What Carolina Snowden remembers best about the first day of her bowling career was that it started with tears.
At a joint party celebrating her fourth birthday and her brother’s ninth, the big kids were having a blast. She was not.
“I was crying because I wasn’t bowling,” said Snowden, now a junior at Spanaway Lake High School. “So I picked up a ball and started bowling.”
Thirteen years later, it takes just two words for Sentinels coach Brooke Wilkinson to describe Snowden: “Phenomenal bowler.”
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“It’s just kind of her thing, her passion,” she said. “Every year, she keeps getting better and better.”
Snowden hopes that is the case as she enters this weekend’s state tournament at Tacoma’s Narrows Plaza Bowl as the defending Class 4A champion.
“It’s nerve-wracking,” she said. “Someone could always swoop in and take the title, so it’s on me having to come in to try my best to defend it.
“Two-time state champion? That’s a good time.”
Snowden’s journey to the 2015 title was actually more a road to redemption. The same day she finished ninth in her first state appearance after coming into the tournament as the West Central District champion, she declared she would come back and win it as a sophomore.
Wilkinson is confident that Snowden can defend her title. The Sentinels will also compete as a team after a surprising fifth-place finish at districts.
“She bowled strong (last weekend), so she can do it,” she said of Snowden, who is averaging 183 pins. “It’s just a matter of staying relaxed and focused and knowing she is supported by everyone.”
Wilkinson said Snowden has matured in the last year. She also competes in weekend leagues at Bowl Arena Lanes on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and for an all-star league.
“They team expects her do well every time and it doesn’t always happen that way,” she said. “But if she has a bad game, she’ll turn around and say, ‘I’ve got it, guys, I’ll pick it up the next game.’ ”
Senior Faith Julian, who is making her first state appearance, said her co-captain leads by example.
“It’s really cool to watch how her ball reacts and how she throws the ball,” she said. “A lot of the girls look (at that) and try to copy what she’s doing because she can usually make it work.”
Snowden said that requires focus on both her mental and physical game: analyzing where she needs to hit the pins, and regulating the speed at which she walks and releases the ball.
“I like throwing something down the lane,” she said with a laugh.
Girls bowling state tournament
Where: Narrows Plaza Bowl, University Place.
Schedule: Friday – Individual games (1-3), 10 a.m.-noon. Individual games (4-6), 1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday – Baker games, 8 a.m.-10 a.m.
2015 team champions: 4A – Battle Ground. 3A/2A/1A – Columbia River.
2015 individual winners: 4A – Carolina Snowden, Spanaway Lake. 3A/2A/1A – Megan Wittenberg, Bremerton.
The skinny: 4A – So how deep is bowling in Southwest Washington? It is so good that four-time defending state champion Battle Ground did not make it out of its district championships, and will not be here this weekend to go for a five-peat. Evergreen of Vancouver went undefeated in the 4A GSHL, won the district tournament as well, and is led by the 1-2 punch of Shannon Bliquez (district champion with 579 series) and Lexi Henderson. … Snowden can do something no 4A bowler has ever accomplished Friday – defending the individual crown. With 656 pins, she won the WCD title last weekend at Pacific Lanes over Rogers’ Kristina Harris (626). The last time a bowler won a pair of state titles was Battle Ground’s Wylicia Faley (2012, 2014). 3A/2A/1A – Much like Battle Ground, Columbia River won’t have a chance for a repeat championship effort. Hudson’s Bay and Prairie earned the state berths out of the Southwest District. … Wittenberg was a senior last season. The highest returning state finishers are Hudson Bay’s Reagan Lorey (third) and Olympic’s Ashlyn Jamrog (fourth), who placed second at last week’s WCD tournament behind North Mason’s Shainya Brannon (632 series). Watch out for Everett’s Candice Goldfinch (won District 1 title with 683 series), who placed eighth in 2013, second in 2014 and fifth last season at the state tournament.
Tickets: Daily — $10 for adults, $7 for students/senior citizens. Weekend — $16 for adults, $10 for students/senior citizens.