Several Prospect junior varsity bowlers had possibly the most difficult assignment at Saturday's Knight's New Year Invitational in Mount Prospect.
They weren't bowling -- it was a varsity tournament, after all -- so their job was to fight their way through the alley-to-wall crowds at the Brunswick Zone to bring the game totals back to the scorer's booth.
"It was pretty rough," said freshman Amanda Lowe, while teammate Alexis Jagus echoed that sentiment.
"Crazy," said Jagus. "Just too many people."
That the tourney, now in its 24th season, draws a large and enthusiastic contingent of fans from as far west as the Mississippi River and as far south as Minooka, comes as no surprise to prep bowling insiders.
The 36-team invite that takes up every available lane at Brunswick draws many of the state's top teams in a scene that rivals the state tournament -- and this year's meet had Waubonsie Valley in the spotlight.
The Warriors dominated the proceedings, winning with a tournament-record 6,353 pins knocked down, as senior Charley Barbary also set an individual meet mark.
Barbary finished with a 983 series and tied for the day's high game (278 along with Destinee Kafka of Rockford Guilford) for Waubonsie, who took third in state in 2012 at Cherry Bowl Lanes in Rockford.
"If we bowl at Rockford (this year) the way we did today," said Barbary, "I don't see any reason we can't win the whole thing.
"But first we've got to get there, and right now that's our main goal."
Fenton senior Shelby Albertson, who rolled an 805 series (18th place individually) said she was among the competitors who appreciated the frenetic atmosphere Saturday.
"It was exciting," said Albertson, "and with all the fans and all the cheering, it was a lot of fun too. There was some pressure because of all the great teams here but I was able to focus, relax, and bowl my best."
Minooka was second overall and Lockport took third in the team race, while some local bowlers of note earned some outstanding scores.
Hoffman Estates junior Sarah Wille had the tourney's third-best game (268) and series (915); Elk Grove's Kayleigh Duff rolled a 903 series, good for fourth individually; and the Grens junior also tied with Leyden's Reba Hall for the fourth overall top game, a 267.
Hall rolled the sixth-best series (893) of the day as the Eagles finished sixth; a 246 game from junior Brooke Barges helped Elk Grove finish in seventh position; while Hoffman Estates took eighth place.
Addison Trail got a stellar showing from Jessica Mueller, who placed 17th while firing an 808, while the host Knights were led by a 805 series from senior Kayla Jagus, good for 19th position on the individual side.
Kayla is the older sister of Alexis, and she well remembers when she was in the position of "score runner" as a freshman.
"It really is a difficult task," said the senior, "especially when you consider how the teams move from lane to lane."
Anna Lessner (820 series, 14th place) excelled for Palatine, while junior Meghan Mulcahy (794) gave a big assist to the host Knights' 10th-place finish.
Prospect stands in second place in the Mid-Suburban League standings, only 1½ points out of first with two matches remaining.
"We've been handling the pressure very well," said Kayla Jagus, "and we're extremely confident.
"From here on out we're going to be focused on our conference record, trying to move up to first place in our league -- and as one of the seniors, it'll be up to me to be one of the leaders."