Heading into the 2011-12 girls bowling season, Minooka senior Courtney Johnston wanted to “go out with a bang.”
After finishing 22nd at the 2011 IHSA State Tournament, it’s certainly understandable why Johnston — a four-year varsity bowler for the Indians — would feel that way.
There’s little doubt that Johnston ended up accomplishing what she set out to do her senior season.
Johnston, who will bowl at Robert Morris University in Chicago next season, became the first Indian in coach Frank Yudzentis’ eight seasons to earn All-Conference honors in all four varsity seasons. Johnston also saved her best for last, taking seventh at this year’s state meet with 2,631 pins.
The senior was the top bowler on a Minooka team that ended up in second place, just 22 pins behind state champion Andrew.
Johnston, who finished the season with an average of 201, is the 2012 Morris Daily Herald Girls Bowler of the Year.
“Beginning of my senior year, I wanted to just go out with a bang, so to speak,” Johnston said. “And I did that, and our team did that, so it was a good feeling.”
When Johnston had her medals displayed around her neck, with the Indians hoisting the second-place trophy, she couldn’t help but feel happy with the way her season ended.
One thing that helped her get that individual state medal? Not paying attention to what she needed to score individually and concentrating on her game, something Johnston wasn’t doing at the outset of the tourney.
“For her to just keep her calm throughout that whole day Saturday is really a testament (to her ability),” Yudzentis said.
Considering how her senior season started, the fact that Johnston ended up finishing with some of the top bowlers in the state could be considered somewhat of a surprise.
Being used to serving as the team’s leadoff bowler, Yudzentis had Johnston in the anchor spot to start the year.
That was something that Johnston just couldn’t get used to doing. Yudzentis eventually put Johnston in her usual leadoff spot in time for the second invite of the season, and she got on a roll.
“When i was in the anchor spot, I would have a series in the 500s and that wasn’t me,” she said. “He put me back up in the starter spot and I started getting back to my 600s and close to the 700s. That made me feel like that’s where I need to be.
“I think being the leadoff bowler I motivate people to, where if I was to start off and throw a strike, it sets the tone for everyone else and it kind of makes you feel a little bit better.”
While Johnston certainly had to perform well if the Indians wanted to make a nice state run, Minooka had such a strong team that there was no reason for her to put too much pressure on herself.
The Indians ended up having three other bowlers finish in the top five at state — Alison Warwick, Danielle Musgrave and Allyson Lakota.
“She had really high expectations, not only for herself but for the team as well. I think maybe in the beginning she thought she needed to perform at an extremely high level,” Yudzentis said. “I don’t think she realized exactly how good the team was. I think through her troubles, when the team was successful. That will help you relax a little bit.”