Senior Payton Wernet had a great start on Jan. 21 toward becoming the first Oak Park and River Forest High School boys bowler to qualify for the state meet.
He had no trouble finding motivation to keep it going.
“This was my main year, senior year. That was my main goal, to make it to state,” Wernet said. “That was the one thing I promised my grandmother [Sheila] before she passed away, so this is pretty emotional.”
Wernet’s 1,383 six-game series (230.5-pin average) was good for fourth overall at the IHSA Sectional hosted by IC Catholic Prep at Bowlero in Glendale Heights and he easily advanced as the second of seven highest scoring individual qualifiers not from one of the six advancing teams.
Last season, Wernet was part of the Huskies’ first team and among three sectional qualifiers. His team-best 1,191 at sectionals was 105 pins from the individual state cut.
His series at Bowlero on Jan. 21 was among his highest ever. His personal-best high game is 297 at Circle Lanes in Forest Park.
Wernet began the sectional meet with his highest game (277) and was among the leaders after three games with a 745 series (277-235-233).
“Whether it’s the highest or not, this [series] is probably the most meaningful,” Wernet said. “I couldn’t be happier for my parents, my coach [Richard Short]. They helped me a lot. My coach really helped me out a lot today.”
Smiling somewhere, too, was Grandma Sheila, a huge fan since Wernet’s basketball days who died two-and-a-half years ago.
“She was like my second mom, so this really means a lot for my entire family,” Wernet said. “She was my No. 1 supporter outside of my mom. I wanted to make her proud today and I think I did that.”
Fenwick senior James Dubanowich (1,308, 218 average) finished 13th behind a great day personally but just missed advancing to the state meet. Dubanwoich was eighth among individual candidates, three pins from the last berth.
Dubanowich then came one pin from the two at-large individuals among the state’s four sectionals who also qualified based on closest-to-the-cut in their respective sectional.
The two bowlers from the Rockford Guilford Sectional (1,257 and 1,256) were one and two pins from that individual cut. Dubanowich would have won the tiebreaker with the higher six-game series.
“He bowled spectacularly,” Fenwick coach Judi Tichanek said. “Basically [his key was] not letting his emotions get the best of him and basically just focusing.”