Emily Quaco's bowling season got off to a hot start – just not quite the kind she hoped for.
In early December, the Dixon High School junior was summoned to the bedroom of her older sister, Rachel, to braid her hair. A few steps into the room, however, came a horrible surprise.
Emily, walking barefoot, stepped onto a scalding hot hair straightener with her left foot. It left a severe burn, and after a few days, started to blister.
She went to the hospital, and was given some cream to apply to the foot to ease the pain and swelling. The blistering continued for a month. Through it all, she kept bowling.
The cream, some extra padding on the injury, and removing the shoelaces from her left bowling shoe to ease pressure were the only concessions she made while bowling.
"It affected me somewhat, because I couldn't really balance," Quaco said. "I just had to deal with it."
Quaco has done that admirably well throughout the season. She carries a 186 average, though she suspects that had she been totally healthy, it would have been about 10 pins higher.
Still, she has been particularly effective of late. At the Northern Illinois Big 12 Tournament on Monday at Plum Hollow Lanes, she posted a season-best 1,264 six-game total, good for second place. It also helped the Duchesses finish second as a team.
Quaco hopes to carry that over into the postseason, which begins on Saturday at the Sycamore Regional.
"I think we can advance as a team," she said, "but if we don't, hopefully I can still go."
Quaco also plays softball for the Duchesses, and figures to be in a varsity pitching rotation that includes Becca Jones and Erin Smith this spring. Sundays are for informal softball workouts at the high school.
Her unquestioned favorite sport, however, is bowling. Her late grandfather, Vincent Quaco, was an accomplished bowler and taught his granddaughter the basics about 5 years ago.
"My grandpa got me into it, so it's like a connection that we still have," Quaco said. "He taught me that hitting your mark is the most important thing you can do, and you need to throw the ball consistently every single ball."
Quaco bowls at least 6 days a week, and sometimes seven, if the mood strikes her after softball practice. It's that sort of dedication that brings a smile to the face of Dixon girls bowling coach Larry LaCoursiere, though he admits the two haven't always been on the same page.
"Early on in her career, she was a little bit headstrong," LaCoursiere said. "She was tough to coach, because she didn't want to move. She liked where she threw the ball, and if you moved her off that spot, it was very difficult for her.
"She's finally gotten to where she can move across the lanes, and adjust to the lanes. She does a really good job of keeping her head in the game, making adjustments and making strong finishes. Sure, she has some bad games and some bad hits, but so far this year she has done a good job of not letting that affect her."
FYI: Carries 186 average for the Duchesses. ... Finished second in the NIB-12 tournament on Monday. ... Also plays softball at Dixon