Central Islip bowler Stephen Russell.

Central Islip bowler Stephen Russell. Credit: Joan Grimes

It was an early wake up call for Central Islip’s Stephen Russell and the Suffolk boys bowling all-star team last Saturday at the state championship in Syracuse.

The doors at AMF Strike ‘N Spare Lanes opened at 7:30 a.m., and when the competition began at 8 a.m., Russell was ready to roll.

"I’m used to running on minimal sleep, so it didn’t really affect me too much," Russell said. "I went to bed around 12:30 in the morning and woke up around 5:15."

The senior bowled a 261 in Game 1 and had games of 247, 244, 238, 237 and 200 in a 1,427 six-game series. The series was the second-best of the 66 competitors, and guided the Suffolk boys to a second-place finish at the state tournament. These accomplishments earned Russell Newsday Athlete of the Week honors.

"From the first two shots in practice, I realized that a change was needed," Russell said. "I ended up going to my other ball for the six games and it matched up with the lanes and the pattern really well. Once I knew I had the right ball, it was all muscle memory and repetition."

Russell has been a member of the Central Islip since seventh grade and made the Suffolk state all-star squad on three different occasions.

His first state championship appearance came as a freshman during the 2018-19 season. He qualified for the state tournament during the 2020-21 season but was unable to compete because the pandemic canceled the championship.

"I had no idea if I was going to do well or not going upstate my freshman year. Of course, I had the drive to win, my confidence and nerves just won the battle," Russell said. "I ended up finishing with a 180 average for six games."

Russell averaged 238 in this year’s state tournament, a 58-pin increase from four years ago.

"I knew what to expect this year. The nerves were still there, but I just let my bowling and my previous experience do the work," Russell said. "All around, it was truly a surreal experience."

Now that Russell has thrown his last shot as a high school bowler, the question becomes, what’s next?

"I was considering bowling for Suffolk [County Community College], but I’m still on the fence. I might just work for now until I know what I want to pursue for my career," Russell said. "In the near future, I will definitely bowl local adult tournaments and leagues. Bowling has always been a part of my life since I was little, and I’m never thinking about stopping."

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