What a difference a year makes for Moline's Jessica Howell, and it was because of the help of a special friend.
Howell, the 2012-2013Girls' Bowler of the Year for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus, already was labeled as a high school bowler on the rise. After her performance in her sophomore campaign, she is becoming one of the best in the state.
"I really need to thank Don Johnson for my success," Howell said. "Mostly every day of the summer, I camein and worked with him, on spares and anything he told me. He wouldn't stop pushing me, and helping me every day. Any questions I had, he answered. He has become close to familyfor me.
"He understands me, because he's a lefty and he knows I want to make bowling something in my life. He pushes me, and I could never thank him enough for what he has done for me. Without him, I wouldn't be where I am today."
At the State Finals during her freshman year, she finished 79th. After her work with the Moline assistant in the offseason, she ended her sophomore season in a competitive battlefor the No. 1 spot in the state. Howell rolled a 2,660 at the Rockford Cherry Bowl in the state finals. After fighting for first after the first day, Howell fell to third in the second day, just 67 pins back.
Howell picked up a remarkable 76 spots in the state in just a year. That cameafterdominating the Western Big 6 Conference tournament and the Moline Sectional, winning the individual titles in each.
How was your experience this time around at state? "It was a great experience. It was a great learning experience and I learned a lot of different oil conditions and how to become more consistent. All of the hard work paid off to get to state."
What was is it like to make a run for the No. 1 bowler in the state? "It was a great run and I felt really good sitting in second after day one. My second day was kind of harder with the lane conditions changing, but I managed to get third. I was proud of that."
What was your favorite moment? "The Dixon meet when our lane broke down. The whole bowling alley watched me pick up a 7 pin. I was very nervous. That was my favorite moment of the season, because everybody clapped and cheered when I got it."
Where or whatdo you want to improve on before your junior year? "My goal is to win state my junior and senior years. It's never been done before and I plan to do that. I also plan to make sure my accuracy is much more accurate, especially on 7 pins. If I would have picked three 7 pins, I would have won state. I want to be more accurate for my overall layout of bowling. It seems like a lot, but when I get down to it and slow down, I will achieve my goal."
What does it mean tobe the top bowler in the area this year? "It means a lot. I have a close competitor in Kayla Crawford. We're great friends and we push each other. That's what pushed me this year was to beat Kayla and achieve my goal. I'm so proud of my hard work, but I still have much to improve on."
Today is Sunday, March 9, the 68th day of 2014. There are 297 days left in the year. 1864 -- 150 years ago: Much damage is being done to sidewalks, shade trees, fences and gardens by hogs that are running at large about town. 1889 -- 125 years ago: H.C. Cleveland was elected air knight captain of Rock Island Division Uniform Rank Knights of Pythias. 1914 -- 100 years ago: B.W. Wilson, authority on birds and their habits, spoke at the weekly luncheon at the Rock Island Club. 1939 -- 75 years ago: The famous Dionne quintuplets have been invited to visit King George and Queen Elizabeth in Toronto on May 22, but Papa Dionne thinks their majesties should include the Callander nursery in their tour. 1964 -- 50 years ago: Ever been smothered by funny stuff? Well more than 2,600 people were last night when two boys named Tom and Dick Smothers took a "rocky, twisting road to folk music" in Davenport Masonic Temple. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Moline residents soon may be asked to recycle part of their garbage and might even get paid for it.