HAMMOND | For the first time in the 63-year history of the Times Classic co-sponsored by Pepsi, youth bowlers are getting a shot at the prize money.
Young faces dotted the crowd of want-to-be qualifiers at Olympia Lanes Saturday, including a pair of potential future Calumet College bowlers.
Ari Wilson, a Crete-Monee student, bowled in both the 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. squads. He tallied 660 and 681 series, which won't be good enough to qualify for the semifinals.
Still, Wilson said it was worth it to test his mettle against some of the area's best.
"I like to get to compete with adults," Wilson said. "If I see somebody striking and I'm keeping up with them, it's like 'Oh, I can do this just as good as they can.' It gives me and extra push."
On the other side of the bowling center was Jeremy Rusnack, an 18-year-old Clark student.
"I gained experience. Now I know how competitive it gets because this is such a big tournament," Rusnack said. "It's the first step toward growing up and joining adult leagues and getting into these really big tournaments."
Youth bowlers are competing for a chance to add tournament winnings to their USBC SMART account, which allows kids to put scholarship and tournament winnings away for college tuition.
"I like (the Times Classic format) because I'm able to still get money for college and not have to jump to adult leagues," Rusnack said. "It'll go into my account and I can't touch it or anything it'll just go straight to college."
Wilson had even more motivation, he said, because a few lanes over was former Classic champ and Crimson Wave coach Mike Kubacki.
"I wanted to beat him," Wilson said. "I didn't quite beat him, but almost. He couldn't carry today, either."
Rusnack was actually bowling on the pair of lanes right next to his future coach. That fact did not escape him.
"I got a little nervous because I know what he expects of me and I know I have to live up to that," Rusnack said. "The main thing I was concentrating on was my spares, because that's what Kubacki preaches."
As for his scores, consistency was key for Wilson. He had trouble grouping strikes to put up high numbers.
"I just couldn't string them together. I was hitting the pocket, just couldn't get past a four-bagger," Wilson said. "It was just carry."
Notable Saturday scores included John Phillips, who bowled a 799 in Class SA to tally the highest series in any class thusfar. Former Class A champ Brian Kirk rolled a 732, while Elmer Gray posted a 750 after handicap. Stacey Timmer took the top spot in Class WA with a 750.