Kingwood teen strikes out on a bowling career

MORGANTOWN — From the moment Justin Malik met Jenna Snyder, one thing was clear to him.

“She takes bowling seriously, and she wants to get better about it,” said Malik, manager at Suburban Lanes in Morgantown. “That’s what you have to have to get better at the sport; you have to be willing to commit and practice.”

Snyder, an 18-year-old from Kingwood, picked up bowling at the ripe age of 4, often hitting the lanes with her mother.

“My mom is a bowler, and I was always at the bowling alley with her, so I just kind of picked up on it,” Snyder said.

It wasn’t until Snyder began attending Suburban Lanes three years ago that bowling blossomed from a hobby into a passion. It was there she first met Malik, along with Suburban Lanes resident pro Larry Lichstein. She credits them with helping her craft her game, as well as opening her eyes to the opportunities the sport presented.

“When I came down to Suburban Lanes four years ago, I started to work with some of the coaches,” she said. “I found out how big bowling really was. I realized how many opportunities there were in bowling — scholarships, tournaments and such.”

As Snyder’s passion for the game continued to grow, so did her skill set. As Preston High does not field a bowling squad, she was invited to compete with Independence High School, in Coal City. Snyder helped lead her team to the West Virginia State Scholarship championship this winter.

In addition, Snyder recently bowled a career-high game of 288, and also collected the 2018 West Virginia Pepsi Youth U20 Division championship this month, qualifying for the Pepsi USBC Youth Nationals, in Texas, this July.

“The past three years throughout high school, I’ve developed a lot as a bowler,” she said. “Traveling to tournaments has increased my knowledge and the level of coaching I’ve experienced.”

Malik, who has also partnered with Snyder in several adult/youth doubles tournaments, has nothing but praise for Snyder, both on and off the lanes.

“She’s a fantastic girl; she’s a great student, she wants to bowl, and she gets better at it every year,” Malik said. “She always conducts herself well on the lanes, and you never see a bad reaction from her on the lanes.”

What impresses Malik the most, though, is the gusto with which Snyder took to improving her game, and her high levels of coach-ability.

“The first thing I look at before I coach any youth bowler is to see if they want to learn. If I see that, I’ll by all means do whatever I can to help them,” Malik said. “Jenna was one of those athletes. Every time I gave her a suggestion, she’d do it; she wouldn’t question, she’d do it. And she’s gotten better.

“The last three years, her average went up close to 50 pins. It’s nice to see youth bowlers try and get better.”

As Snyder rushes toward graduation, she has already found a collegiate home, as she’ll head to WVU in the fall to join the club team.

“Ever since I was little I’ve been a Mountaineer fan, and I’ve always wanted to say I was a Mountaineer,” she said. “Just growing up near Morgantown influenced that decision, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Snyder’s poise, skill set and eagerness to absorb every facet of the sport paint the picture of a bright future. Though her aspirations eventually include touring with the Professional Women’s Bowling association (PWBA), she said she is content for now to further her own game while extending bowling to a new audience and bringing future athletes to the sport.

One thing about Snyder is for certain, though: What she brings to the lanes makes an impact on all those around her, and she is turning more heads each day.

“I’m honored to have her bowl with me,” Malik said.

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