Highland High School senior bowler Emma Schuster has had a goal to make it to the state tournament ever since she barely missed out as a freshman.
Schuster’s mission was accomplished in her final opportunity on Saturday after she rolled the fourth-highest six-game series at the IHSA Mount Vernon Girls Bowling Sectional with a 1,307, which equates to a stout single-game average of 217.83.
With her stellar sectional performance, Schuster punched her ticket to the IHSA Girls State Bowling Final Tournament to be held this Friday and Saturday at The Cherry Bowl in Rockford.
On Saturday, Schuster started out on fire. She opened with a 269, which ended up being the second highest individual game of the entire sectional. She followed that up with descending, but still solid, games of 216 and 208 to finish the morning session with a splendid 693 three-game series.
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In the afternoon session, Schuster again started strong with a 236 first game. She finished with good games of 182 and 196 to achieve a 614 series.
Schuster, who is the first Lady Bulldog to qualify for state since Cassy Leitschuh did it in 2010, admitted that she was not quite sure how the day was going to go during practice.
“Then I started bowling and throwing strikes,” she said. “The first game got me pumped up. I knew I had to keep it up, though. After the first half (of the day), I was hoping for at least a 600 in the afternoon. I’m very proud of myself. I was overwhelmed when I found out I made it. Making it to state, whether it be with my team or by myself, has been my main goal for these past four years. Now I can finally say I made it. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of my teammates, coaches and family. I knew today was my last chance to go, so it meant everything to me. I’m super excited for state.
“Of course I’d love to place well, but I just want to enjoy it and have fun.”
The only three individuals to place ahead of Schuster were Belleville East’s Abby Gray (1,329), O’Fallon’s Mary Orf (1,316) and Freeburg’s Stephanie Jacobs (1,309).
The four teams to make the cut for state were sectional champion O’Fallon (6,193), Belleville East (5,894), Herrin (5,754) and Salem (5,639). Highland (5,263) finished in eighth place as a team.
Highland coach Laura Wander-Vrell said it was tough to see the season come to an end for the girls as a whole, but she is excited for Schuster to make the cut for state.
“I am so sad to see the girls’ season end,” she said. “This group has been very successful and have really become a great team. I know they are as thrilled as I am to see their captain, Emma, advance. She has had this goal since she missed barely as a freshman. She had a tremendous day, and it is great to see her achieve this for herself. I know she will represent Highland well as a bowler and as the wonderful young lady she is.”
Freshman Molly Marshall also bowled well for Highland with a six-game series of 1,138, which placed her 29th out of the 101 overall competitors. Marshall rolled high games of 215, 210, 203 and 200.
Also bowling good games for the Bulldogs were junior Delaney Grimes (262), senior Haley Basler (189), sophomore Kayla Rutz (181, 179, 170) and senior Kalie Rutz (177, 173).