Lani Breedlove went nearly four months without bowling practice this year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Missed practice didn't prevent her from bowling perfection.
Breedlove, an Oswego High School sophomore, bowled her first-ever perfect 300 game on Aug. 29 in the Illinois State Scholarship Tour at Town and Country Lanes in Joliet. Breedlove finished second at the tournament after working her way through double elimination match play.
Breedlove's previous high game was 268.
"This stacks up pretty high on my accomplishments," said Breedlove, who last school year led Oswego to the state tournament as a freshman. "I have had many successes and many failures, but a bowler's first 300 is always super special."
Breedlove is quite familiar with the lanes at Town and Country. It was ironic, though, that she shot her first 300 game there.
"I have never bowled well at this house," Breedlove said.
Breedlove began bowling at around age 6 or 7, following a family tradition in the sport, and started bowling competitively in the fifth grade to bowl for scholarship money for tournaments. Before freshman season at Oswego she practiced four days a week, not including tournaments.
That surely made this year difficult.
Illinois bowling alleys were completely shut down for close to four months at the start of the pandemic. Breedlove had no way to practice, so she adapted.
"I just did my drills every day to keep my game fresh," Breedlove said. "That way when I returned I would not be in too bad of shape."
Eventually, bowling alleys in Wisconsin reopened in early June. Breedlove and her dad traveled there on weekends to practice. On a few occasions Breedlove brought teammates from high school season. A month later, in early July, Illinois lanes reopened.
Breedlove was eager and ready to go on the first day.
"After not being able to consistently practice in so long, it was difficult, frustrating and humbling," Breedlove said, "because I was not where I wanted to be. I lost a lot but it only helped me to come back so much stronger. I put in a couple months of really hard work to try and get myself back to where I was pre-pandemic.
Indeed, Breedlove qualified for the fifth consecutive time for the Junior Gold Championships which will be held next summer. She has bowled in several tournaments the last couple months and made scholarship money at four of the six events she bowled in recently.
"I am still and always will be working toward the best version of myself. And that is a lifelong process," Breedlove said. "Has the adjustment this year been difficult? Absolutely, but I never let that stop me."