Jackson bowling sees growth as season ends

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent

JACKSON TWP. The onslaught of ugly winter weather and the Northeast Division I sectional bowling tournament at Stonehedge Lanes found themselves on a collision course early this week.

That combination spelled uncertainty and change for the Jackson boys and girls bowling teams, which were slated to compete Sunday and Monday. As the boys readied for their tournament play on Sunday, the girls were scheduled to compete the following day – or at least until the coming massive winter storm forced the school district to rethink those plans.

"(Sunday) around noon, our superintendent let everyone know that pretty much all sports were going to be shut down the entire day (Monday)," Jackson head coach Tim Raddish said. "The weather didn't end up being that bad, but the tournament director said it was going to go down to the last minute if they were going to play."

The decision was ultimately made to push the girls' portion of the event back to Wednesday, allowing Jackson a chance to take part. It was a wait-and-see situation the boys team avoided by virtue of playing one day earlier, with the Polar Bears placing 13th in the field but seeing some positive results on an individual level.

Junior Landan Trayer turned in the performance of the day for his squad in his final game, rolling a 244 and narrowly missing out on qualifying for the district tournament as an individual. While it was tough to see Trayer narrowly miss out on advancing, Raddish praised the junior for his growth over the course of the season.

"He's definitely impressed me ... he's improved so much this year. Last year he wasn't that great from what he told me," the first-year head coach said. "Myself and my assistant coach have been working with him a lot and he's become one of our more consistent bowlers. Every once in a while he'll throw together a 230 or 240 game."

After stringing together six strikes in a row in his final game at the sectional tournament, Trayer left his coaches wondering what could have been if he'd gotten a few more pins earlier in the day, but also excited about what's ahead for him.

One of Trayer's friends on the team, fellow junior Carter Dockery, was relatively new to bowling at the outset of the year, but he too made big strides from start to finish. According to Raddish, Dockery would struggle to break 100 early on, but after switching to a two-handed bowling approach later in the year, he was able to increase his scores and had games of 148 and 155 at the sectional event.

Bowling extensively on his own on weekends also helped Dockery and having the duo able to return next season is encouraging for Raddish, who admitted he was disappointed not to see more underclassmen come out for the team this season.

"That's a focus for me, just getting a lot more practice in. I heard a lot of them didn't get a lot of practice over the summer and no freshmen tried out for the team," Raddish said. "I've encouraged them to bowl more on their own and have some plans to help grow the program."

The season began with the knowledge that competing and winning against the challenging competition of the Federal League and other strong programs in the area would be a tall mountain to summit. While the 2-14 record isn't what the Polar Bears wanted, several losses were narrow ones they hope to convert to wins as they grow and improve. Losing to Lake by five pins underscored how close they are, but also as a challenge to put the work in to make their aspirations a reality.