Raivyn Summers admitted she got a little emotional at the end of the Buffalo Grove Sectional bowling tournament Saturday.
Eventually she cried the tears of a winner.
The Evanston senior became the first female bowler in program history to qualify for the Illinois High School Association state tournament Saturday, finishing sixth overall to keep her season alive for another week.
Summers advanced to the state finals set to start this Friday at Cherry Lanes in Rockford. She claimed an at-large qualifying berth at the sectional, including high games of 215, 212 and 203 on her way to a six-game series of 1159.
Sophomore teammates Kaleigh Burgess (970) and Lilian Pavlevec (940) missed the cut but gained valuable experience while watching Summers, the niece of head coach Ray Austin, make some history.
Vernon Hills (5381), New Trier (5334), Libertyville (5277) and Hersey (5200) set the team qualifying pace, while Niles North’s Kaiilina Lainez was crowned the individual champion with a 1294 series.
Summers’ path to the Illinois High School Association tourney was at times a hard one. A four-year varsity starter, she had difficulty dealing with at-home schooling via video last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and also lost the focus she had for a game she’s loved since she started visiting bowling alleys and playing in leagues when she was just eight years old.
The culmination of that struggle came after she rolled her last frame Saturday.
“Saturday was a very emotional day for me,” Summers said. “After I finished the last game I was just so overwhelmed I started crying. The whole day was nerve-wracking. One of my friends saw me crying and thought I could use some good news, so she gave me a hug and gave me the news that I qualified.
“Then I cried even more.”
“Raivyn mentioned to me in the summer that she wanted to get to state this year,” said Austin. “I told her, ‘You’ve got the talent, now you have to put the work in.’ Once I could see the focus she had on her face, we saw her go from a thrower to a bowler again.
“COVID took the wind out of her last year and she missed about half the season. I know she wanted to get back to where she was. She just had to do the work and do the work. It just seemed like she flipped a switch, and it was important to see that kind of focus in her.
“She didn’t have a good last game Saturday  but I told her it was OK. She poured her heart out to make it. This is huge for her, and huge for the program. I got a little emotional myself on Saturday.”
“Bowling is such a mental game, but it’s something I knew I could be amazing at if I pushed myself,” Summers said. “I did bring it this year – I went as hard as I could – and I put a lot of expectations on myself because it’s my senior year. I definitely feel like I met those expectations and I’m proud of myself.”
The ETHS standout couldn’t make that claim at the end of last year. The IHSA was forced to change the competition calendars for the varsity sports she plays – moving volleyball to the winter and bowling to the spring, with no postseason goals to shoot for – and her academic work suffered too.
“I went through a lot last year,” she said. “All that online learning was tough and I needed a break to restart and get back to where I was. I did bowl the last couple of games, and I knew what the consequences would be and that I needed to push myself to make up for lost time. I’ve always been very hard on myself, but now I think I’ve learned how to manage it. I don’t let what happens in one or two bad games bring me down.
“Next week [at state] my goal is to make it to the second day [of individual qualifying]. I’m very excited, and I’m hoping and praying I do well enough to do that.”
Austin added, “I think if Raivyn stays focused, she has the opportunity to place at state. It’s all in her hands. I know she’ll feel a little pressure as the first one from Evanston to get there, but she’ll soak it all in and then get back to business.”