Caroline Herrera gathered her equipment and huddled with relatives. By then, most of the crowd had dispersed and the cameras finally had stopped flashing when her fellow competitors approached.
Bailey Lubrano: "She's someone I've looked up to, so it was really an honor to go against her."
Geraldine Genovese: "I can honestly say she's the only person I don't mind losing to. That's how much respect I have for her."
Words from the second- and third-place finishers in yesterday's CHSAA girls individual bowling championship -- sentiments expressed to the most decorated competitor their league has seen.
Herrera, the St. John the Baptist star, capped her career by rolling a 570 series at Syosset Lanes to capture a third consecutive title.
"I feel excitement and some nerves, and I feel really sentimental," the senior said. "I can't believe the four years are over already."
Time flew as she was having fun, apparently. Herrera, in addition to dominating the individual tournaments, led the Cougars to two CHSAA championships and was named league MVP four times. The awards accumulated to the point, Herrera said, that she ran out of room for them on her walls.
"I never get tired of it," she said. "Every award has been a reminder of the work I put in or what my team has accomplished. And this last one has me reflecting on my career."
And to earn that last one, Herrera had to stave off Lubrano, a sophomore who on Tuesday helped St. Dominic edge SJB for the team title. The two went back and forth Thursday -- and Lubrano led after the first game -- but Herrera threw a 212 in Game 3 to pull away.
Lubrano took second with a 498 series and Genovese of Holy Trinity was third (483). St. Mary's Suzette Cha placed fourth with a 472. The champion can't also receive the high game award, according to tournament rules, so that honor went to Lubrano for her 188 in Game 1.
"I never thought I would get this far in bowling," said Lubrano, a softball outfielder who started bowling last year. "For me to take second, and have it come down to the last game with Caroline, was awesome."
Herrera began bowling as a toddler . . . sort of. She constantly would roll a plastic ball through the hallway of the family's Deer Park home, her mother said. Actual bowling began at age 5, following in the footsteps of her older brother, Alex. As a ninth-grader, she led St. John the Baptist to its first of two straight championships, beginning a reign that left even her rivals in awe.
"The reward as a coach is watching someone like Caroline develop and succeed, but now we'll have to replace her," SJB coach Mary Coon said. "You can't replace Caroline."