The James H. Snyder Award, presented annually by the CDT to the outstanding male and female athlete-student-citizen at each of the Centre County high schools, has no monetary value.
Yet 61 years after its inception it remains perhaps the most coveted county award presented and is priceless.
Named in honor of former CDT sports editor Jim Snyder, who was killed in an automobile crash just before Christmas in 1957, the award is meant to recognize those athletes who are more than outstanding in their sport(s).
And over time it has proven a great predictor of future success for the recipients. The list of past honorees includes a state attorney general, numerous doctors, lawyers and military officers, and countless teachers and coaches. And one prison warden.
That warden would be Angela Hoover, the Bald Eagle Area recipient in 2004 who oversees the Clinton County Prison.
Over lunch recently Hoover recalled her feelings when her name was called at the awards assembly as the BEA winner.
“I didn’t expect it,’’ she said. “I was so proud. I talked to my dad (Ron, who won the award in 1977) about all the previous winners. It meant a lot to me. I remember he was so thrilled when I won it. It’s in my office at home. I only keep a few things out from those days, and that’s one of them.’’
Given her accomplishments, she could fill a room, or at least cover a wall with her trophies and plaques.
Consider: She is Centre County’s only four-time state champion, male or female in any sport. She won the PIAA javelin title from 2001-04, something no other athlete, male or female in the state has achieved. She was undefeated in the event in her high school career. As a junior her throw of 159-7 was the best in the country. She was invited to the 2003 Olympic training camp. And she appeared in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd. Oh, and she won 10 letters while at BEA. That’s a pretty short list, too.
Not bad for someone who had to be coaxed, almost blackmailed, into trying the event.
“When I was young I was really into basketball and I wanted to be on a travel basketball team. My dad said he would take me, but I had to agree to try track and field,’’ she said, adding her father coached the throwing events at BEA. “I think he knew my potential. I tried it and loved it from Day 1.
“I can remember my first meet. I threw 127 feet, and that was a state qualifying distance .I don’t know if I went to states thinking I could win it. At that point I just wanted to go have a good time and compete for fun.’’
And while there were more honors, more victories in her future, there was also the black cloud of injuries which would eventually cause her to give up the sport.
“I had two knee surgeries for a torn ACL,’’ she said. “I had one after my sophomore year and another after my senior year. And the pain in her throwing elbow began to rise.’’
The pain and the pressure of being a three-time defending champion made her last PIAA meet the most memorable. But the pressure was overwhelming.
So was the pain in her elbow, which caused her to have Tommy John surgery after her freshman year at Pitt. However, as a sophomore she came back and began to establish herself as a force at the collegiate level, winning the Big East championship with a throw of 160 feet.
And then she was done.
“For two years every single throw I made caused pain,’’ she said. “It takes the enjoyment out of it when you dread every throw. It was hard going into a meet knowing how bad it was going to hurt with every single throw. It made it hard to enjoy the sport.’’
Too hard. So she left Pitt after her sophomore year and transferred to Lock Haven, where she graduated cum laude in 2009.
She took a job in Allentown following graduation but, after a while, she decided to move back home and look for a job here. Her sister noticed an ad for an administrative assistant job in corrections in Clinton County, so she applied and got it.
“I never had any aspirations to be in corrections, but when I got into it I found I liked it,’’ she said. “Corrections is not for everyone. One day the warden approached me and asked me to get additional training to become a case manager. Then I became a deputy warden. Now, eight years later, I’m the warden.’’
As such she oversees the entire prison and all of its staff and functions. Much of her day is spent interacting with the detainees. But what she finds most satisfying is seeing a detainee take advantage of the various programs offered and get his life together.
“For some of them it takes a while. You see people who don’t do well,” she said. “Some of them come back. But some are ready to make changes in their lives.
“That’s what makes this job rewarding, to see we’ve made positive changes in people’s lives. And we do provide an important service for the community.’’
Now the woman who didn’t want to throw the javelin and never dreamed of becoming a prison warden has finally found her niche.
“I love what I’m doing,’’ she said. “I want to make this my career.’’