CALEDONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — Caledonia High School senior bowler Brittney Schnicke has led the Scots to a fourth straight conference championship, a regional title and into the state finals. Just two years ago, many would not have thought that possible.
Schnicke first joined a bowling league when she was 12 years old.
She admits she wasn’t very good when she started out, but about two years later, she made Caledonia’s varsity team as a freshman. Soon, she was named the team’s anchor.
“We had a senior girl on the team, she pulled me aside and she goes, ‘Coach, she’s our best player, you should have her as our anchor,'” Caledonia girls varsity bowling coach Eric Bottrall said.
As a sophomore, Schnicke led the Scots to the state finals for the first time in school history.
“It’s really helped our team bond,” she said.
She also finished eighth overall individually in the state in Division 1.
“You could just see that she was a special kid,” Bottrall said.
Everything seemed to rolling perfectly for Schnicke — but just one week later, in March 2015, she had an accident in wood shop class.
“I was on a jointer and there’s these pads you slide across with the wood and I was going across and I guess the wood got stuck on the guard for the saw and my fingers slipped and went like right into the saw,” Schnicke recalled.
The machine severed her ring finger near the first knuckle and the tip of her middle finger on her left hand — her bowling hand. The fingertips she lost are the ones a bowler uses to control the roll and the spin on the ball.
“The first thing that came out of my mouth was, ‘I’m not going to be able to bowl.’ And it just really terrified me,” Schnicke said.
“Brittney’s mom, she calls me and says, ‘Brittney cut her fingers off.’ I’m like, ‘What?” I mean, I’m in utter shock,” Bottrall said.
Schnicke was rushed to the hospital and a week later underwent the first of two surgeries.
“I thought my career was over,” she recalled. “But I talked to the doctor and to my coach and they said I could bowl, so then I was like, OK, I can do this.”
She had a ball drilled with a special grip.
“It’s called a Sarge Easter,” she showed 24 Hour News 8. “It’s where I put my whole finger, my ring finger, into the ball and for my middle finger, I just put the grip in it.”
She started practicing almost every day. Before the accident, she had averaged a score in the 190s. Now she was rolling only about half that.
“It was definitely like learning to bowl again,” she said.
But she kept at it.
“She worked her tail off,” Bottrall said.
Schnicke not only returned to the team for her junior season, but by the end of it had improved her average by ten pins to a career high 203.
“I had my team through the whole thing and my coach came and practiced with me each day, which helped me and gave me confidence to be able to get back into it again,” Schnicke said.
She led Caledonia to another conference title, throwing a career high game of 279.
“She inspired me as a person,” Bottrall said. “Because to battle back through something like that, it’s pretty awesome.”
“She was just like, ‘I’m going to get back out there and do what I need to do to get where I was at, and if not better.’ And she did say, ‘I’m going to be better,’ and she was,” Schnicke’s mother, Michelle Schnicke said. “Very, very proud.”
This year, as a senior, she has again averaged 203 and led Caledonia to a fourth straight conference title. This weekend, the team competed in and won their regional final, and now their headed to states. Schnicke herself also qualified for states as an individual.
“It’d be really cool to get a state title,” Schnicke said.
Schnicke has also earned a bowling scholarship to Midland University of Nebraska this fall.