Melissa Sherwin's record day helps Middle Country win title

Middle Country's Melissa Sherwin bowls against Longwood in

Middle Country's Melissa Sherwin bowls against Longwood in the Suffolk League I girls bowling match. (Jan. 17, 2013) (Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

SYRACUSE -- Incredible. Unbelievable. Perfect.

Words used by teammates, some teary-eyed, to describe Melissa Sherwin's triumph. But none better summed it up than her own: "Fairytale."

Sherwin capped a dream season Saturday, leading Middle Country to its first state bowling title and shattering tournament records in the process at Strike N' Spare Lanes.

"I set big goals this year, for the team and myself, and I wanted to go out with a bang," Sherwin said. An impending foot surgery threatens to make this her last competitive match. "Winning this means everything to me," she said, "and I feel unstoppable right now."

If that was the finale for the Newfield senior, a more ideal ending couldn't have been penned: an audience in awe, medals adorned, and her teammates hoisting a plaque.

With her lefthanded slingshot delivery, Sherwin rolled a 1,489 for the highest six-game series in state tournament history, surpassing even the boys' mark.

Middle Country faltered in the final game, but Sherwin's 277 made that moot. The team dropped 6,053 pins to edge Hilton (5,967) and earn gold, three years after finishing as runner-up in this tournament. Sewanhaka District took fourth with a 5,671.

Sherwin's 798 second-half series? Also a tournament record.

"We came up a little short here last time," junior Kelly Skalacki said, referring to 2010, "so to come back and win it all is awesome."

Middle Country pulled itself from second place into first with a 1,042 in Game 2 and maintained the lead throughout, withstanding Hilton's late charge.

Skalacki, dealing with a sore hip that cut short her practice Friday, bowled a 1,305 series, and her 279 in Game 2 tied Sherwin's for the tournament high. Amanda Tyrrell shot a 1,262, including a 268 game, and Brooke Kelsey had a 1,057.

Sewanhaka District, making its second consecutive appearance in the state tournament, took fourth. Rebecca Gotterbarn, whose 223.5 average set the Long Island girls record this season, rolled a 1,267 series to lead the Indians. Kristina Genova had a 1,159, Morgan Roth (1,134) and Daniele Roca (1,133).

"Our girls bowled well," said Indians coach Jay Hegi, whose team loses only one senior. "I'm really optimistic about our future because we're young. Next year should be ours."

But the day belonged to Sherwin.

"As an athlete, I can't imagine anyone doing more than Melissa," Middle Country coach Mandy Dominguez said. "She's shown all year what she's made of and how talented she is."

Sherwin rolled a 300 game in January and set the Suffolk girls record with a 223.2 average this season. Her performance Saturday broke the tournament high series mark of 1,473, set by Webster High School's Jeff Dank in 1999.

Now consider this: Sherwin has a club left foot, a birth deformity, which forces her to walk on her toes and bowl with a prosthetic attachment. She will have a ninth corrective surgery in July, she said, and this procedure will involve a complete sever of the Achilles tendon.

"With everything she's been through, to have a season like this is breathtaking," said Tyrrell, Sherwin's best friend. "I'm amazed at her mental strength."

Some more words: "I refuse to sink" -- tattooed just below Sherwin's neck. "Words I live by," she said. "I don't care if it takes years after the surgery, I won't stop trying to bowl again."

But for now, she is a champion, name etched into the record books, after a season made for the storybook.

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