High School Sports

Belleville West bowler spares no effort to improve his game

Competitive in the sport of bowling for the past seven years, Nathan Bovinette, of Belleville West, has never had a 300 game and his high series is a 737.

But when the names of the top bowlers in the Southern Illinois High School Bowling Conference are mentioned, Bovinette is at the head of the list.

How? You ask. The reason is simple. Consistency.

“Nate is a bowler that I can count for at least a 630 series or better every match and as a coach having a bowler like that is great to have,” Belleville West coach Brett Hinnon said. “Even in the (bowling) centers where the shot is more difficult like Edwardsville, Nathan had a 630 series and nobody else was over 600.

“He’s just been very solid the three years I’ve been here. He’s a great team leader and is a tremendous anchor bowler with his ability to throw a strike in the clutch. With all the high-tech equipment available now, it’s easier to throw strikes. But you don’t average 220 if you can’t pick your spares. Nathan is also probably the best spare shooter in the Southwestern Conference.”

Ranked in the top three all season in the SIHSBC, Bovinette is currently averaging 222 and has three top five tournament finishes to his credit this season. Bovinette won the season-opening Centralia Tournament and placed third in the always competitive Alton Tournament at Redbird Lanes, an event which featured 19 of the top teams in southern Illinois.

But like all intense top-level athletes, Bovinette said he still expects more of himself.

“It’s been a good year so far. I haven’t been as consistent the last couple of matches, but I’ve bowled pretty well,” Bovinette said. “I’ve just tried to stay consistent. Throw good shots every time. I’ve been able to find my mark and stay with it and then adjust as the lanes start to break down. It’s been a good year so far and I hope to continue to bowl well as the season winds down and in the postseason.”

Bovinette said he has been bowling since the fifth grade. But it was when a basketball coach at Emge Middle School saw potential and offered encouragement, that he began to take the sport of bowling much more seriously.

“We were up here (Bel-Air Bowl) and I was bowling with a church group I went to when I was little. My middle school basketball coach was watching me and he said that I had potential to maybe really do something in the sport,” Bovinette said. “He encouraged me to get my own equipment and work and see how good I could become. That’s how it’s all started.

“The next year I started bowling for Emge and have bowled in leagues all year long since then. I played baseball, soccer and basketball when I was younger, but I guess the reason I chose bowling is that I saw it as my chance to really been good in a sport. It was something I could pursue and maybe do in college. I’ve worked hard to get where I am.”

A member of the Maroons sqaud which placed 16th in the 2014 Boys State Tournament in O’Fallon, Bovinette carried a more than respectable 208 average last year. But after a summer of constant competing and practicing, he has raised his per game average some 14 pins.

Bovinette’s higher average has also resulted in loftier goals in his senior season.

“My goals coming into the year were to place in the top five in all of our tournaments, which I have, and to have the high average in the league. I think I’ve slipped down a few pins the last couple of matches but I’m close,” Bovinette said. “I don’t know where I want to go to college yet, but I do know that I want to bowl at the next level. It would be nice to bowl well enough to be able to earn a little scholarship money for college.”

And with Hinnon’s help, Bovinette is well on his way to being a collegiate bowler. Hinnon said Bovinette’s strength is being able to adjust to the lane conditions.

“We’ll talk before hand on what equipment may work the best on different lanes, but Nathan has tremendous knowledge of the sport. He is a true student of bowling,” Hinon said. “He is able to kind of sense when the lanes are changing and then make the proper adjusments. A lot of high school bowlers can’t do that.”

Bovinette said he will have to make adjustments this Saturday when he leads his Belleville West teammates into battle at the rugged Cahokia Regional that boasts good competition. The top four teams advance to the Herrin Sectional on Jan. 24.

“I have bowled a lot at Cahokia. It’s a center where the shot isn’t terribly difficult but when the lanes dry out, some people will struggle,” Bovinette said. “Last year I was fine with just making it to the state finals. This year, I really want to make it to the second day and place in the top 10 individuals.”

Contact reporter Dean Criddle at dcriddle@bnd.com or 618-239-2661.