Advancing out of the regional as an individual, Evergreen Park High School (EP) sophomore bowler Connor Pula felt like he had escaped.
Although he hadn’t bowled his best, he made it through to the next round.
As Pula showed in the following weeks, he made the most of that clean slate, advancing all the way to state and finishing 18th overall.
“It felt so good to make it and finish so high,” Pula said. “It was an amazing feeling. It was a little nerve-wracking [at state], but it was such a fun experience.”
Pula rolled a 2,596 over 12 games at the state meet held Jan. 31-Feb. 1 at St. Clair Bowl in O’Fallon, Ill.
Advancing out of the Lockport sectional, one of the toughest in Illinois, Pula kept rolling at the state meet with a focused attitude.
“I was very positive. My attitude was really good,” Pula said. “I had great coaches, and I was able to line up really well. My first goal was just to make it to Saturday, make it to Day Two.”
Averaging 224.8 pins a game, including a 268 high game, on Day One, Pula was in ninth place.
To start the second day, he struggled at times but closed strong with games of 232, 202 and 216.
Evergreen Park Coach Ron Pula, Connor’s father, was impressed with his son’s ability to adjust.
“Connor has been in a lot of big tournaments, and he can get really geared in, really focused,” Coach Pula said. “The lanes change over the different games, but he was able to stay focused even when things didn’t go our way. He was throwing some great balls.”
Looking ahead to next year, Connor Pula hopes the whole team can advance to the state meet.
“I want to help support the team,” Pula said, “and the goal for next year is to go top 10 [individually] and get the whole team there.”
Chicago Ag School
Zachary Reynolds has been bowling since he was 7 years old and joined a league at Lawn Lanes in Chicago.
His parents had bowled for years, and Reynolds quickly found his sport. But even with plenty of experience under his belt, Reynolds couldn’t help but feel some nerves in his freshman season bowling for the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences (CHSAS).
“I was really nervous my freshman year,” Reynolds said. “My sophomore year, I kept my nerves down and just bowled better. I worked on my game a lot more and shot better, worked on my footwork, techniques and spare shooting.”
All the time devoted to the lanes paid off as Reynolds (West Lawn, Queen of Martyrs) won the individual Chicago Public League championship and then went on to finish 21st overall at the state meet.
Reynolds finished with a 2,581 two-day series.
“I was pretty proud of how I did and happy I finished in 21st,” Reynolds said. “I was a little disappointed I didn’t go top-20 because they were showing those bowlers on TV [at St. Clair Bowl], but 21st was really good for the first year I made state.”
Reynolds was the first CHSAS bowler to advance to state since 2012.
He made a huge charge on Day Two, jumping from 58th place to 21st. He shot high games of 265 and 247 on Saturday.
“My goal was to advance to the second day, and I did; but it was a little shaky the first day,” Reynolds said. “I bowled a lot better and felt more comfortable. I watched some of the more experienced bowlers and where they were throwing and started throwing a lot better.”