Girls bowling on a big roll around Long Island

Sewanhaka's Rebecca Gotterbarn, during the boys and girls Sewanhaka's Rebecca Gotterbarn, during the boys and girls bowling championships held at Garden City Lanes. (Feb. 12, 2011) Photo Credit: Richard Slattery

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Once upon a time, "218.4" was golden in Long Island girls bowling. That was the record; a mark set by East Islip's Ali Martin that had some wondering how long it would be before it was matched.

"I was hoping it would last a little longer," Martin said with a laugh on Friday. "I barely had time to enjoy it."

She set the record in 2009 as a senior, and it has been surpassed six times in the last year. Jessica Calandra of Patchogue-Medford and Sewanhaka District's Rebecca Gotterbarn both broke it last season and, this year, Gotterbarn, Melissa Sherwin and Kelly Skalacki of Middle Country, and Plainedge's Meghan Wing have topped it.

"Records are meant to be broken, but I've noticed girls are taking bowling more seriously now," Martin said. "You're seeing more girls present at tournaments, bowling outside of school, thinking about opportunities to compete in college."

Martin was one of four girls with an average over 200 in the 2008-09 season. This year, 11 girls did it. And last season, the East Islip girls' 1,044.9 average was better than any team -- boys included -- on Long Island.

"The equipment has gotten better, but with these particular girls, the elite ones, they're good because they live and breathe bowling," Middle Country coach Mandy Dominguez said. He has coached for 25 years. "These girls really want to beat each other. It's gotten extremely competitive."

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MELISSA SHERWINMiddle Country, Sr.There is a chance Melissa Sherwin will never bowl again after this season.

The Newfield senior, who competes for Middle Country, has a club left foot -- a birth deformity that causes her to walk on her toes and bowl with a prosthetic attachment.

Sherwin already has had eight surgeries, she said, but two more are scheduled for this spring at the conclusion of the bowling season. The corrective procedure, she said, will involve a complete sever of the Achilles tendon, which at the very least, will put school on hold.

"If that doesn't work, they'll have to put bolts in my foot," Sherwin said.

So, one can easily understand the glee and pride that Sherwin expressed after her 246 in Game 3 on Thursday, which pushed her average to 223.2 -- surpassing the Suffolk record of 222.4, set last year by Calandra.

"It means a lot to me," said Sherwin, who had a 201 last season. "I try to be a role model for anyone with a disability. When I bowl well, it shows people that doubt me that it's not going to stop me."

Sherwin, a member of the varsity since seventh grade, has excelled despite the pain. Amanda Tyrell, her teammate and best friend, described her as "the strongest person I've ever met."

She has twice led Suffolk in average and was on the 2009-10 county championship team.

"She'll never complain or use it as an excuse," Dominguez said. "She's absolutely remarkable."REBECCA GOTTERBARNSewanhaka District, Jr.Sewanhaka District had just capped another perfect regular season with a 3-0 victory Wednesday at Sheridan Lanes, and Rebecca Gotterbarn's 702 series ensured her season average would be enough to break her own Nassau girls record.

And she was seething.

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"If I had gotten that first strike on the 10th frame . . . " the Carey junior said. Her 223.5 average, boosted by two 300 games this season, surpassed the 221.6 she set last year and is the new Long Island record. "I'm proud of it, but I know I could've done better."

The primary goal, she said, is to defend Sewanhaka District's county title, but there is also an insatiable quest for perfection.

A consistent delivery and powerful shot is what makes her good, Indians coach Jay Hegi said, but it's Gotterbarn's competitiveness that sets her apart.

"Every athlete wants to be the best at what they do," said Gotterbarn, who also is a standout in field hockey and softball, and a member of the national honor society. "That's what drives me."

BRIANNA MEYERLongwood, Sr.As a 10-year-old, before bowling became her passion, Brianna Meyer dominated on the diamond as a power-hitting first baseman . . . for the Longwood Youth Sports Association baseball team.

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"I grew up playing baseball with my brother and my cousins, who were all boys," Meyer said, "so it was natural to me."

It's natural now, that the Longwood senior can hold her own against boys as a bowler. She finished the regular season with a 212.4 average, fourth among Suffolk girls and good enough to qualify for the boys' top 20.

Meyer is a member of two leagues outside of her school team and bowls seven days a week. She helped lead the Suffolk sectional team to gold in the state all-star tournament, and earlier this month she paired with teammate Kylie Spillett to win the Suffolk doubles championship.

With a smooth delivery and precise shot, Meyer has posted averages better than 200 in each of the last three seasons and made Longwood a title contender.

"I'm sure people say 'boys are better bowlers and girls can never compete,' " she said. "But we're proving that's not the reality."

KELLY SKALACKIMiddle Country, Jr.Kelly Skalacki got a trip to Florida for her 16th birthday last summer.

It's not quite what you're thinking. The trip was to Kegel Bowling Training Center for a week of specialized coaching. It's what she wanted.

There, the Newfield junior was taught "new everything," she said. Skalacki, an All-Long Islander, willingly altered her timing, form and delivery because the 204 average she posted last season, "was too low."

"It took about a month to get used to," Skalacki said, "but I noticed [results] right away in my accuracy with spares and the scores went up."

Her average jumped to 222.6 and, on Jan. 10, she bowled her first 300 in match play. The 802 series she rolled on Dec. 11 -- which included a 299 -- still is the best mark in Suffolk this year, among boys and girls.

MEGHAN WINGPlainedge, Sr.Meghan Wing already had entrenched herself among the elite in girls bowling, but still the Plainedge senior hired a new private coach and came up with a new delivery.

This was last month, in the midst of her best season.

"There were issues with my timing and I had to fix my steps and my arm swing to make it smoother," Wing explained.

She was a two-time All-Long Islander and that "flawed" motion had her bowling a 216 average. If it ain't broke . . . fix it anyway.

The risky decision paid off and Wing upped her average to 219, third best on Long Island this season, and she went on to roll four 700 series.

LENA SORRENTINOEast Islip, Sr.Lena Sorrentino's bowling career is far from complete, but the East Islip senior allowed herself a moment to reflect recently.

"I was thinking about how I started in seventh grade and where I am now," Sorrentino said. "I never thought I would get this far with it."

Crammed into a loaded resume is a 2008 state championship, top three finishes in the state tournament the last two years, a 300 game in 2009 and four All-Long Island selections.

Girls bowling, too, has come a long way since. When Sorrentino made East Islip's varsity in the 2008-09 season, only three girls had better than 200 averages. The 212.6 she posted this year was her fourth consecutive.

"I used to play soccer and dance," Sorrentino said, "but I just fell in love with it and bowling became my life."

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