Longwood's Katelyn Wheeler has the eighth highest average at 208.444 in Suffolk...

Longwood's Katelyn Wheeler has the eighth highest average at 208.444 in Suffolk girls bowling. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

Cheers grew as the ball left Katelyn Wheeler’s hands and rolled down the lane. As the pins dropped, pure joy came and Wheeler's face lit up as the spectators at Coram Country Lanes exploded in celebration.

Wheeler was perfect. Her 12th and final roll of a 300 game was right down the middle and crushed the 10 pins.

The Longwood senior was the first in Suffolk girls bowling to roll a 300 since Julia Bocazama of East Islip in Dec., 2016. Wheeler’s 300 came in a matchup against Patchogue-Medford on Jan. 6.

"Honestly, it still doesn’t feel real to me," Wheeler said. "Every time I think about the last roll, I get happy and excited, I’m really proud of myself."

Wheeler came closest to this achievement in her sophomore year when she rolled a 288 game against Smithtown West. That was the second-best high game in Suffolk in the 2019-20 season.

"I was just very anxious that day," Wheeler said. "It was my 11th shot where I messed up, just pulled the ball a bit, because I was freaking out."

This time she felt that something special was occurring by the seventh frame. The same frame she always feels "nerves start to kick in" when she catches fire. By the final roll, she had confidence that she would secure perfection.

"I counted 3,2,1, in my head and threw what I would say was the most perfect shot I’ve ever thrown," Wheeler said. "You could barely hear it hit the ground and it went so smoothly over the second arrow and struck."

Teammates, parents, opponents, and even strangers at the alley all became one as they supported Wheeler’s attempt at history.

This was a far cry from a season ago in which spectators weren’t allowed, and teammates could only rely on each other for a little boost.

"It got very quiet, and everyone started crowding around me," Wheeler said. "There were random people that I didn’t even know, and it just felt like a once in a lifetime thing that you have to experience yourself, to have strangers cheering for you."

Emily Kulkarni of Sachem came closest to achieving a perfect game this season before Wheeler. She faltered on her final roll and ended up with a 297.

"I’ve never bowled 300 before, I was trying to play my game and I remember seeing Katelyn [Wheeler] out the corner of my eye cheering me on," Kulkarni said. "The nerves kind of got to me and I turned my hand a little as I was releasing the ball."

Kulkarni understands the difficulty in the achievement after having come so close. She was present when Wheeler had her perfect game, cheering her on as she rolled strike after strike.

"I always knew she could bowl a 300, we’ve been friends for a while and even when we go against each other I’m still cheering her on," Kulkarni said. "I was crying with her after it happened, I was so happy for her."

Wheeler has been a big part of the early season success that has Longwood at 8-1. She has the eighth-highest average in Suffolk (208.444) and the ninth best high series (706).

In the previous two seasons she had finished within the top 14 in average in Suffolk. The culmination of the hard work she has put in, arrived in the form of a 300 on the scoreboard.

"I never could’ve done it without my team supporting me," Wheeler said. "They’ve always pushed me to do my best."

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