Savannah Strange was a junior at Morris Community High School and on the girls bowling team when one of her uncles died in December 2012.
“He wasn’t a bowler, but he was a fan of me,” Strange said. “Before he passed away, I told him I was going to bowl a 300 for him. I actually got up at his funeral and gave a speech, and I said I would get a 300 for him before I leave. I dedicated it to him.”
Thursday evening, Strange delivered on her promise. She was perfect for the first time in her life in her third game of the Redskins’ dual at T-Byrd Lanes in Rochelle.
Strange says it is the first time she has come really close to a 300.
“I’ve had a lot of runs where I’ve had nothing but strikes until the sixth or seventh ball, and I’ve choked every time,” she said, “and every time I would cry, because I’ve worked so hard and practiced every day, six games a day. I knew I had it coming, that I deserved it.”
Before Thursday’s match, Strange told her mom that she was going to take a carefree approach. Whatever happened, she would worry about having fun instead of beating herself up over every missed opportunity.
As the strikes started piling up in the third game, Strange had trouble sticking with that plan. Jessica Winter, her teammate and friend, tried to make Strange laugh and keep the mood light. But even normal interactions between throws became difficult.
“When I go into my approach, I always pause before coming forward,” Strange said. “When [Morris coach] Harry [Banks] tried telling me to pause, I was like, ‘Don’t say anything to me.’ I was telling everyone that I don’t care if I get a 300 or not, but by then, my heart was racing.”
Banks said he was not really aware that Strange was still perfect until around the eighth or ninth frame. After that, he started watching her closely.
“You could see her start to get nervous as we got to that 10th frame,” Banks said, “but she handled it very well. Those last three balls were all really good balls.”
As much as Strange wanted to, she was unable to ignore the gravity of the moment.
“I told my mom, ‘I don’t care if I do it or not,’ but I think I was saying those things to try and trick myself into thinking that,” Strange said. “When I threw the last ball, I was really shaky in my leg, but I was confident in my shot.”
Then Strange – and everyone else in the alley – watched as all 10 pins fell for the final time.
“All the JV girls came right up and hugged me and congratulated me,” Strange said. “Then the parents started coming up. Everyone was really excited. It got to be a big crowd around me and it was so overwhelming. I was just standing there, like shaking, not knowing what to say.”
Only once, Strange said, did a ball initially look like it would not produce a strike.
“I think it was the eighth frame, the ball was in the oil,” Strange said, “and when a ball is in the oil, it tends to skid down the lane, and that’s when you can end up leaving the 10 pin or something even if it’s a good ball. But Harry told me that’s a good ball. You’d rather have it in the oil than not throw the ball you want.”
On Friday, Strange said she might “need a few days” to fully believe that she is truly a member of the 300 club.
“I’m in shock. I’m really in shock,” Strange said. “I’ve asked myself all day if it was a dream. The first thing I asked my mom today was, ‘Did I really just shoot a 300?’ It’s so hard to believe I actually did it. I would have thought I’d leave a 10-pin somewhere.”