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Middle Country

By Amanda Perelli

The recognized valedictorians and salutatorians of the Middle Country school district were active community members who set a positive example for this year’s graduating class. The driven students excelled in and outside the classroom, engaging in several extracurriculars and college-level classes.

Centereach valedictorian Anthony Roman and salutatorian Olivia Zhu. Photos from Middle Country school district

Centereach High School 

Valedictorian Anthony Roman graduated with a 98.2 GPA and was recognized by the college board as an AP Scholar with Distinction and a National Merit Scholar. He was enrolled in 14 AP classes at Centereach and four other college-level courses.

Roman was a member of several clubs and organizations within the district, including the Thespian Honor Society, Italian Honor Society, National Honor Society, the school newspaper and Science Olympiad team.

He is attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology this fall to study mechanical engineering and computer science. 

Salutatorian Olivia Zhu, who graduated with 11 AP courses and two college-level courses under her belt, also earned the recognition of National AP Scholar with Distinction from the College Board.

A member of National Honor Society, Tri-M Music Honor Society, and Math and Science Olympiad teams, Zhu also made time for sports, competing as a member of the varsity tennis team since eighth grade. She served as captain and earned most valuable player nods from her coach the past two seasons.

She will be attending Cornell University to study computer science and engineering this fall.

Newfield valedictorian Photos from Middle Country school district

Newfield High School

Valedictorian Logan Ortiz graduated with an unweighted GPA of 98.7 and more than 40 college credits. He participated in student government, National Honor Society and Tri-M Music Honor Society and served as
captain of the Mock Trial team while also remaining president of the Video Club.

Ortiz was also busy serving as captain of the golf team.

He plans to attend Georgetown University next fall and study political science. He said he hopes to attend law school and has his eye on becoming a government official.

Salutatorian Diogo Martins finished his high school career with an unweighted GPA of 98 and more than 45 college credits.

During his four years at Newfield, Martins helped out with almost every fundraising event in the school and served in leadership roles in the Thespian Honor Society, World Languages Honor Society and National Honor Society.

Martins will attend Villanova University in the fall and intends to major in finance.

The 4x400 relay team of Maritza Blanchard, Jess Faustin, Lexie Roth and Dana Cerbone took home multiple medals a the state track and field meet. Photo from Middle Country school district

By Desirée Keegan

Middle Country’s seniors have shown the strength, determination and dedication to achieve greatness, and now they have the success to prove it was all worth it.

After undergoing six brain surgeries and having a shunt put into her skull to help her manage an incurable disease, Lexi Roth hit the ground running. She helped Middle Country’s 4×400-meter relay team cross the finish line a fraction of a second behind first at the Division I state championships last weekend. The girls clocked in second among Division I schools in 3 minutes, 52.92 seconds. Rush-Henrietta Senior High School finished in 3:52.52.

Maritza Blanchard, above with Bay Shore’s Nia Singer, finished third among all schools in the 400 dash. Photo from Middle Country school district

The quartet, which also includes seniors Dana Cerbone and Maritza Blanchard and sophomore Jessica Faustin, placed fourth among all schools during the June 8 and 9 meet at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.

“That group especially had an immense amount of talent and the work ethic that goes along with that, so I’m not surprised they got where they got to,” said former coach Matt Torres, who worked with the seniors their first two years. “Jessica, being the young one, works incredibly hard. She has some great leaders in front of her.”

Cerbone is about five feet tall, but Torres said you wouldn’t know it. She placed fourth among Division I athletes in the 200 dash (24.94) and fourth overall (25.33).

“Girls tower over her, but she has a bulldog-type mentality,” he said. “It wasn’t just practice, it was after practice that she would want to do more to see if she could get even just a little bit better. She’d push to have that edge, get in the weight room.”

He said none of the athletes would stop between seasons. They showed a desire to remain in shape and continue to try to take their talents to the next level.

“Maritza was always on the brink of being great, and I think coach Cuzzo really helped push her toward that,” he said.

Blanchard also brought home an additional medal with a third-place overall finish in the 400 dash. She crossed the finish line in 56.78. She ranked fifth among Division I schools (57.39) and bounced back to have a better showing in day two.

“Everything is moving in the right direction,” two-year spring track and field coach Charley Cuzzo said. “I’m very proud of how the kids ran. What they’ve been able to do is quite an accomplishment. They were ready to go, and they proved it.”

The quartet came out of nowhere and shot right up to the top. The girls were ranked No. 1 in the state prior to the meet. Cuzzo said they’ve made improvements that are impressive, and ones that the seniors will take with them to the collegiate level.

“They haven’t gotten there by accident,” Torres said. “They got there by how hard they work.

Smithtown West’s Nick Cipolla leads the pack. Photo from Facebook

Gabby Griffin gave it her all in what could have been her final race across the hurdles, and clocked in with a top spot and a personal best.

The Comsewogue senior sprinted her way to a third-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles, clocking in at 1.03.94 seconds at the Suffolk County track and field individual championship/state qualifier June 2 and 3 at Comsewogue High School.

Travis Colon races down the track during the 55-meter hurdle during the last indoor season. File photo by Bill Landon

Griffin was also part of Comsewogue’s 4×400 relay and placed third in 3:57.53 that move on to the state finals with other top county winners at the state championship at Cicero-North Syracuse High School June 8-9.

Sabrina Donoghue, Brianna Quartararo and Annalise Russo rounded out the relay, which set a new school record, breaking its own record of 4:02.34 by almost five seconds.

Comsewogue junior Travis Colon came in third in the 110 hurdles (15.06) and fourth in the 400 hurdles (56.40).

Comsewogue Fernando Toledo third in the 400 dash, clocking in at 49.72.

Middle Country’s Maritza Blanchard blasted her way to the finish line, twice.

She took first in the 400-yard dash by clocking in at 56.39 and ran the anchor leg of the 4x400 relay team that placed first.

The relay team of Blanchard, Dana Cerbone, Jess Faustin and Lexie Roth, which now ranks second in the sate, crossed the finish line in 3:52.96. 

Her teammate, Cerbone, who ran the third leg of the relay, also capitalized on two opportunities, sprinting her way to second in the 200 dash with a time of 25.37.

Middle Country’s he 4×400 relay team of Maritza Blanchard, Jess Faustin, Lexie Roth and Dana Cerbone.

Nick Cipolla can also run.

The Smithtown West senior crossed the 3,200-meter run finish line in 9:27.31 for first place.

Other area runners excelled in the 3,200.

Northport senior Dan O’Connor came in third (9:40.92), Smithtown East junior Kevin Cawley fourth (9:41.44), Smithtown West junior John Cuff fifth (9:42.91) and Northport sophomore Thomas Fodor sixth (9:47.13).

Smithtown West junior Nick DeFelice finished second in the 3,000 steeplechase (9:44.70). Smithtown East’s Cawley came in fourth (20:02.76).

Smithtown West junior Emily Eng placed second in the pole vault with a 10-6 leap.

Kings Park junior Mike Perez jumped 6-2 in the high jump for a fourth-place finish.

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By Bill Landon

Middle Country’s girls lacrosse team came up short at the buzzer in a Class A quarterfinal game that saw nine lead changes. No. 5-seeded Riverhead’s defense held down the fort in the final 30 seconds against the No. 4 Mad Dogs to pull away with a 13-12 win.

“It was a tough one today,” Middle Country head coach Lindsay Dolson said. “We made some mistakes that we didn’t need to make.”

Down 6-4 at halftime, Middle Country junior Sophie Alois scored her third goal of the game to make it a new one, knotting the score at 6-all three minutes into the second half. After a Riverhead goal, Middle Country senior Emily Diaz dished the ball to Alois, and then to senior Sydney Juvelier 35 seconds later to help the Mad Dogs retake the lead.

The Blue Waves tied it up again before Middle Country did in return, and Diaz scored on a penalty shot with 14:07 remaining to give the Mad Dogs what would be their final lead of the game.

Riverhead rattled off four unanswered goals to take a 12-9 lead and ran crucial seconds off the clock by stalling until the four-minute mark.

With 3:37 left in regulation, Alois split the pipes unassisted and scored her fifth goal of the game a minute later off a feed from junior Jennifer Barry. Middle Country won the ensuing draw and this time, it was the seventh-grader Kate Timarky who wouldn’t be denied, as her solo shot found the back of the net to retie the game, 12-12, with a minute-and-a-half left in regulation.

After a shot on goal by the Blue Waves, controversy ensued and the game’s three officials conferenced on the field. After a minute of deliberation, the trio ruled it a good goal and Riverhead retook the lead 13-12 with 30 seconds left.

Middle Country won the final draw and called timeout with 22 seconds remaining as the Mad Dogs planned their final shot, but failed to get the ball near the cage as time expired.

It was a stinging defeat for the defending Long Island champions.

“When we were down by three we didn’t panic — we have plans for that, and we finished with good draw controls and were able to [retie the game],” Dolson said. “I thanked the seniors for their hard work their dedication — they will be greatly missed and we wish them good luck next year.”

Members of the Carol Putahl Literacy Foundation have access to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which is a collection of classic childhood books. Photo from Carol Pufahl Literacy Foundation

Students in the Middle Country Central School District’s Universal Pre-K program are receiving the gift of literacy from the Long Island-based Carol Pufahl Literacy Foundation. 

Thanks to state funding secured by the office of State Sen. John Flanagan (R), the foundation is providing free, age-appropriate books each month to the children, in keeping with the foundation’s mission to increase early childhood literacy. The grant will help offset the cost of the program.

The literacy foundation delivers what’s known as the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to each child enrolled in the UPK program as part of a system that includes access to books and family literacy. Founded by the country singer in 1996, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library is a set of books beginning with the children’s
classic “The Little Engine That Could.” Each month, a new carefully selected book is mailed directly to the home of children enrolled in the program. Registration is free, with no cost or obligation to the family.

“Studies clearly demonstrate that early literacy is the key to academic and lifelong success.”

— Roberta Senzer

The Middle Country UPK is the largest program on Long Island, serving more than 400 youngsters from Centereach, Selden, Lake Grove, Lake Ronkonkoma, Port Jefferson Station and Farmingville. Participating family members have been overwhelmingly positive about the program’s impact on their children since it was first introduced last month.

“My son gets so excited to open the mailbox to look for and get his monthly book,” said mother Jennifer Capinigro. “Thank you.”

Flanagan is a long-standing education advocate, having previously served as the chairman of the New York State Committee on Education.

“It is my pleasure to be able to assist the Carol Pufahl Literacy Foundation in its mission of providing children in our community with a strong educational base,” he said. “By delivering books directly to young children in the Middle Country school district, the foundation helps ensure that these children enter school already acquainted with reading. This will help them reach their full potential and allow them to succeed in the coming years.”

Research has shown that children raised in homes that promote family literacy grow up to be better readers and do better in school than children raised in homes where literacy is not promoted. This is also supported through the Carol Pufahl Literacy Foundation’s Family Literacy workshops, which teach families how a child can be an active participant, rather than a passive one while reading with parents.

“Studies clearly demonstrate that early literacy is the key to academic and lifelong success,” foundation CEO Roberta Senzer said. “The Imagination Library is one way our foundation is working to foster a child’s love of
reading and to put books in the hands of all Long Island children to ensure they have the advantage they need when starting kindergarten.”

To learn more about the foundation or to make a tax-deductible donation visit www.cpliteracyfoundation.org.

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Kate Timarky gets double-teamed. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Middle Country’s girls lacrosse team was able to hold off visiting Bay Shore twice behind four goals from Emily Diaz, to take a 12-9 win April 24.

“I knew that they were better than their record shows and I warned [our team about that], because they’re going to come in hot,” head coach Lindsay Dolson said. “I saw a lot of watching — we need to at least get the ball on the ground [off the draw] to give us a chance.”

Emily Diaz outruns a defender and breaks toward the goal. Photo by Bill Landon

The Mad Dogs struggled to gain possession and were pressured early behind Marauders draw wins, but still managed to put away three goals before Bay Shore got on the board. Juniors Sophie Alois and Jennifer Barry did all the work in that space, with Alois scoring twice, her second, off a flick from Barry for the 3-0 advantage, and Barry scored unassisted for the 2-0 lead.

As was the case throughout the game, Bay Shore was quick to answer, scoring two goals in just over a minute, and tied the game twice in the first half, at 5-5 and 7-7, which ended the scoring for the first half. Barry, who had a hat trick and added two assists in the opening 25 minutes, said she took her coach’s words to heart.

“Our coaches tell us before every game that you need to play every game as if it’s your biggest game [of the season],” she said. “We did a good job at settling down, spreading out [our offense] and if you have confidence in yourself and your play, then everything else will fall into place.”

Jennifer Barry draws a crowd as she pushes her way up the middle of the zone. Photo by Bill Landon

Youth and experience served up scores in the second half for Middle Country. Seventh-grader Kate Timarky, who had an assist in the first half, scored twice in 30 seconds to help her team regain the lead. Barry found Diaz, a senior, on a cut to the cage to score what would end up being the game-winning goal. She added two more thereafter to Bay Shore’s one to give the game its final score.

“We expected them to be better than what their records told us, our coaches are always good about informing us about other teams,” Diaz said. “We’ve been struggling at the draw control lately, but every game it gets a little bit better — we work on it in practice every day.”

Dolson said despite a less than ideal draw control performance, she said she was pleased with other aspects of her team’s play.

“[We did a good job of] holding the ball there at the end, [because] we’ve struggled keeping possession in the past, but we passed better,” she said. “They were more coachable, and I thought we handled the pressure a lot better.”

Middle Country improves to 7-2 and will be back in action April 27, when the Mad Dogs travel to Patchogue-Medford for a 4 p.m. contest.

By Bill Landon

The Patriots proved they have what it takes to go the distance.

After falling to Longwood 90-60 in the first League I matchup of the season, Ward Melville’s girls track and field team reversed the roles at an April 10 home meet against Middle Country, winning 90-60 with help from long-distance runners.

Junior Kate Cochran led the way in the 3,000-meter run with a winning time of 11 minutes, 39.5 seconds. She was pushed by Middle Country’s Kaitlynn Drennan from the moment the gun sounded, with Drennan finishing just six seconds behind her. Things were different in the 1,500, where it was a one, two finish for Ward Melville. Freshman Emma Rathburn crossed the line first at 5:18.1, and Shannon Ryan clocked in at 5:26.3. Drennan rounded out the top three with a 5:47.6 time.

“We studied the statistics — they’re a young team, they’re rebuilding, they have some very talented sprinters, but I knew that our strong events were going to be the distance events, the throws, along with some of the field events,” Ward Melville head coach J.P. Dion said. “From what they had in the winter and from last spring, I knew that this is where we could gain most of our points.”

Ward Melville senior Allyson Gaedje won at 800 in 2:36, a pace well off her personal best but enough to take the title.

Senior captain Kiera Hughes competed in the 100 hurdles, 100 dash, 4×100 relay and long jump. A returning All-County athlete in the spring and winter, she was ranked first in the winter 55 hurdles.

“I thought I did pretty well,” she said of her performances on the afternoon. “I’m happy, but my long jump was my strongest event, and it’s a good way to get back [into a rhythm].”

Hughes finished second in the long jump behind Ward Melville sophomore Allison D’Angio, who bested the field with a 15 feet 2.5 inches leap. Middle Country freshman Jada Hodge placed third covering 12-11.75.

“Kiera helps me out a lot by working with the younger athletes, helping them,” Dion said.

Ward Melville’s Samantha Sturgess, who also ran the 4×100 and 4×800 relays, won the 400 hurdles in 68 seconds. 

“I had a season-best, but it’s not my personal best,” the senior said. “I don’t have a problem getting over the hurdles, but I have to get faster in between.”

Middle Country head coach Charles Cuzzo said he was pleased with what he saw despite how young this year’s squad is.

“We were strongest in the sprints … the kids did very, very well,” he said, noting Maritza Blanchard, Dana Cerbone and Lexie Roth are players his opponents should watch out for. “It’s early in the season, but they keep on improving.”

Dion said he also saw several bright spots on the afternoon, especially with his jumpers.

D’Angio won the triple and the long jump and notched a personal best clearing 5 feet in the high jump, according to Dion.

The coach added Lauren Moore, a freshman,  increased her personal best in the triple jump by 4 feet. She notched another personal best with a 4-inch increase in the high jump, clearing 4-8.

“That’s huge,” said Dion.

The Patriots are back in action April 19 hosting William Floyd at 4:15 p.m. Middle Country is back on the track April 14 at the Coaches Meet at Bay Shore at 9:30 a.m.

Smithtown West's Reed Greco moves the ball across the field while Middle Country's Tom Stock chases after him. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

In the rainy and windy conditions, junior attacker Marc Cottage and the Smithtown West Bulls dismantled
Middle Country Mad Dogs on  its home turf.

Scoring the first four goals for boys lacrosse team April 3, Cottage sparked the Bulls offense with a team-high eight points in a 15-3 victory at Newfield High School. He helps keep their season perfect so far at 4-0 and gave Middle Country its third loss of the year (1-3).

Smithtown West’s Marc Cottage shoots past a Middle Country defender. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“It felt good,” Cottage said about his performance. “I thought our offense played great in the first quarter. It was a good team win.”

The Bulls got an early first quarter advantage leading 5-1 after a Danny Caddigan goal with 3:15 left. The game was tied at one point after Cottage’s first goal in the first minute. Then, Middle Country’s Tom Stock found the back of the net 43 seconds later to tie at up at 1-1.

Not much scoring happened in the second quarter, but it was Kyle Zawadzki who scored all two of Smithtown West’s goal in the 12 minutes. His first goal gave the Bulls a 6-1 lead, assisted by Christian Lowd with 10:46 left. Middle Country’s Jacob Hyman had an unassisted goal 1 minute, 13 seconds later to cut the deficit back to four, but Zawadzki’s shot in final minute hit its mark to make it 7-2 Bulls at the half.

There was a combined 28 points scored between 12 different players for Smithtown West. The Bulls had 13 assists on 15 goals.

“Everyone was contributing,” Zawadzki said. “It wasn’t just one person, even though Cottage did have seven goals. He was just capitalizing on all the opportunities he had.”

The Bulls put the game away in the third quarter, outscoring the Mad Dogs 5-1, giving the Bulls a nine-point advantage at 12-3. Matt Caddigan scored 48 seconds into the quarter and was assisted by John Hoffman, who had four assists on the afternoon. Andrew Arce also had a goal and an assist for the Bulls. Three of Cottage’s seven goals came in the third, with one of them finding the back of the net in the final four seconds of the quarter.

Hoffman, Cole Vencak and Troy Riley all had good, unanswered goals in the fourth for the Bulls to win 15-3.

Even though he’s a junior, Cottage sees himself as a captain of the team.

“I always have seen myself as a leader,” Cottage said. “I’m pretty sure all the starters feel that way — to teach the younger kids — just to be the best and play well.”

Smithtown West’s Christian Lowd races up the field. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Stock found the net twice for the Mad Dogs and going up against Smithtown West, he wanted to do exactly just that.

“They’re a pretty good team,” Stock said oft Smithtown West. “They’re ranked pretty high. I was just trying to score some goals.”

Smithtown West played with three different goaltenders in Cameron Young, Kyle Walker and Mike Simone. Adam Hyman stayed in the entire game as the only goalkeeper for Middle Country. He had nine saves on the afternoon. He said the team will bounce back from the loss.

“We just need to work hard in practice and take this loss as a ‘W,’” Hyman said. “We just have to keep on working hard. This loss motivates the whole team to get better because no one likes to lose.”

Middle Country head coach Chris Siragusa said that Smithtown West is the best team they will face all year. Middle Country finished 5-9 in Division I last year, and lost 16 seniors from that squad, boasting a majority
of freshmen and sophomore this year.

“I think it’s just [about gaining] experience for our guys, because of the youth,” Siragusa said. “Stock and [Jacob] Hyman are both sophomores and they’re going to be part of the future. They were part of the team last year when their heads were spinning. I think it’s just about getting older and maturing.”

Smithtown West will look to stay undefeated when it hits the road to face Northport April 5 at 10 a.m. Middle
Country wants to retaliate after the loss with an at-home contest against Sachem North at 4 p.m.

Kids get their heads shaved at the annual St. Baldrick's event at Centereach Fire Department March 16. Photo by Doug Dickerson

By Kyle Barr

On the night before St. Patrick’s Day, hair rained down onto the floor of Centereach Fire Department. People clapped and cheered as blonde, brown and even green-dyed hair fell from amused faces before being swept away during the annual St. Baldrick’s charity event to raise money for childhood cancer research March 16.

Area local Aimee Jackson watched her teenage son Zachary get shaved, the first head of the night to go bald. It was his fourth time participating, and every year the duo has tried to raise more and more money.

“The first time he did it he was little — 5 years old — we both did it,” she said. “He’s shaving in honor of his twin brother, Kendall, who passed away just before their fifth birthday.”

Zachary Jackson has his head shaved in honor of his twin brother, Kendall, who died of cancer at age 4. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Middle Country Youth Civic Association and Centereach Fire Department joined with local sponsors to host the fourth annual event. Before the buzzer even started sounding, the team of brave bald-headed
community members raised close to $30,000. By Monday, the event had raised over $47,000, close to twice the original $25,000 goal, according to event organizer Doug Dickson. The largest donor was 12-year-old Austin Vero, who raised over $15,000 alone.

“Thank God for our barbers — with all the hair on the ground, they bring their own guys, they’re sweeping all the time,” Dickson said, laughingly.

The night was full of Irish flavor with the inclusion of FDNY Emerald Society bagpipers and Irish step dancers from Mulvihill-Lynch Studio of Irish Dance in Lake Ronkonkoma. Attendees were decked in green from head to toe, including Rob “Squid” Wilson, who was one of many prospective head-shavers to dye their hair green.

Wilson has been hosting local St. Baldrick’s events for 16 years. This year, he dressed in a bright green shamrock coat and a green tiara.

“My team is the Squid and the Squires,” Wilson said. “Each team is a bunch of clowns like us who are doing it for the right reasons.”

He and his friend Tom Duffy have been involved and shaved their heads every year since their first rodeo.

“It’s important to show kids it’s not a big deal to get their heads shaved,” Duffy said. “My big thing is I feel if [scientists] can cure cancer with kids — they can cure cancer.”

Members of the Suffolk County Police
Department shave their heads at the event. Photo by Doug Dickerson

Several staff members at the fire department joined in the shaving spirit, including Assistant Chief Joseph Feola.

“It’s a huge event — one of the bigger events we have,” Feola said. “It’s great to see all this support from the community.”

Nine barbers and hairdressers volunteered their time to shave heads, including the owner of Rockabilly Barbers of Stony Brook’s Vinnie Ferrara. He and his crew of barbers have also been involved in the event for 16 years.

“The greatest thing about it is that we’ve been doing it for so long and seen so much money raised,” Ferrara said. “It just goes to a great cause.”

“The people are so into it,” owner of Centereach-based Blondie’s Creations Inc. Mary Beth Mastando said. She and her team have been shaving heads at the event for three years.

“The community gets together, and everybody helps,” Mastando said. “They’re excited to be shaving their head, and I’m the one doing it, so that’s pretty cool.”

The Centereach St. Baldrick’s organizers are accepting donations until next year’s event. To join in the cause, visit www.stbaldricks.org/events/mypage/10953/2018.

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Team takes Division I title in Syracus, three Middle Country girls place in Top 10 in scoring

Middle Country’s girls bowling team took home its first state title since 2013 March 11 in Syracuse. Photo from Nicole Lettich

With a difficult oil pattern on the lane, the Middle Country girls bowling team knew what it was going to take to win a state title — and it had the talent to spare.

“We knew it would be tough bowling on a more challenging pattern, but we knew spares were going to be so important,” senior Nicole Lettich said. “As most of us say, strikes win games, but spares win tournaments. We are a strong team and knew we could take on whatever was thrown at us. We just needed to focus each game and make good shots. That’s exactly what we did.”

Amanda Scarfogliero leads off for Middle Country’s girls bowling team. Photo from Amanda Scarfogliero

Lettich, noted by head coach Mandy Dominguez as the most consistent bowler on the team, averaged a 191.67 over six games.

“She did great, she’s steady,” Dominguez said of his one of four seniors.

With her team up by just 118 pins heading into a crucial Game 6, she bowled a 223 to help seal the deal and a state title March 11 in Syracuse.

“My parents tell me all the time that I bowl with a poker face and don’t let bad scores phase me,” Lettich said. “I don’t really put any added pressure on myself, I just focus on making my spares and throwing good shots. When I throw a bad shot, I shake it off and get ready for the next frame.”

Lettich, who finished Sunday ranked fourth in New York, was one of three Middle Country bowlers to rank in the Top 10 in scoring. Junior Amanda Scarfogliero (No. 7) and freshman Hannah Skalacki (No. 2) were the others.

“I’ve never had a team improve in the offseason the way that this team did,” Dominguez said. “Last year we only had one 200 bowler, and this year I had five. The girls really stepped it up, and have so much grit and determination. We had a 280-pin lead at one point in the tournament and to lose that lead is hard for any team in any sport, losing a lead late in the game. They gut it out and brought it back. It says so much about their resiliency and willingness to never give up.”

Middle Country’s girls bowling teammates were all smiles on the bus ride home after being crowned state champions. Photo from Nicole Lettich

Middle Country won a state title in 2013 and since lost three battles to East Islip and one to Sachem for a ticket upstate. This year the girls took the league title before overcoming that county hurdle with a 43-pin win, and weren’t going to let an oil pattern stop them from going all the way. Scarfogliero said the team practiced for the 41-foot Tower of Pisa Kegel pattern, asymmetric in design with a shift to the inside, in the weeks leading up to the tournament. After averaging 215 at the county tournament, Middle Country finished with a 180 average upstate, according to Dominguez, proving even with practice how difficult the sport pattern can be.

“It was a whole new atmosphere,” said Scarfogliero, who leads off for her team. “It took us by surprise, but we worked together as a team so the oil pattern wasn’t as hard. We helped each other and with the oil pattern being so hard I didn’t even think I was going to make it up there [in scoring], but that wasn’t even a priority for me. I wanted to put my team in the best position to win states.”

For Skalacki, her freshman status shouldn’t be misunderstood. The three-year varsity team member bowled a 193.83 average, just about three pins under first. As the team’s anchor, she said there’s a lot of pressure when her team needs extra points at the end of each game, but she thrives under it.

Middle Country’s girls bowling team hoists up the state championship banner. Photo from Middle Country school district

“If we need a certain amount of pins to win, I have to get them, but I love the attention and the competition,” said Skalacki, who was strongest in the first three games, bowling a tournament-high 226 for Game 1. “It’s heart-dropping, and I love knowing I play a big part in helping the team come out with a win.”

She said after finally topping East Islip, she knew Middle Country had a lot to prove, and the team wasn’t going to settle for anything less than a perfect finish.

“We had the biggest motivation to win,” she said. “Now people know Middle Country and know how good we are. We wanted to prove people wrong — to show we have what it takes — and we did it.”

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Bowling right up twins’ alley

Bowling is how the Lettich twins roll.

The duo each competed for a state title last weekend in Syracuse, and clean swept their senior season with gold medals in their respective tournaments.

“It’s honestly breathtaking to make it this far and win it all,” Nicole Lettich said, noting that she was on the 2013 state championship winning team, but didn’t yet have the skills to be invited to compete. “Going to the state tournament with my brother who I’ve been so close with was probably the most amazing thing I could have done in my senior year.”

Middle Country twins Nicole and Thomas Lettich took home state gold. Photo from Nicole Lettich

The twins’ mother bowled in high school, and found they had their own itch to compete after competing in a league in second grade.

“Bowling is such an underrated sport in high school, and to finally win it all proves to schools that bowling shouldn’t be brushed under the carpet, but actually acknowledged more because it is a very difficult sport,” she said. “A lot of people don’t see it that way.”

Middle Country finished with a grand total 5,332 pins, nearly 200 ahead of second-place finisher Orchard Park (5,157). Her brother Thomas Lettich competed on the Section XI boys All-Star team. He’d averaged 224 during the regular season, and said even though he’d won his team’s MVP awards, and was named an All-Star, All-County and All-League bowler, he was most confident competing because of the last month’s worth of practicing six day a week.

“I have grown so much over the years, improving my physical and mental game,” he said. “Since I am a lefty and had an advantage and disadvantage since I’m the only one on the left side. The lanes were brand new, so I knew it was going to be difficult, but being chosen to compete on this team with a group of boys that I was very close with and were fun to bowl with was a goal of mine.”

He said it was a unique experience competing alongside his sister.

“When I am bowling bad she supports me and helps me, and when she’s bowling bad I support her and help her,” Thomas Lettich said. “She unfortunately didn’t have the ability to watch me, but I was able to cheer her on in her match and it was exciting to have the chance to be together. We had great accomplishments and it’s a great way to go out.”

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