Boys bowling hungry for more after regional championship, state final appearance


Lane’s 2021-22 Boys Bowling team, who went on to make it to the first day of state finals. (Photo courtesy of Arielle Gearring)

By Alex Burstein, Editor-in-Chief

Lane’s first team appearance in a state final this school year came from the boys bowling team –- yet the team is far from happy with their performance.

I feel like it was overwhelming for the kids that had never been there before,” said Head Coach Justin Perez. “I feel like that was kind of the thing that hurt us the most — the fact that we didn’t have that experience. And the team had put a lot of pressure on themselves.” Lane last qualified for state as a team in 2008-09, though senior Daniel Esguerra went as an individual last year.

Perez, in his first season as head coach of the boys bowling program at Lane, is no stranger to Chicago Public League bowling. He bowled at Jones College Prep and took Whitney Young to state four years in a row coaching with his dad. 

So perhaps there are few people who know how CPS has struggled in state play as much as Perez does.

I knew it would be easy if I went to a suburban school or a private school,” Perez said. “They’d give me everything that I need, but I know that it would mean a lot more if I won with a CPS school than I did with any other school.”

Winning with a CPS school is, simply put, difficult. Only one school, Morgan Park, has made it to the second day of the state tournament (which they’ve done twice, according to Perez). Morgan Park owns the record for the highest place for a CPS boys bowling team in state –- ninth.

Now, Perez is on a quest to change that and add Lane’s name to the history books.

This season offered the first step for the Lane bowling program. A dominant run to the state finals included a regional championship, before the momentum fell short at state. A team score of 5,368 put Lane in 23rd out of 24 teams, and didn’t qualify them for the second day.

Their scores from regionals and sectionals, according to Perez, would have put them as high as sixth place at state if they bowled that way at state.

The state finals weren’t the only final Lane fell short in in 2022. After a first place finish in the city qualifier, Lane finished second at the city championship to Morgan Park, leaving another place of improvement for the 2022-23 season.

“As far as city goes, it was disappointing that we made it into second, but to be fair, I felt like there was no reason why we couldn’t win that tournament,” Perez said. “Just the way that they kind of do these tournaments. I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t agree with their format.”

Perez disagrees with the tournament only being three games instead of six and said that the home-alley advantage for Morgan Park created an unfair playing field.

“Even if they give us six games at that house, I feel like we would have taken that no matter what,” Perez said. “But I also feel more confident in my kids’ abilities that if we went to a house that was just kind of neutral that the other team didn’t know, Morgan Park didn’t know, that we didn’t know, that we would have come out on top too.”

Regardless of location, Lane will look to get back their city title, which they won last year. But, they will have to do so without some of their top talent. 

Lane’s top two bowlers, Esguerra, who led the team in scoring at the state finals, and Kameron Hoffman, will both graduate this year.

“Both [are] seniors, you know you kind of expect that professionalism from both of them just because they’ve been bowling for four years,” Perez said.

While some of the top talent will exit the program, six of Lane’s eight members sent to state will return next year (juniors Matthew Gomez, Robert Skrentny and Jake Couper, sophomore Cristian Rosario and freshmen Brian Ray and Carlie Anselback).

Skrentny, who started bowling this year, and Gomez especially impressed Perez this season.

Those two and the rest of the returners will help Lane towards its first goal of making it to day two of state, but there is one clear final goal in the eyes of Perez.

I definitely want to be the first CPS school to win state,” he said.