A pair of area bowlers will try to make the cut at the first day of the IHSA state finals at St. Clair Bowl in O'Fallon.
That’s the goal for T.F. South’s Taveon Roberson and Mount Carmel’s Mike Stepanovic, who both qualified for the state finals for the second year in a row.
“Last year I missed the cut on Friday by seven pins,” Stepanovic said. “The goal this year is to get through Friday then focus on finishing strong and being the first guy in Mount Carmel history to place in state.”
For Roberson, who bowled a 299 game in the Andrew Sectional, the feeling is the same.
“You have to take it one day at a time,” Roberson said. “You can’t worry about placing on Friday because they don’t give out the medals until Saturday. My main goal is to make sure I’m still bowling on Saturday then we’ll see what happens.”
Both bowlers are familiar with what it takes to compete in the state finals having been there last year as part of qualifying teams, but that experience will only take them so far as they both adjust to bowling on their own this year.
“You have to prepare differently as an individual,” Stepanovic said. “Last year I had my team for support. If I had a bad frame they were there to pick me up. I think there’s more pressure going down as an individual, you have to try to stay focused and not let it all get to your head.”
Besides having teammates around for support, individual bowlers have to get used to the style and pace of the four others they are randomly teamed with.
This can be a big change for people that have been with the same group day in and day out for the last three months.
“They can definitely affect your game,” Stepanovic said. “You don’t have any chemistry with them and you don’t know how they bowl, you have to watch their routine during warm-ups and see how they are but in the end you really just have to not worry about them and focus on your own game.”
For Roberson, this weekend is bittersweet. The Rebels saw a chance to advance as a team slip away in the sixth and final game of last weekend’s Andrew Sectional.
The Rebels were in the final qualifying spot heading into the sixth game but a 1,115 game by host Andrew knocked the Rebels out of a return trip to the state meet.
“I’m really excited but it’s hard because I really thought we’d be going as a team,” Roberson said. “It’s hard to prepare mentally as an individual now. You just have to go down watch everyone else to see where the lines are and what the pace is.”
Despite being on his own this year, Roberson feels he can take what he experienced last year and use it to end his high school career on a high note.
“You have to be strong mentally, you can’t get upset after a bad shot,” Roberson said. “Every pin is going to count this weekend so if you miss the strike you have to get the spare, if you split you have to get as many pins as possible on the next ball. The key is to not stress, just relax and have fun and the best will come out at the end.”