For Ryan Dixon and Joel Spangler, the hard part is over.
The Dixon High School bowlers each faced the possibility of having their seasons come to an end at the Boylan Sectional this past Saturday in Loves Park.
Instead, each came through when the pressure was on, and the reward is a trip to the state tournament. It begins Friday in O’Fallon.
“I’m excited about it,” Dixon said, “and I’m really happy Joel is going to be there with me. It’s going to be interesting to see how we do down there.”
Dixon was in decent position at the sectional with a 663 morning series, then put himself in great position by starting the afternoon series with a 279 game. He opened with nine strikes in that game, and followed that up with games of 213 and 208 for a 700 series. His total pinfall of 1,363 was good for fifth place overall.
Spangler’s position was much more uncertain, but a total pinfall of 1,329 was good enough to claim the sixth of seven individual advancing spots. Three consecutive late strikes, including one in which he said he missed his mark by three boards, were enough to put him over the top by a margin of just two pins.
“Somebody was watching over me for that strike,” Spangler said.
Dixon and Spangler left for O’Fallon on Thursday morning, and have a 4 p.m. practice time at St. Clair Bowl. They will have 1 hour to practice on the lanes.
The oil pattern, set by the IHSA, calls for around 41 feet of oil, about 3 feet less than the standard pattern at Plum Hollow Lanes in Dixon. For Tuesday and Wednesday practice sessions at Plum Hollow, lanes 23 and 24 were set up to replicate the conditions Dixon and Spangler will encounter at state.
Neither are overly concerned about the lane conditions at St. Clair Bowl.
“I think I’ll be all right,” Dixon said. “I get a lot of curve on my ball, so it’s going to work out just fine.”
“The way that I throw my shot, there’s not much of a difference, other than I might have to be little more right the first game,” Spangler said. “Other than that, I just need to remember to keep slow and follow through, and I’ll be fine.”
They have each been part of qualifying Dukes teams the past two seasons, but their experience at state has been limited. As a sophomore, Dixon rolled just one game, a 165 in the morning. A year ago as a junior, he had a 164 in the morning, then had games of 201 and 189 in the afternoon.
“I might be a little nervous, because it’s state,” Dixon said, “but I think I’ll be just fine. This is my third time, so I kind of know what to expect.”
Spangler, a junior, rolled just one game at state last year. He posted a 159 in the morning session.
Dixon is averaging 210 this season, and realizes he will likely need to up that by five, or perhaps 10 pins to have a chance to make the cut. The top 12 teams, as well as 30 individuals not on those teams, advance to compete on Saturday.
“You can always hope,” Dixon said. “Some days it’s good, and some days it’s bad. I just need to get on a good roll, and anything is possible.”
Spangler, with a 203 average, also needs to step up his game. The magic number is a six-game total of 1,300 – a score he surpassed for the first time at the sectional.
“That’s a personal goal for me,” Spangler said. “Let’s do it again.”
Dixon coach Al Wickert is hopeful his bowlers are able to replicate the success they achieved at the sectional.
“You’ve still got to overcome the nerves the first couple of games,” Wickert said. “Once they do that, they should do pretty well.”