This time around, it was different.

Chelsea Schneider, who last year became the first female bowler ever from the TIMES NEWS area to earn a trip to the USBC (United States Bowling Congress) Junior Gold Championships, recently made a return visit to the prestigous event.

Having been there before, the Northern Lehigh graduate focused more on improving her placement than just enjoying the moment.

"I felt more competitive about it this year," said Schneider, who bowls primarily at Cypress Lanes in Lehighton. "Last year was my first year and I was only thinking about what kind of experience I would get out of being there. This year was definitely more competitive."

At last year's championships, the right-hander started strong and eventually finished 70th out of 524 bowlers. Her average for her 30 games was a 178.17.

After her start this year, it looked like Schneider might not advance after the opening three rounds. A dissapointing first day left her in 265th place (out of 521) with a 170.5 average. Needing to improve to reach the semifinals (the top 79 advanced), the 18-year old from Walnutport impressed many in the way she rebounded.

Over the next two days, she bowled 12 games. She produced five games over 200 and averaged 192.6 over that span. Those scores boosted her into 72nd place, allowing her to move on in the tournament.

"My goal for this year was to get below 70th place because that's where I finished last year," said Schneider. "I didn't think I was going to be able to do it ... after the first day.

"They have three different bowling alleys, and they have three different oil patterns on the lanes. My first six games were on the toughest oil patterns, which was the long oil pattern. I don't like those, I like the short ones better because I can't hook my ball very long.

"I was really mad. I was bowling with girls who were doing very well and I couldn't hit my mark wherever I went. But the next day it was my oil pattern and I did better. I was disappointed until the next day. That's when I got ready to go."

Once in the semis, she continued to climb in the standings. She jumped to 64th after the first six games and then averaged 202.3 over her final six games to end in 41st place.

Her average for the 30 games was a 188.47 and she finished with eight 200+ games with her highest being a 245.

"I'm proud of the way she handled herself," said her coach and stepdad Brian Steigerwalt. "She had a bad first day, but she didn't let that get her down. She really came back and kept improving all the way through.

"She's really getting into the game of bowling by learning the different lane conditions and how to play the lanes. She's learned you can't throw the same shot every time. She's also learned to throw her plastic ball for spares. Making her spares is a big thing in trying to win tournaments. In the last three or four years, her competitiveness has come out a little bit more, as well as her confidence. She knows she can win now and that helps her game."

Schnedier, who plans on attending Northampton Community College and majoring in Radiology, has started to win her share of tournaments. In April, she cruised past her competition in the 50th Lehigh Valley Junior Masters. She averaged 225.6 in the eight games, posting 200+ in six of them including a high of 279. At the Pepsi State tourney, she finished on top in the Overall Girls Scratch and gained a $1500 scholarship.

"I feel like I've improved since last year," said Schneider. "I've been practicing a lot more. I was really happy to win the Lehigh Valley Masters. That was my first time there in the finals."

Schneider, who hopes to bowl in college, is also looking to return to the Junior Gold Championships. The national event, which was held the past two years in Indianapolis, will take place in Las Vegas in 2011.

"I'd love to get to Las Vegas," she said. "If I do, my goal would be to get into the top 20."