After years of disappointments, the O’Fallon Panthers wait could finally be coming to an end at Cherry Bowl in Rockford.
Junior Natalie Heltne averaged 233 for six games and three O’Fallon teammates averaged 198 or better as the Panthers took a narrow lead over two-time defending state champion Machesney Park Harlem after the first day of the IHSA Girls State Bowling Tournament.
Making their 16th state tournament appearance but still looking for a first top three finish, the Panthers ended the first six game block with 6,174 pins, 75 more than the second place Huskies. Heltne, who is in second place in the individual competition had (3 game) series of 695 and 703 for a total of 1,398 pins.
Rebecca Hageman of Machesney Park Harlem leads Heltne by 48 pins after recording series of 761 and 685 for a 1,446 total.
Champions of the Carterville Sectional a week ago, O’Fallon also received outstanding performances from Mary Orf (1,264), Lauren Tomaszewski (1,199) and Hayleigh Williams (1,192) as it finished day one of the ‘19 state finals with the lead.
O’Fallon’s outstanding performance was just one of three by members of the Southern Illinois High School Bowling Conference on Friday. Belleville East is currently fourth with 5,794 pins, 21 behind third place Minooks (5,815).
Joliet West (5,741) and Collinsville (5,716) round out the top six teams.
Senior Makayla Tyra (1,236) and juniors Grace Kowalski (1,232) and Abby Gray (1,228) led the Belleville East attack, while Tyme Sampson (1,297) leads Collinsville.
Local individuals competing include Ashley Westbrook of Alton, who is 29th with a score of 1,192 pins, Haley Dunn of Belleville West, who is 59th with 1,115 pins and Sydney Sahuri of Edwardsville who is 62nd with 1,111 pins.
Round three begins at 9 a.m. Saturday with the fourth and final round set to begin at 1 p.m.