It was a whole new world at the IHSA bowling sectional for Oregon. In previous sectionals, the Hawks had been fortunate to stay clear of NIC-10 state bowling powers.
With a revamped sectional format, Oregon discovered Jan. 25 that a state berth got considerably tougher to obtain.
Sycamore (6578) won the sectional in a mild upset over Harlem, Hononegah and Guilford. Vernon Hills and Lake Park were the other state qualifiers.
Oregon finished 10th in the 16-team field with 5983 pins.
Of those six qualifiers, Sycamore was the only one Oregon saw in last year’s sectional. The other five are part what promises to continuing tough Rockford-area sectionals for Oregon.
“When we walked into the sectionals at Dixon, we knew we’d beat half the teams,” Oregon coach Al Nordman said. “With the new sectional format, the only chance for us was to get hot. If not, we get smoked because there are no tunas here at Rockford.”
Last year, Oregon had a 5558, to finish seventh among 15 teams. Dixon won that sectional with a score of 5935, less than what the Hawks rolled Saturday.
“It’s a high-scoring house,” said Nordman, in reference to Park Lanes in Loves Park, site of this year’s sectional.
However, the bottom line remains that the biggest difference between the last year and this year is level of competition.
Individually, AJ Nordman had a score of 1315 in the six-game series to lead the Hawks. It was only 13 pins away from qualifying for state.
The son of coach Nordman had a 260 in the fourth game for his top mark. His other scores ranged from 191 to 235.
“He had a good afternoon, but a couple splits at wrong times hurt,” coach Nordman said. “He still had a chance going into the last three frames.”
Nordman left a 10 pin and then had a great ball, but the eight pin remained standing in those final rolls.
Ryan Bennett was next in scoring for Oregon with a 1210, including a 234 to start the day off. Bennett, along with Justin Provo (1173) and Ian Starkey (1154) closed out there their varsity careers at Park Lanes.
“What’s odd is that those three were first-year starters,” Nordman said. “They couldn’t crack the line up until this year.”
The final scorer for Oregon was Joe Miranda with a 1131, topped by a 234 in game No. 2. Otherwise, he was in the upper 100s.
“The guys really struggled today,” Nordman said. “We couldn’t get any strikes going.”
Coming into the sectional, Nordman knew the only way his team would advance is if all bowlers were on top of their games.
Oregon’s long-time rival had two individuals qualify for the state meet, which will be held in O’Fallon, outside of the St. Louis area.
Ryan Dixon and Joel Spangler had 1363 and 1329 to make the cut and teammate Lucas Bonnette was only 19 pins away from joining them.
Ryan Dixon had an inordinate amount of attention focused on him in the afternoon session. In the fourth game, he had a perfect game intact for the first nine frames.
Unfortunately, he left the four pin up on that frame and settled for a 279 after picking up the spare and finishing with a strike.
“I threw the ball out in the dry area of the lane,” said Dixon on the missed strike.
Even with the disappointment of missing a perfect game, the 279 moved Dixon from what he described as “not even being on the first sheet of leaders” to fourth place overall.
“From then on, it was a matter of finishing and being consistent,” Dixon said. “I just needed to be around 200.”
The 2-time state qualifier as a team member made it three straight trips downstate with a 213 and 208 to close out a 1363 series.
Brandon Biondo of Algonquin Jacobs had a 1462 to claim the individual title with freshman phenom Jacob Nimtz of Harlem next at 1455. Dixon’s score was good for fifth place.
While Dixon had a comfortable margin going into the final game, Spangler had to sweat things out, not once, but twice.
He was in 10th place, but only nine pins out of the seventh and final qualifying spot. After nine frames, his position was even more precarious with a 169 showing on his scorecard.
In dramatic fashion, Spangler rolled three straight strikes to punch his ticket downstate by two pins. His 1329 series edged Kyle Pattalio of Belvidere by one pin for sixth. Brady Powell of Barrington missed qualifying by one pin with a 1327.
“I was in trouble,” Spangler said. “Those three strikes saved me. I was definitely on the bubble.”
However, the joy he felt soon turned to uncertainty, as his name wasn’t called as one of the seven at-large qualifiers.
“I freaked out,” Spangler said. “I ran over to my coach and told them they had it wrong.”
The oversight by the PA announcer was soon rectified and Spangler could finally rest easy.