With back-to-back state and national championships, Harlem has had as much success as possible in girls bowling over the past two years.
But the Huskies don’t get tired of it.
“When we win there’s such a high afterward,” said senior all-stater Becca Hagerman, who also claimed the individual state title last season. “It’s such a great feeling and we want to do it over and over again. We always want it.”
Hagerman and fellow senior all-stater Kayla Verstraete have returned as four-year starters to lead a Harlem team that has hopes of a three-peat. The Huskies have already won two of the three tournaments they’ve competed in this season, finishing second in the other, just 11 pins behind Lockport in Rock Island.
What makes the Huskies — who have won eight state titles in 19 years — so tough to contend with year after year is their seemingly endless flow of depth.
“We have a super strong JV team that could make a run as a varsity team,” Verstraete said. “We just keep cycling through girls and our middle school program is amazing.”
With Hagerman, Verstraete and fellow senior Angel Grinnall, Harlem has three of its five starters back from a year ago. Stephanie Richards and Treasure Childs are two talented bowlers to have to replace, but sophomore Olivia Watton and junior Laura Bartelt are doing the job.
“They’ve stepped up immensely,” Hagerman said. “Stephanie and Treasure have pretty big shoes to fill and they’re looking pretty comfortable in them right now.”
Hagerman and Verstraete both already know what the next step will be in their bowling careers. Hagerman is verbally committed to McKendree and Verstraete is signed with Nebraska, but they’re both still driven to finish off their high school careers strong.
“They still have that fire,” Harlem coach Jim Heathscott said. “That’s huge in my book. “Their next step is set and they could just be relaxed, but they’re not.”
The Huskies will have a good idea of how they stack up against some of the other top teams in the state after this weekend. They’ll compete in the 44-team Strikefest tournament in Joliet where everyone is likely to be gunning for Harlem.
That’s likely to be the case wherever the Huskies compete for the rest of the season.
“Since the start of the season my message has been we have to start over,” Heathscott said. “Everybody is going to be chasing us, so we have to be at our best at all times.”
Adam Kradle: 815-987-1388; email@example.com; @AdamJKradle