Teen bowler lines them up for national championship

WEYBRIDGE — When Glory Martin’s daughter Anissa turned two years old, Martin decided it was time to get the ball rolling on Anissa’s bowling career. The Weybridge resident signed the toddler up for a youth league, got her a ball, and started taking her to the lanes.
Thirteen years and thousands of downed pins later, Anissa, now 15, is headed to Detroit to compete with 2,500 of the best youth bowlers in the country in the 2013 North Pointe Junior Gold Championships.
Anissa heads to the Midwest on July 13 along with Tyler Richards of Hinesburg for 15 games of bowling over three days. She qualified in early May when she won the 2013 Pepsi Vermont Youth Bowling Championship in the 15-and-under girls division, aided by a career-best 246 game. Richards placed second in the U-15 boys division in a tournament held at Spare Time Lanes in Colchester.
“I did the Pepsi Tournament for years and I never thought I had a chance. But this year it came as a shock for me. I never expected it,” said Anissa with a sheepish grin. Now the stakes will be even higher. The tournament is giving out $250,000 of scholarship money to the top finishers, and a chance to compete for a spot on the U.S. Junior Gold team in Reno, Nev. — the “best of the best” according to the Martins.
Bowling has been in the Martin family for generations. Anissa’s grandparents used to bowl in a Saturday night league, and Glory got into it too when she started dating Anissa’s father, Jeddi Martin, an avid bowler himself.
“It was like bowling was our second home,” said Glory.
When they started their daughter bowling as a toddler it was more for fun than anything.
“It was a lot of going up there, throwing the ball and lying on the floors. We did plenty of that for a long time,” said Glory laughing.
Anissa’s father succumbed to cancer nine years ago. But Anissa kept bowling and as the years went on, she became more and more serious about bowling and more and more successful, too.
“After I started to improve more I started to enjoy it more,” she said confessing there was a time she just did it because she had to.
Now she makes the hour drive to Colchester a couple of times a week to compete in a youth league at Spare Time Lanes, where she has boosted her average to 175 points out of a possible 300. Winning the Pepsi Youth Bowling Championships has been her latest accomplishment.
“I’m so proud … I love seeing her going forward with this. It’s her thing now. And it’s definitely taken off,” Glory said.
“That’s him living on in the dream, too,” she added referring to Anissa’s father.
Anissa admits that at Middlebury Union High School, where she is a junior, most people don’t know about her bowling talent. In fact, her school won’t even give her physical education credit for it as a sport.
“It’s something to argue about though because other outside sports are recognized, and bowling is a sport too, so it really should be counted,” Glory said.
But her close friends are very supportive of her passion for bowling and understand the important role it plays in the Martin family.
“They’re amazed that I’ve come this far,” she said.
Furthermore, she has found another close-knit community of peers after recently switching to her current bowling league.
“In just those couple years I made a whole lot of new friends. We talk and we plan to go bowling and stuff, and when we go it’s not really a competition because we know how each other bowls … we just go for fun. It is a community,” Anissa said.
Scholarship money adds another positive aspect to the youth bowling community. From smaller, in-house tournaments, to larger events like the Pepsi Youth Championship, top finishers get award money put in scholarship funds kept by the U.S. Bowling Congress until the bowlers are ready for college.
Glory said parents in the community are working in their spare time to organize activities and tournaments to help promote the sport among Vermont youth. But it’s not easy in areas like Addison County, which no longer have lanes.
“We are trying to get it bumped up a little more around here,” she said.
In the meantime, Anissa has work to do to prepare for Detroit. She is most nervous about adjusting to the oils they will use on the lanes to make them slick. While “open” lanes for people bowling recreationally do not regularly use oil on their floors, it is a big part of competitive bowlers’ games. In most bowling leagues, the people who run the lanes will oil the floors in certain spots to create a “house shot,” or a certain path to aim for with your ball, Anissa explained.
“But a sport shot is what we will see in Detroit, which is basically all oil, not like a house shot where there is oil just in certain spots. So it is going to be a major change,” she said.
While harder to read, professional bowlers use a sport shot, so it will help prepare youth bowlers for the future.
Anissa will also be working on her form with her coach, including following through with her right bowling hand and making sure she is keeping straight as she approaches the lane.
Most importantly she will be practicing tricky spare shots.
“Striking is always nice, but the biggest thing that helps you if you don’t get a strike is picking up your spares. If you leave one or two pins here and there that really drops your score down,” she said. “Nobody’s perfect, they can’t always get a strike so picking up the spares helps a lot.”
One of the hardest shots in bowling is what bowlers call the “big split,” in which the seven and 10 corner pins remain up along with one more pin on the far left or right.
Recalling a time she picked up a “big split,” Anissa said with a glint in her eye, “It’s the best feeling the world.”
Anissa and her mother will be driving the distance to Detroit for the competition in a couple of weeks and have been doing what they can to raise money for the trip. On June 22 they threw a spaghetti dinner at Vergennes Union High School, where Glory worked, for Anissa and Tyler Richards as a fundraiser, and soon they will be holding a car wash and a bake sale.
Equipped with her three bowling balls, including a new 15-pounder she bought with her own money, and a positive attitude about the next step in her bowling career, Anissa is ready for the big trip.
“I’m just going there to have fun. If I get farther than just the (first) 15 games (and) into the finals then that’s amazing. But, like I said, I didn’t even expect to go to Detroit, to go to nationals — any of this — so it’s going to be just a good experience for me,” she said.

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