Palumbo short of perfect game at state

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Palumbo short of perfect game at state
A huge crowd gathers around Michaela Palumbo's lane as the Mineola senior went for a perfect game at states on March 10. Photo courtesy of Mark Miller/Mineola H.S.

Time froze. People froze.

Michaela Palumbo froze.

She stood on Lane 17 at Strike N' Spare Lanes in Syracuse on March 10, and the eyes of the entire building were on her.

The Mineola senior was bowling her final game at the New York State Girls Championships, the final 10 frames of her remarkable career as a Mustang.

And over the past 20 minutes she'd done nothing but throw strikes. Nine perfect shots in a row, her 15-pound black Stealth ball curving perfectly down the right side of the lane and crashing into the pins like waves on a shore.

Oh my God, she thought. This really might happen.

And now here came the 10th frame, and the storybook ending was a minute away.
Ball 10 was Norman Rockwell-perfect, and the crowd erupted. Then the next shot was just as true, and the pins crashed down, and Palumbo was seconds away from the greatest moment of her life.

Standing next to Palumbo's parents, Maria and Michael, was Mineola coach Mark Miller. As Palumbo readied for her final shot at history, Miller is heard saying “I think I'm gonna lose it.”

Michael Palumbo, Michaela's father, was pale as Casper. And Michaela's Mom, Maria “was crying all through the 10th frame, I could tell when I looked at her,” Michaela recalled.

“Me, I was completely freaking out on the inside,” she said. “Trying not to think about what was happening but of course I knew.”

Finally, it was time. One more shot. Silence engulfed the building. Palumbo told herself that she was all by herself in that lane, throwing a practice game, to try to calm her nerves.

Palumbo took her stride and let it go and she knew right away it wasn't great.
Instead of veering right and curving back in, it stayed straight and hit the head pin, and left two lonely pins standing, the 6 and the 10.

The crowd cheered. Palumbo smiled, then was quickly enveloped in hugs by her teammates.

A 298. So darn close to perfection.

“I had already started crying, before the ball even hit the pins,” she said. “Because I knew my high school career was over, and it was just, the whole weekend and everything hit me at once.”

Palumbo may not have achieved perfection, but her 298 helped her gain the honor of high series at the states, with her six-game total of 1,331 winning the honors.

“It was incredible to witness in-person, just an amazing performance by her,” Miller said. “She was steady as a rock, a lot more steady than those of us watching, that's for sure.”

Palumbo and her team continued their slow upward climb in the team standings at states; two years ago they finished ninth, then grabbed eighth place in 2023. This year they finished seventh, so at this rate a state title in 2030 seems pre-ordained.

“Very pleased with the team performance,” Miller said. “We were shooting for a little higher, since we started really well, up to third in the first few games. But everyone bowled great.”

While Palumbo chased history in her final game, her teammate Kelsey Morrison was matching her strike for strike after an open frame in the first.

“It was crazy, she was right next to me and kept striking every shot,” Palumbo said. “It helped having her there.”

For Palumbo, not reaching bowling immortality was frustrating, sure. But how could she be mad? In her final game of her sensational scholastic career, she bowled her best game.
Still, the ride home from Syracuse was filled with a certain video watch over and over again.
“The whole way home I couldn't stop watching the video of the last shot,” she said with a laugh. “I wasn't mad at myself, I was just happy.”
Then Palumbo showed her selfless nature that has endeared her to teammates.
“The best part of the whole thing was seeing Mr. Miller and Mr. B (boys coach Helmut Bohringer) near the end,” Palumbo said. “They just looked so proud, couldn't stop smiling; they both cried.
“That made me feel so good. I wish those two pins had fallen, but it's OK,” she said. “It was still amazing.”

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