Madelynn Oliva had come close to bowling a 300 game twice in her life. Neither time prepared her for the real thing.
The Flagler Palm Coast High School senior finally reached perfection in a preseason scrimmage with Palatka on Aug. 19 at Palm Coast Lanes.
“Everyone said I looked calm, cool and collected, but whenever I went to approach, I was shaking,” she said.
She didn’t have that problem when she bowled 289 – twice. Both times she had a spare in the first frame and then rolled 10 strikes before leaving one pin standing on her final ball.
This time was different. Perfection was on the line. But as the strikes added up, Oliva said she remained focused and thought through each shot. After her 12th consecutive strike her teammates swarmed around her.
“I was really excited,” she said. “It was such a great atmosphere in the scrimmage match, and I had all my teammates around me.”
“It was incredible,” said FPC girls bowling coach, Laura Oliva, who is also Madelynn's aunt. “Everyone (at Palm Coast Lanes) was cheering. I hate that it wasn’t in a (regular-season) match. But now she knows she can do it.”
The start of Oliva’s senior season has mirrored that day. The Bulldogs have won their first seven matches, including a surprising 4-3 victory over defending district champ Seabreeze on Sept. 1.
“They said no one can beat them, and we beat them,” Laura Oliva said. “They have four bowlers that are just excellent. But we walked out of Ormond Lanes with the win.”
Oliva finished 13th in the state last season in the individual championships. This season she hopes the Bulldogs can advance to state as a team.
With sophomore Emma Pezzullo (177 average) and freshman Brooke Bokanoski (149) joining seniors Oliva and Akasha Sneed (155), the Bulldogs have a legitimate shot.
“I’m really proud of the girls, how hard they’re working every day,” Oliva said.
Oliva is averaging over 200 this season.
“She's a great captain,” Laura Oliva said. “She’s very supportive of all of the team players and helps them a lot. She wants to see them succeed.”
Madelynn has been bowling competitively since she was 13, said her mom, Rebecca Oliva.
“The whole entire family bowls,” Rebecca said. “Her dad (former Flagler County Schools superintendent Jacob Oliva) and her brother (Isaac, 12) bowl competitively. The opportunities (the kids) have had through bowling allows them to travel around the country.”
Madelynn competed in the elite Junior Gold Championship in Indianapolis this summer, finishing 231st out of nearly 700 of the top 18-under bowlers in the nation.
"It was really inspirational, putting in the work so that I can make it up to that level," she said.
Oliva plans to continue her bowling career in college. Her teammates say she is destined to be a professional bowler one day. She just wants to take it one step at a time.
“That 300 definitely showed me I have the ability to carry out what I need to do this season and help the girls get to states,” she said.