Franklin Regional’s Jenkins looks forward to next chapter of bowling life

Friday, February 14, 2020 | 7:43 PM

Alaina Jenkins’ favorite moment of her bowling career was also the one in which she felt the most pressure.

Franklin Regional’s girls program had endured more than a decade of consecutive losing seasons and was one turn away in Week 8 from securing at least a share of its first section title.

“I was so nervous, and the whole place was electric and completely silent at the same time,” Jenkins said. “I heard someone say in the crowd, ‘This is where your anchor comes in,’ and I knew they were talking about me.”

Jenkins, a senior, bowled back-to-back-to-back strikes in a sequence that proved the difference between a section championship and second place. Days later, she signed with Robert Morris to become the Panthers’ first girls bowler to commit to a college team.

Each moment was unlikely for a self-described underdog who hesitated to try the sport six years earlier in middle school.

Jenkins said she was “still really terrible” before her freshman season. She and her mom joked at the time she would have to tell the coaches she couldn’t bowl.

“My coaches were incredible from the first practice,” Jenkins said. “I gained a real passion for bowling because of them, and I found a role model in Coach Gwen (Richards). Having someone like her to look up to was huge because it pushed me to be better.”

Richards, the Panthers assistant coach, said Jenkins broke the mold of the stereotypical bowler with her bubbly attitude.

“Alaina wasn’t a strong bowler when she started, but she had the greatest personality ever,” Richards said. “She had some raw talent, and we just needed to get her the right equipment. Once we did that, developing her skills was easy.”

For as good as Jenkins has become — she carries a 170.53 average — Richards said she is more revered for her leadership.

“A long time ago, I started sitting with the team at the first part of the lane in a circle, and we’d discuss our goals before matches,” Richards said. “One day, Alaina just took over, and her motivational speeches are wonderful. You can tell how much she wants the team part of it more than her own success.”

Jenkins entered the recruiting process with the hope she would discover a family atmosphere similar to the one at Franklin Regional.

She found the right fit when she met Robert Morris coach John Michalenko.

“Coach John took everything I said to heart,” Jenkins said. “I knew with him as my coach I could get better and better every year academically and as a bowler, and I never really got that impression from anyone else. He made me feel welcomed and at home in a way no one else did.”

The nerves will kick back in, she said, when she joins the Colonials.

“It’s humbling to look back at where I was when I was 13,” Jenkins said. “I definitely feel like an underdog again going to (Robert Morris) as a little freshman. No one feels on top of the world as the small fish in a big pond, but the small fish is the hardest to catch. I’ll keep my head down, work as hard as I can and, hopefully, my senior year of college, I’ll be telling the same story.”


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