Prospect senior scores a strike against stereotypes

  • Jill Sevilla is with two of her friends on the Prospect High School junior varsity bowling team, Marie Shurson and Kaeley Appleton.

    Jill Sevilla is with two of her friends on the Prospect High School junior varsity bowling team, Marie Shurson and Kaeley Appleton. Courtesy of Linda Sevilla

  • Jill Sevilla, a member of the Prospect High School junior varsity bowling team, doesn't let Down syndrome limit her ambition to participate in scholastic and athletic activities.

    Jill Sevilla, a member of the Prospect High School junior varsity bowling team, doesn't let Down syndrome limit her ambition to participate in scholastic and athletic activities. Courtesy of Linda Sevilla

  • Jill Sevilla of Mount Prospect is a member of the Prospect High School junior varsity bowling team.

    Jill Sevilla of Mount Prospect is a member of the Prospect High School junior varsity bowling team. Courtesy of Linda Sevilla

  • Members of the Prospect High School junior varsity bowling team include, from front left, Arie Upshaw, Mia Kowalczuk, Kaeley Appleton and, back, Marie Shurson, Allison Buck, Katie Beyer, Elizabeth Heinze, Nicole Brzys, Kate Roberson, Nina Tierney, Jill Sevilla, Amy Lee and Amanda Bieszk.

    Members of the Prospect High School junior varsity bowling team include, from front left, Arie Upshaw, Mia Kowalczuk, Kaeley Appleton and, back, Marie Shurson, Allison Buck, Katie Beyer, Elizabeth Heinze, Nicole Brzys, Kate Roberson, Nina Tierney, Jill Sevilla, Amy Lee and Amanda Bieszk. Courtesy of Linda Sevilla

  • Jill Sevilla, center, talks with other members of the Prospect High School junior varsity bowling team.

    Jill Sevilla, center, talks with other members of the Prospect High School junior varsity bowling team. Courtesy of Linda Sevilla

 
Updated 2/9/2017 6:14 AM

At the Mid-Suburban League bowling championships last month, Prospect High School senior Jill Sevilla of Mount Prospect picked up a spare during her first game -- drawing high-fives from her junior varsity teammates.

Jill smiled as she came off the lane, and she drew a hug from Kim Carpenter, who has been coaching Prospect junior varsity bowlers for 18 years. In that time, Jill is her first with Down syndrome.

 

"Jill is a really sweet, active team member," Carpenter says. "The kids enjoy being with her. It's been a good experience -- for her and her teammates."

One of those teammates is senior Arie Upshaw of Arlington Heights, who placed sixth overall at the MSL championships and recently earned a bowling scholarship to attend Judson College in Elgin.

"It's fun to have Jill on our team," Arie said. "She's just fun to be around. Whenever I have a bad game, I look for Jill. She keeps it in perspective."

Another teammate, sophomore Nina Tierney of Arlington Heights, agreed.

"It's great seeing how much Jill has accomplished this year," Nina said. "She's more open and making friends. We keep encouraging her."

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Going into the conference championships, held at Arlington Lanes, Jill bowled an average of 97 per game, hitting 131 for her high game of the season.

"We're in a building year, so Jill has had to switch between bowling on the JV 1 and JV 2 teams," Carpenter adds. "I've had some newer bowlers who can't bowl as well as Jill."

Bowling is just the latest of her athletic accomplishments. Growing up as the second of four children of Linda and Pablo Sevilla, Jill participated in cheerleading with the Mount Prospect Football Association.

Once she started at Prospect, Jill began competing on the junior varsity gymnastics team, while carrying an academic load that would include biology, chemistry, Spanish and algebra.

Reading and comprehension continues to be an area she works on, her mother says, but using an iPad in school, along with the rest of Northwest Suburban High School District 214 students, has empowered her.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"She's very tech-savvy," Linda Sevilla says.

Jill balances her school day between attending classes in the morning and leaving for the Lutheran Home in Arlington Heights, where she receives vocational training in the afternoons, before returning for bowling practices and meets.

Now that the season has ended, she will return to Prospect's club bowling team, which meets at Beverly Lanes in Arlington Heights. According to Lyle Zikes, manager and a PGA regional bowler, Jill averages just over 100 in league play there.

"She has a nice approach and is fairly accurate," Zikes says. "To average higher, she'll need to gain some ball speed and create more roll on the ball, but I think that may come as she continues to learn about the sport.

"It's gratifying to think that bowling may be enhancing Jill's life," Zikes adds. "We certainly enjoy seeing her at the bowling center and hope that, as she grows into adulthood, she will continue to find enjoyment in the game for a long time."

Beyond bowling, Jill and her parents are looking at college options.

"There are lots of life skills programs out there, but we're looking for one that combines skills with academics," Jill Sevilla says.

At the same time, her sister Caroline, a senior at St. Viator High School, is applying to colleges. As in many other areas, Jill wants to keep up with her siblings, her parents say, and they have raised the bar high.

"Jill very much wants to go to college," Linda Sevilla says. "It's another adventure we continue to explore."

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