MACHESNEY PARK, Ill. (WIFR) – Bowling is one of the top high school sports in the Stateline. Whether it’s boys or girls, it seems like each year, there’s a team from the area in contention for a state title. This weekend, the Harlem boys hope to bring home the hardware.
The Huskies left Wednesday morning for O’Fallon, just east of St. Louis. Harlem is looking to bring back its third state championship in the last five years and fourth trophy overall. Last season, there was no state tournament due to the pandemic. The Huskies have been on a roll this year, going undefeated in the NIC-10, then cruising to the regional and sectional titles. Head coach Nick Whitmire isn’t taking anything for granted. He knows there’s going to be teams pushing them.
“We’ve got a couple of teams coming right out of our sectional that, maybe didn’t score so high, but we know they’re competitive and we know that they want it just as badly as anyone else,” said Whitmire. “So, yeah, there’s a good group of five, six teams that we’ll be watching right out of the gate just to see how people are doing and what the scores are like. But, what I like to tell the guys is there’s not a lot of defense in this sport. So we just got to do us and we should be ok.”
Eric Roberts is the lone senior on this year’s squad. He was a freshman when Harlem won the state title in 2019. After a year of competing within COVID regions, Roberts and the rest of the team say it’s good to have tournaments again. They say that will help them this weekend.
“It’s great to be back. This has always been my life, basically,” explained Roberts. “I’ve done this since I was, since I’ve been able to walk, basically. So, it’s just great to get back into the motions and keep doing this.”
“We fought through some hard lane conditions, regionals and sectionals. So, going down there, we know that we can get out of there,” said junior Jeremy Martinez. “We can push through, make it a good game. So, just having the mindset that walking out of there with a good score can get us to the top.”
Whitmire believes they have the right mix of bowlers to bring home another state trophy.
“Half the team’s been there a couple times, the other half hasn’t been there at all yet, which is ok. They’ll lean on the upper classmen to help them feel comfortable. It’s not a bad bowling center, the scores aren’t real high there, but they’re decent. We just got to get acclimated to the surroundings there and then we’ll be good to go.”
There will be no fans allowed at the state finals on Friday and only two spectators per qualifying bowler will be allowed on Saturday.
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