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With strikes to spare, EGHS student earns state bowling medal

Published April 11, 2024

When Julia Korzen first tried bowling at a birthday party several years ago, she didn’t know that the game would be right up her alley.

Turns out that it is, so much so that the Elk Grove High School sophomore won this year’s IHSA Leyden regional and placed third in the state competition in the girls wheelchair division.

For Julia, tournament success is only one measure of the sport’s reward, matched equally by the challenge to improve, the team camaraderie, inclusion and just plain fun. 

She credits all her coaches – David Dompke, Tim Redel, Courtney Steltzriede – for encouraging her and helping her improve. “He helped me learn all the techniques I needed to know to get my score up and get me ready for state,” Julia said of Coach Redel.

Team bonding makes any athletic experience better, and Julia cherishes the time together, the laughs, the inside team jokes EGHS bowlers shared.  “They always supported me and treated me like my parents would,” Julia said of her teammates. “They are like my second family. Me and the other girls clicked so fast. They took care of me. I’ve made great friends.”

As for the opportunity to compete in the wheelchair division, Julia said, “It was so much fun being able to go and bowl with the other wheelchair girls. I felt comfortable knowing that I wasn't alone and that there are other girls like me.”

Julia’s gratitude extends to all who support her.  “I'd like to thank Mr. (Paul) Kelly (EGHS Principal), Ms. (Jacquelyn) Randall (Associate Principal for Activities and Operations) and Mr. (Kirk) Mcnider (Athletic Director) for helping organize this amazing opportunity. I'd also like to thank Mr. (Christopher) Melecio for helping me out, and I'd like to thank my mom for always supporting me and pushing me to do bowling.”

About the bowling: In six state-final games, Julia was only four pins short of a second-place finish as she rolled remarkably consistent series of 377 and 371, including a best game of 158. Earlier in the season, she scored a 180. 

Julia’s steady improvement was no surprise to Coach Redel, who lauded her attitude and work ethic. “Julia joined the bowling team for the first time this season. She quickly proved herself to be a force on the lanes, and earned her spot on the varsity team,” he said. “Julia’s average constantly improved all year. Her attitude and desire to improve were outstanding all year long, even on her off nights on the lanes, she always had a positive attitude.  She represented herself, the team and Elk Grove with pride all the way to the state level.”

In addition to bowling, Julia participates in Sideline Cheer and Polish Club. “What I like about cheer are the football games and being able to cheer with the other girls. I also like the team bonding,” Julia said. “What I like about Polish Club is helping plan events and brainstorming future ideas and talking about my culture and being able to speak in Polish and embrace my language.”

Julia’s favorite classes include Multimedia and Life and Career Planning, a vocational class in which students learn work skills. She is an employee of the school business EG Creates, which creates products for EGHS staff. After graduation, Julia plans to attend Harper College and major in Multimedia.

Until then, though, there’s time and room to sharpen her bowling skills even further. “In the upcoming two seasons,” she said, “I'd like to learn more new techniques to better my score and try to learn how  to bowl without the ramp and be more independent overall.”

That, Redel said, will serve as a great example for her teammates. “ I look forward to seeing how much she grows in her game and leadership in the next couple of years” he said. “Helping show her teammates what it takes to be a state placing bowler!”