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Skating contest has "no name'

While most victims of last March's no-name storm are trying to forget their ordeal, a Port Richey skating academy is naming a competition after the storm.

The "No Name Invitational" in-line roller skating meet takes place Saturday and Sunday at the Southland Roller Palace, with many of the 350 entrants who went through the storm returning for this year's action.

"The meet is getting so big that we were looking for a name," said John Garner, coach of the Southland-based Florida Skating Academy. "And with this being the first anniversary of the storm, we decided to name the meet after it.

"It had a real impact on the people who showed up last year and most of them will be back."

When the storm hit last year, most of the skaters were staying at motels or in host skaters' homes. Most were left without electricity and some homes were flooded, but the meet went on.

"Everyone just pulled together and made the best of it," Garner said. "The exterior of our rink was messed up but the inside was okay and we got all of our races in. People braved the conditions and made the most of a bad situation."

The weather is not expected to be nearly as bad this year, and Garner is expecting entrants from throughout the South. The meet, which serves as a qualifier for national competition, is for skaters 5 years old and older, and competition is held in several categories. Distances range from 100 to 5,000 meters with skaters sometimes racing at more than 30 mph.

Garner said the competition will be similar to the speed skating events at the Winter Olympics.

"With the popularity of speed skating on ice in Lillehammer, the hope is, in-line skating will be accepted as a Summer Olympics event," Garner said. In-line speed skating will be a demonstration sport at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games. In-line skates, as the name suggests, have their wheels in a single line, as opposed to the old-style skate in which the wheels are arranged like those on a car.

Saturday, competition begins at 6 a.m. and continues until 6 p.m. Sunday's races start at 6 a.m. and continue until 2:30 p.m. For information, call Garner at (813) 847-4336.