COLLINSVILLE — Amber Burns of Collinsville is one high school bowler who doesn't believe in taking shortcuts to achieve success.
One of the top bowlers in a Kahoks program known for excelling on lanes throughout the metro-east, Burns finished her sophomore and junior seasons with a scoring average between 185 and 190 per game.
But it wasn't good enough for Burns, who had some very lofty goals heading into the 2012-13 season. For one, she wanted to average close to 200.
"I think it's just hard work and determination. You always set goals for yourself. I came into my senior year knowing that anything was possible,'' Burns said. "I knew that if I worked hard and kept my head that I could average around 200 for the season.''
That hard work has paid off for Burns, a senior, who was the only bowler in the Southern Illinois High School Bowling Conference to average over 200, finishing with a mark of 213.
Burns, however, took her game to an even higher level Saturday at the Collinsville Sectional, held at Camelot Bowl.
She averaged 243 in the six-game event, leading the Kahoks to the team title.
Burns' winning total of 1,459 pins was 114 more than teammate Courtney Otradovec (1,345).
"It was a lot of fun. As a team we enjoyed it. All day long,'' Burns said. "When we came out that day we knew we were a good team, mentally and physically, and we just needed to execute the shots.
"Everybody was up, happy and laughing. We just needed to keep pushing each other so that we could get one of the two spots in the state tournament.''
A member of the 2010 Collinsville state championship team, Burns will make her third and final appearance at the state tournament beginning Friday, when she leads the Kahoks into the 2013 event at Cherry Bowl in Rockford.
Burns finished ninth at state last year. This weekend, Burns knows she has a chance to finish much higher.
"In a way I do think I've got a chance to win it. I've seen a lot of the girls who are going to be there and I know I'll have a lot of competition,'' Burns said. "That helps me work harder.
"We've been up bowl at Cherry Bowl this year and we won the tournament. I was fifth individually. That was a stepping stone to tell me that I can do this and our team can do whatever we put our minds too.''
Introduced to the sport by her parents Billy and Linda Burns at the age of 5 at Camelot Bowl, Burns first state tournament appearance with the Kahoks was a pressure-packed one.
Entering the tournament as a reserve with two games to go and Collinsville struggling just a bit, Burns had games of 181 and 208 to help the Kahoks capture the title.
"That was nerve-wracking because we were just waiting to see what would happen. I bowled well those last two games,'' Burns said.
Collinsville coach Sean Hay also was nervous that day in 2010.
"We were struggling in that afternoon session and I remember that Frannie (Steiner) and Amber had bowled well in the fifth game whereas the other girls struggled," Hay said. "I remember telling our coaches before the last game that the first five names I said were the ones we were going with in the last game. Amber was one of them and she bowled very well.''
Burns has been solid for the past three seasons, but this year as the Kahoks anchor bowler, she has shot big scores all season.
Hay said the difference in Burns was that she is more relaxed.
"This year, I think she's just realized that she's got all the tools needed to compete and that's exactly what she's done,'' Hay said. "She made some mistakes at the state tournament last year, everyone did. And she still finished in the top 10.
"Amber doesn't have to be perfect. She just has to go out and execute the shots like she can and she'll be just fine.''
Burns plans study radiology in college. An honors student and secretary of the Collinsville chapter of the National Honors Society, Burns is looking at Southwestern Illinois College, McKendree and Lindenwood University St. Charles.
But for the moment, Burns is looking forward to her final high school tournament.
"Goals for this weekend? To go out there with the same positive attitude. Having the whole team ready to go, cheering and laughing and just enjoying each other like we did last week at the sectionals,'' Burns said. "We have a goal in mind and we just need to go out, work hard and just bowl our game.''