Dupo High School bowler Courtney Argus was on top of the Southern Illinois High School Bowling Conference for most of the 2015-16 season.
Argus averaged 225 pins per game, and after a runner-up finish at the Columbia Regional, she won the Johnston City Sectional with a total of 1,331 pins to qualify for the IHSA Girls Bowling State Tournament.
But at Cherry Bowl in Rockford — the site of the girls state finals — Argus came up short. After a solid start in round one, Argus struggled to adjust when the lanes broke down late on the opening day of the competition, and she failed to qualify for the final two rounds.
“(I came up short) by four pins. That was disappointing. They even had a roll-off for the last spot. I’m kind of glad I wasn’t in the roll-off, though. I would have been very nervous,” Argus recalled Wednesday. “I didn’t bowl bad in the first round. I was averaging in the low 200s or something. But when the lanes broke down in the afternoon, I guess I didn’t adjust well enough or as quickly as I needed too.”
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That disappointment has spurred Argus on to even an better senior season in 2016-17. Her average has gone from 225 to 230, and last week at West Park Bowl in Columbia, the outgoing Tigers bowler finished third with a total of 1,329 pins.
On Saturday, Argus will compete with the rest of the top bowlers in Southern Illinois at the Belleville East Sectional as she tries to secure a second-straight trip to Cherry Bowl — and the state finals — Feb. 17-18 in Rockford.
Falling in love with the sport
Argus, 18, got her start in bowling at the age of five. Her cousin, former Cahokia standout Kyle Brewer, helped get her involved in the sport, and it wasn’t long before Argus was hooked on the game that has become a big part of her life.
“I thought I would get involved in bowling just for the fun of it. Kyle (Brewer) would go bowl, and I would go, too,” Argus said. “I just started bowling more and more, and pretty soon I just fell in love with it.
“My sixth-grade year, I went (and tried) out for the volleyball team. I didn’t make the team, and after that I just figured I would concentrate on bowling. Since that time, I’ve just made bowling my primary focus.”
Argus has seen her average continue to rise as she’s gotten older and started bowling at a higher level. She has three career 300 games and a high series of 781. Argus said that while she is never burned out by bowling — she bowls in leagues nearly year-round — there was a time late last year when she wasn’t bowling well.
“Before the season, I went through a period when I was really struggling. I was probably averaging about 190 something,” Argus said. “I think some of it had to do (with the fact) that in some of my leagues, I’m bowling with younger bowlers who aren’t as experienced and maybe don’t have the high averages.
“Once the high school season got going and the competition was greater, I started bowling better.”
Goals for the season and college
Argus said her goals for her senior season were to increase her scoring average and help her young team continue to improve.
“I averaged 225 last year, and so I really want to see if I could get it up to 230 this season; I did that,” Argus said. “Teamwise, I wanted to help and see if we could be a little more consistent. ... We finished fourth in the conference and won more than we lost (8-6), so we had a good year.
“That is probably one of the things I’m going to remember most about bowling here. When we got a boys and girls bowling program here, we weren’t at the level we’re at now, and just to watch the improvement and the progression that we’ve made has been rewarding. To see the other bowlers come to understand that there is more to this sport than just throwing the ball down the lane and to know that maybe I’ve helped them improve, that means a lot to me.”
An honors student at Dupo, Argus plans to bowl in college. She said she is “looking seriously” at Maryville University in St. Charles, Mo.
“They’ve had a bowling program for a few years now, and plus they have an excellent nursing program, and that’s what I want to study,” Argus said. “You know how it is when you walk into a college and you know that’s the place for you? That’s what I felt when I went to Maryville.
“I actually went on tour day, and I got to see the campus and go into the classrooms. I think I’m going to like it a great deal.”
Argus will be one of the favorites this weekend as she attempts to defend her sectional championship.
“First place. I think that should be my goal and something to aim for,” Argus said.