By Sam Scinta
LAS VEGAS – Hundreds of the world’s best youth bowlers descended on Sin City last week to compete over the right to be called a Teen Master.
Teen Masters, an annual tournament designed for the nation’s elite high school bowlers, was hosted at South Point Bowling Plaza.
Fresh off of a strong showing at the National Championships at St. Clair Bowl two weeks ago, four of O’Fallon Township High School’s top bowlers made the trek over the mountains and across the desert to roll in the premier youth singles bowling tournament in the country.
Natalie Heltne put in a strong first six games, rolling an 1154 series to place 15th after the first session. Heltne was the second ranked bowler from Illinois, behind Mabel Cummins of Elburn, who was in the top spot after the first six games.
Lauren Tomaszewski tied for 40th with a 1068 series, but moved up to 17th after the second session, while Heltne fell just outside the cut-line at 24th. Tomaszewski rose to 12th with a 1218 third-series set, while Heltne rose to 22nd with a 1088.
Tomaszewski’s climb from below the cut to the top-15 was nothing short of remarkable, shaking off early struggles to again land among the ranks of the best female youth bowlers in America.
In the final qualifying round, Tomaszewski climbed one more spot to 11th, while Heltne fell painfully short of making the cut, one spot out by just nine pins.
Tomaszewski went 0-6-0 in the first round of match play, but improved that mark to 4-8-0 in the next six games. The record shifted to 5-11-1 after the next set, which saw Tomaszewski move to 13th place, but finished in 14th after the placement round one game later.
On the Boys side, Mark Hoerner was in 69th place after the first six games with an 1134 set, while teammate Donny Richards placed 107th with a 1084 series.
Hoerner rose to 53rd place in the second set, just eleven spots outside the cut line, while Richards jumped to 94th. In the third qualifying round, Hoerner would slip to 56th as Richards also fell a little bit, down to 98th.
Neither bowler made the cut to compete further, finishing in their final position.
The tournament served as a great cap to the 2017-18 bowling season for the four involved, as Tomaszewski and Heltne will use the lessons learned to improve for the Lady Panthers in 2018-19, while Richards and Hoerner will look back at the memories made in Vegas as a great cap to great high school careers.