By Bob Balgemann


Harlem High School bowler Olivia Watton defeated teammate Jocelynn Eggert to win the girls singles national championship.

Harlem’s girls bowling teams have achieved numerous milestones over the years at the state and national levels. 

This year the Lady Huskies put an exclamation in the record book at national competition in Dayton, Ohio when two of its bowlers finished 1-2 in the individual finals. There, Olivia Watton defeated teammate Jocelynn Eggert to win the championship. 

Team-wise, Harlem finished third with rival Hononegah in fourth. 

In boys competition, Harlem’s Eric Roberts was third, individually, with the team taking fourth. 

There was some drama involving two Harlem competitors in the various competitive singles rounds. Scores for Eggert and another Harlem teammate, Paige Carpenter, had been within a few pins of each other along the way. Eggert managed to maintain a slight lead after Round No. 3, 1,458 to 1,409. But in Round 4, Carpenter shot a 233  to 181 for Eggert and she moved into into fifth place overall, nudging past the Lady Huskie, 1,642 to 1,639. 

There were eight individuals left at that point.

And then the decisive Round 5 saw Eggert shoot 251 to 208 for Carpenter and knock the incoming Harlem senior out of a berth in the Final 4. In that Final 4 were Watton, who had led the singles competition since the beginning, with a total of 1,947 pins. Eggert, the eventual runner-up, was close behind, at 1890, with Stephanie Zagar of Kenosha (WI) Bradford High School in third, at 1,880, and Maia Struble of Diamond High School in Alaska, in fourth with 1,865 pins. 

Watton eventually rolled a 269 to 197 for Eggert to take it all. 

It was Watton in first place at the national tournament from start to finish. 

She set the stage for what was to come in the qualifying round, shooting a 921 series based on single games of 235, 245, 228 and 213. That’s an average of 230.25 per game. 

In that opening round, 79 of the 159 entries would advance to Round 2. Harlem was well represented among those qualifiers with Eggert in fifth, having shot an 834 series; Stephanie Windsor in sixth, with an 826; Carpenter in 14th, with a 765; college-bound Madison Workman in 15th, with a 764; Joana Araojo, in 30th, with a 731; Karlie Richards, in 41st with a 712; and Hailee Kerr, in 63rd with a 672.

Hononegah had five move along with Cassidy Davenport in 16th place; Madison Davenport, 26th; Abby Topham and Kyley Olson, tied for 47th; and Emily Riley, 73rd. 

The number of Lady Huskies and Lady Indians dwindled over the ensuing rounds, including the dramatic Carpenter-Eggert vying for position and finishing with Watton-Eggert in the finals.

After the qualifying round, and as the tournament progressed, Watton shot 198, 238, 217, 205 and 168, totaling 1,947 pins, an average of 216 per game. Eggert followed her opening 834 with single games of 214, 207, 181 and closed with a excellent 251. That totals 1,890, an average of 210 per outing. 

Eggert actually was in sixth place going into Round 5. Her 251 allowed her to pass four other bowlers, including Stephanie Zagar of Kenosha (Wis.) Bradford High School, who was in second at the time. Zagar rolled a 212 in Round 5, to finish two pins behind Eggert, 1890-1888. 

Carpenter wound up in the Elite 8, in seventh place. She had a 765 series in the opening round, then followed with single games of 177, 202, 265, 233 and 208. The 265 allowed her to jump up from 14th place to sixth after Round No. 3.  

Boys results

Roberts qualified seventh in a field of 130, who were gleaned from 213 initial entries. He averaged 226 with a 907 series built on games of 222, 193, 270 and 223. Next he dropped to 12th place with a 201 single game; moved up to ninth with a 224; then made a well timed spot improvement, to third, by rolling a 248. After Round 4, he was still in third, carrying a 222.875 average. He would up there, defeating Anthony Conty of Centerville, Ohio, 218 to 175.  

Harlem’s Jamarrion “Jerry” Simmons qualified in 19th, rose to fifth on the strength of consecutive single games of 256 and 247, but missed a berth in the Elite 8 when he shot 156 in Round 4.  He wound up in 13th place. 

Charlie Hunt missed Elite 8 status by two pins; another Hononegah bowler, Cameron Tyler, was four pins out of eighth place. 

Team-wise, Harlem finished fourth after losing to the War Eagles Bowling Club out of Astronaut High School in Titusville, FL. They tied their Round 4 meeting, 507-507, but the War Eagles won a 10th-frame rolloff, 27-20. Centerville won the team championship by defeating Hononegah, 658-613. 

Harlem remains a presence on national bowling scene 

For the fourth year in the last five, Harlem’s girls and boys bowling teams have been a familiar name on the leaderboard at the U.S. National Bowling Championship scene. 

After missing 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 nationals were held in Dayton, Ohio, where Harlem’s Olivia Watton won the singles championship, defeating her regular-season teammate, Jocelynn Eggert, in the finals, 269 to 197. Team-wise, the Lady Huskies finished third with Hononegah in fourth. 

Previously, Harlem won the team title for three consecutive years, in 2017, 2018 and 2019, all under head coach James Heathscott, who also was at the helm this summer. 

Individually, Becca Hagerman was fifth in 2019 while Kayla Verstraete came in sixth and Angel Grinnall, seventh. 

Verstraete was the national champion in 2018; Hagerman was fourth. And in 2017, Stephanie Richards took fourth, with Hagerman in sixth. 

In boys national competition this year Harlem’s Eric Roberts finished third, defeating Anthony Conty of Centerville, Ohio, 218 to 175. Team-wise, the Huskies finished third with Hononegah in fourth. Nick Whitmire once again was the head coach, this year being joined as an assistant by Harlem graduate Jake Nimtz, who in 2017 finished third in the nationals. Nimtz graduated this year from McKendree University in Lebanon, IL., where he was a regular on the bowling team for four years.   

Earlier, in 2019, the Huskies’ Noah Mandujano was the national champion, while the team came in third. In 2018, Nick Howard finished seventh. And in 2017, Kyler Gerl and Mandujano were on the leader board with Nimtz, taking sixth and eighth respectively. 

Team-wise, Harlem was third in 2019 and second in 2017. 

Also, Hagerman holds two Illinois high school bowling records, for average, with a 230.88 she accomplished in 2017-18, and for three-game series, with an 847, in the same year.  

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