Brady Shank wasn’t very optimistic about his scoring chances when the Hubs varsity bowling team traveled to Huntley last winter for a nonconference showdown with the Red Raiders. But after turning in the best performance of his high school career, Shank realized that he belonged on the lanes.
The conditions at Bowl-Hi Lanes were more difficult than the typical house pattern Shank rolls on at Rochelle’s T-Byrd Lanes. With less oil to work with, Shank admitted he had doubts about how he would play against the Red Raiders. But those fears were quickly cast aside after the right-hander threw a personal-best 708 series that included his highest individual game to date of 279.
“It wasn’t too bad,” Shank said. “My expectations were low that night, but it felt pretty sweet to excel. It felt unreal at first because the 279 was my last game. I struck the first frame, spared the second and struck the rest of the game. When you’re getting to the end and you keep striking, the pressure gets to you, but when you beat the pressure it feels awesome.”
Entering his third year on the varsity bowling team, Shank has become a core member of the Rochelle boys program. The Hubs battled both Sycamore and LaSalle-Peru this past week to open the 2017-18 season, and while Shank hasn’t started as strong as he hoped, he’s still second on his team with a 187.33 average through six games including three games over 200.
“It’s not the start I wanted, but it’ll come back to me,” Shank said. “Bowling is definitely my favorite sport… My goals are to make sectionals and to have a 200 average by the end of the year… I just need to practice, not just with the team, but at night on my own time. We know what to expect with the added experience and we know how to meet expectations.”
Shank is one of three juniors who will carry the load for Rochelle this winter. Tyler Johnson is currently averaging a team-high 213.17, while Dallas Driver ranks third on the Hubs with an average of 173.17. Rochelle finished last in the Northern Illinois Big 12 in 2016 without a single individual advancing beyond regionals, but Shank and his teammates are ready to take their game up to the next level.
“I think we have a lot more potential,” Shank said. “With Mark [Bratko] being a senior and us three being upperclassmen… Hopefully we’re going to win a lot more matches. I think we have more talent and I think we have a better foundation. We need to work as a team and we all have to do our part.”
Despite playing three total sports (golf in the fall and baseball in the spring), it’s no surprise that Shank has enjoyed bowling so much. He began playing the sport 10 years ago, and both his older brother Ben and his father John are avid bowlers. Ben competed for Rochelle prior to Brady entering high school, and John participates in league action at T-Byrd Lanes every week.
“I learned a lot from them,” Shank said. “I go to my dad’s bowling league every Thursday, and just watching them bowl, you learn a lot. I went to all of my brother’s meets and tournaments, and seeing him excel in high school taught me the mannerisms of bowling. I caught on a lot from watching him bowl.”
Bowling may not be as much of a team sport as baseball, but Shank said the individual aspect of bowling is one of his favorite things about the game. And even though he said it took him some time to really get interested in bowling, he said bowling trumps both golf and baseball as his favorite sport to play.
“It just grew on me,” Shank said. “It’s on myself if I play well, and it’s on myself if I don’t play well… I want to focus more on bowling. I think I have a chance to reach a higher level.”