January 22 seemed like an ordinary day for Melissa Burnside.
The Free State High senior bowler finished classes and made her way to Royal Crest Lanes for practice.
Burnside began by hitting a strike in her first frame. Then, her eight years of playing experience began to surface on the slick wooden lanes. Burnside simply couldn't miss. To put this kind of performance into perspective, just think of Reggie Miller's 25 fourth-quarter points in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Knicks. In this localized example, Burnside was simply in the zone.
"I had seven strikes in a row," Burnside said. "Then, I rolled a beautiful ball and it left the 10-pin. Then, I missed that. But I got three more strikes and then a nine."
Add it up and you'll generate a grand total of 266, Burnside's all-time high score. It beat her previous high score of 257.
When you hit seven strikes in a row, what's it like to feel as if you couldn't miss?
Well usually, I'm pretty nervous. For some reason, I wasn't all that nervous. I was really calm and really consistent : but I was shaking a little.
Do you think you'll ever be able to beat that score?
I've never dreamt of even bowling that high right now. My goal right now is consistently a 500 series.
On Jan. 17, your 611 series against Leavenworth was better than any Firebird bowler - male or female. What was the reaction of your teammates?
They were jokingly upset, saying, "Oh, Melissa beat all the guys." It was pretty fun. I don't usually beat the guys.
What's your all-time high series?
It was 694. This was last year over the summer in my league. I had a Saturday morning league and a Sunday afternoon league at Royal Crest.
How important was league play before high school in preparing you for the next level of competition?
When I first started, it wasn't that important. But now, I realize that it was pretty important because the coaches there all help you get on track. The Free State assistant coach now, Randy Altman, was actually my coach in league.
What's your favorite part about bowling?
I like having a bunch of people around who bowl with you, so it's not completely individual. You get to work with them and try and help people. You learn off of them.
What's the toughest part of bowling?
The toughest part for me is that if you're bowling badly, you can't get in a bad mood because it's really about mentality. You have to try to stay positive. Otherwise, your bowling is just horrible. If you're throwing gutters or can't hit your mark, then you just get really agitated and start chucking the ball and not worrying about your mark. Then, it just gets worse.
Do you ever roll the ball into the gutter?
I do every now and then. Probably about three or four times every three sets of games.
What's the toughest spare you've ever picked up?
I think the best split I've ever got was the 4-10, which are basically on opposite sides of the lanes. It's not the furthest split. But it's just what you aim for. You have your strike mark, and based on that, you have to adjust and move for your spares.
You've mentioned that most people undermine the importance of spares in bowling. Why do you think that is?
Actually, last year, we had a meet, and the top two varsity girls were the last two bowlers. I was the last one out of everyone still bowling. I had a 10-pin, and I had to pick it up to win the meet. Thankfully, I picked it up. Spares just add up and up. We ended up winning the meet by one pin, so spares are really important.