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Queens title is sweet for 16-year-old Snyder

She’s only 16, but Sara Snyder of Depew is picking up a world of competitive bowling experience this year, and it’s paying off.

Last Saturday, Snyder moved higher up the achievement list by winning the Classified Division of the New York State Queens Tournament over a field of 36 bowlers at Thunderbird Lanes in Syracuse. The Classified Division is for bowlers with averages of 194 and lower.

The thrill hadn’t worn off yet for Sara as of Thursday.

“It’s still pretty amazing,” she said.

Snyder, a junior at Depew High, won the Section VI girls individual championship and was a member of the Section VI All-Sectional team that won the New York State Public High Schools championship in Syracuse last month. The Sectionals included some of the best female teenage bowlers in Western New York – 2014 sectional champion Haley Carroll, Angela Gabriele, Julia Brown, Alexis Wade and Madelyn Jensen. In the Queens, though, Snyder was the youngest among the 36 entrants of mostly adult bowlers in the Classified Division

“It was extraordinary,” Snyder said of the experience of bowling in the State Queens.

Many of her schoolmates at Depew High weren’t aware this week they had a champion in their midst and Sara doesn’t seem like a person who would go around boasting.

“I know a couple of girls on my high school team know and my coach Rick Wojdala is extremely proud, but not many others know about it,” Snyder said.

Snyder said the experience topped even the excitement the of state public schools championship, where bowlers compete in standing-room-only crowd, which includes family and classmates and athletes from other sports cheering them on.

“I had never bowled in that kind of environment before,” she said of the state schools tournament. “It was like the Sectionals, only louder.”

Snyder was a bit intimidated at first by bowling in the Queens qualifying when she saw a 300 game and a 290 go up on the board. Despite her nervousness, though, she settled down.

Snyder shot 1,002 in the qualifying round – the high qualifier scored 1,008 – then bowled 237 in match play against Melinda Johnson of Penn Yan to earn the top seed for the stepladder finals.

In the final match she defeated Diana Lamb of Putnam Valley, 191-170, on the Route 66 oil pattern. Lamb was no pushover. She had bowled 252 in defeating Michelle Scioria of Rochester before defeating Deanna Rose, also of Rochester, 207-203. Snyder’s victory earned $600 for her SMART account scholarship fund.

Sara’s dad, Bob, who works in the circulation department of The Buffalo News and is a youth director of the Greater Buffalo USBC Association, started her in bowling and was her first coach. Former pro and Greater Buffalo USBC Hall of Famer Dave Guindon helped, too, but the rest Sara said she “just absorbed” watching the top local bowlers and the pros on television.

Snyder stands only 4-feet-10, so her game is not a power game.

“I’m just a little slow,” she said with a laugh, but relies on accuracy and consistency.

Her high single is a 267 and her best three-game series is 690. Besides bowling for Depew, she bowls in four other junior leagues. She finished second in the Bowling Proprietors of Autumn Tournament at Allie Brandt Lanes last fall.

Besides bowling, her other interests are music and her English and history studies at Depew. She plays bass clarinet in the school band.

Her goal is go to college at St. Francis in Loretto, Pa., which has an ambitious women’s bowling program and competes in the same league as Fairleigh Dickinson (N.J.) where Melanie Hannon (Maryvale) is a standout.

“I really like the coach there,” she said. “The campus is beautiful, and it’s a really small community.”

Snyder bowled in the USBC Junior Gold tournament here last summer. She plans to enter the Junior Gold again when it is held in Chicago this summer and the Teen Masters in Las Vegas this summer. Before that, though, she will bowl against the area’s best, men and women, in next month’s George A. Obenauer Masters at AMF Lancaster Lanes.

The Open Division of the New York Queens was won by Shannon Sellens of Copiague, the Long Island Masters champion. Sellens defeated Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, 245-237, in the round of eight on her way to the title.

More honors for Liz

Liz Johnson and four others will be inducted into the USBC Hall of Fame on Wednesday as part of the organization’s convention in Omaha, Neb. Johnson will be honored in the Superior Performance category.

WNY individuals already in the hall include Tom Baker, Doris Coburn, Cindy Coburn-Carroll, Allie Brandt, Jim Schroeder and Frank Caruana.

Besides that, Johnson this week was recognized as the Am-Pol Eagle Citizen of the Year for Sports. The Am-Pol awards recognized outstanding Polish-American citizens for accomplishments in a variety of fields. Johnson grew up in Niagara Falls and now lives in Cheektowaga. Her original family name is Janiszewski.

Pin chasers

• The Greater Buffalo USBC Open and Women’s Championships get underway Tuesday at AMF Airport Lanes. Association manager Bill Palumbo expects the four-bowler team count to hit 300 and 350 doubles and around 700 singles entries.

• A few team openings are available for the New York State Open Tournament Saturday and Sunday at AMF Airport Lanes and next Friday.

• Buffalo native Tom Baker qualified second and finished third to earn $2,500 in the PBA50 United Healthcare Sun Bowl in The Villages, Fla., on Tuesday. No. 5 qualifier Mike Scroggins, back in action after missing almost a year with plantar fasciitis, defeated Baker, 234-202, and triumphed over Parker Bohn in the title match, 255-246.

email: mnorthrop@buffnews.com