that’s a really important part to get where we are and the success we’ve had in this journey, and I’m really proud of that,” he said.

From Greenfield, Wisconsin, and in the Wisconsin-Whitewater Athletic Hall of Fame as a pitcher, Genke was a 1993 draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies.

The 6-foot-1 right-hander had a nine-year career in the minors and played with the Schaumburg Flyers in their first four seasons.

Maureen was from Schaumburg.

“I started looking around and said, ‘Wow, this is a nice area,’” Genke said.

With some good baseball. He’s part of that.

“I didn’t know anyone when I came down to Illinois,” Genke said, “and now I have so many friends and colleagues I consider role models throughout the state. I feel very blessed to do this.”

Dan McCarthy Courtesy of Steve Woltmann

Academy of Coaches

There’s another induction on Saturday, and Dan McCarthy will have a large entourage attending it.

McCarthy, who coached baseball or basketball — or both — at West Chicago, Joliet Catholic, Ottawa-Marquette, St. Francis University and Lewis University, will be inducted into Lewis’ Academy of Coaches at halftime of the Flyers’ men’s basketball game in Romeoville.

Helping him celebrate will be his wife of 49 years, Debbie, his children, in-laws, coaching colleagues and former players from his coaching stops.

“We’ll have a lot of people,” McCarthy said.

They should be impressed. The Lewis University Academy of Coaches is a quality group that includes people like Gordie Gillespie, who coached McCarthy at Lewis. Both are in the school’s hall of fame as part of the Flyers’ 1974 NAIA national championship baseball team.

“I think it’s a tremendous honor because Lewis has a great number of coaches who graduated from there and had a multitude of success at a number of levels,” McCarthy said.

Over a 40-year career in high school education that started in 1976 at Joliet Catholic and ended at West Chicago in 2016, McCarthy’s teams won 456 basketball games, 666 baseball games, and won 73% of the time.

The 2003 IHSBCA assistant coach of the year while at West Chicago, McCarthy concluded his coaching career with the Lewis women’s basketball team in 2018.

McCarthy told Lewis athletic communications director David Bork, “I came here as a Flyer and I left here as a Flyer and I enjoyed every minute of it.”

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