Boys bowling: Harlem a cut above the field at Vernon Hills
Over the last several years the best boys bowling teams have taken part in the annual Cougar Classic at Brunswick Zone Hawthorn in Vernon Hills, where the winner of this tournament usually finds itself competing for the state title at the end of January in O'Fallon.
It was no surprise that Machesney Park Harlem rolled into the top spot with a six-game total of 6,460 pins with Hononegah right behind (6,327) and Freeport in third place (5,853) on Saturday.
Of the area teams competing in this ministate 23-team field, Lake Zurich ended in fourth (5,805), Lake Park fifth (5,767), Vernon Hills sixth (5,562), Stevenson seventh (5,557), Warren 11th (5,435), Libertyville 13th (5,362), Grayslake Central 16th (4,916), Fenton 20th (4,563) and Streamwood 21st (4,507).
Lake Park's Jason Gutkowski was the top bowler with a 1,373 over the six games for a 228 average. The sophomore was consistent all day with games in the 200s. He he rolled his high game of 249 in his last one and it moved him up from the fifth spot to first place.
"I expected to go a little higher, but not as high as I did," said Gutkowski, who was 37 pins behind the leader after 5 games and the top 6 bowlers were 50 pins apart of one another. "It was a huge game and most scores will be going down, because the lanes get drier and drier. That kind of game will change anything. It means a lot more to me knowing that I can be up there with bowlers from Harlem and Hononegah."
Jordan Fischer of Lake Park ended up in fourth place with 1,356 and five games over 200. He also tied for the highest game of the day with Nicolas Eberty of DeKalb, rolling a 268. Fischer won the top honor over Eberty with the better series.
Nicolas Sternes of Stevenson earned a medal for a 10th place finish (1,259), He had games of 235 and 236.
Lake Zurich tried to stay at a level where it could compete with some of the best teams. The Bears broke the 1,000 mark as a team in three of the six games as 1,024 was their best game.
"Fourth place considering the teams that were here," Lake Zurich coach Chuck Vozas said. "Fourth place is great in my book. We would've liked to leapfrog into third place. But it seems like in all the levels there's a big break of one, two and three and there's a 100 to 200 pin difference to fourth. Our goal was to make top five, making four was great, but three would've been greater. We want to get to state knowing we will have a tough regional and then an awfully tough sectional. We want to improve on last year."
Lake Park has had success in recent years, but this season the Lancers have been improving and could be a team gaining confidence and reaching that next level as a state contender.
"This time of the year we're seeing where we're at and who we are," Lake Park coach Greg Edwards said. "We just gauge ourselves and come out being competitive. Just be humble, have fun and the boys have a lot of friends that they know in these tournaments."
The Lancers had a couple of games going over 1,000 with their team-best a 1,059.
Host Vernon Hills with its sixth-place finish was in contention being in the top half of the field throughout the day and was able to finish within the top 10. The Cougars rolled five of their six games in the 900s and were close to breaking 1,000 in a couple of them.
"We had a good tournament and we're getting there," Vernon Hills coach Ron Long said. "This was our first major tournament. I think we're doing fine and mixing up the lineup every week. We're trying to figure out what works best."
The Cougars' best bowler was Jacob Gates, who finished 14th (1,229) and had a high game of 238.