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BMX races offer a trophy dash for kids of all ages

If you can ride a bike you can race on a BMX track.

Boys and girls of all ages and abilities race at the St. Petersburg track at Walter Fuller Park every Saturday. The track is the only one in Pinellas and one of 12 in Florida.

"We average about 125 bikers at our weekly races," said Peggy Morrison, volunteer track director in the Pinellas National Bike League. "Every time a biker enters a race, they have a chance of earning points and winning a trophy."

The PNBL is part of the Sunshine State Association that operates under the guidelines of the National Bicycle League. There are three classes of bikers _ beginner, novice and expert. First-time bikers are encouraged to try a trial membership in the PNBL for 30 days.

A BMX track is 1,100 feet long and includes a starting gate and various jumps and turns. Most bicycles are of the 20-inch variety with pads and a helmet as safety requirements.

"I first went to the track with a friend to watch," said Steve Harold, 14. "I liked it and now BMX racing is my sport."

Harold, a freshman at Pinellas Park High School, has biked four years and advanced from beginner to expert. Participation in local, state, national and world competitions have resulted in Harold's gaining a No. 1 expert ranking in the state and nation and No. 7 in the world in his age division.

"Bikers basically work on their own to learn," said Morrison. "There are beginner clinics, practices each Tuesday and before races on Saturdays, but primarily the higher levels help out the beginners."

St. Petersburg's Brian Doyle, 7, began racing before he was 6 and has advanced to the novice class. Bikers must win eight times in order to move to the next class.

Next weekend, a NBL race is scheduled in Tampa that will attract at least 700 bikers, including professionals.

For information on BMX racing, call Morrison at 576-3425.

Apollo gymnastics: Kira Siegel, Sevi Biondi and Courtnee Veres won age-group all-around championships in the Octoberfest Invitational at the Apollo School of Gymnastics in Clearwater. Siegel also won the vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise competitions for 9-10-year-olds in Level 5, and Biondi won the bars, vault and floor routines 11-12 Level 5. Veres won the beam, bars and floor exercise in Level 6, 12-and-older.

Other event winners included Holly Harrison (beam and floor) and Rebecca Raveling (beam).

In Level 4 meets, Apollo's team won the AAU competition and was runner-up in a USAGC meet. Heidi Swanson, Janelle Melucci and Melissa Ley were Level 4 all-around winners. Other top all-around performers were Allie Boudreau, Sarah Ellerby, Jessica Davis, Jasmine Johnson, Cammie Voss and Jessica Bishop.

Level 4 gymnasts winning events were Swanson (vault, bars, beam, floor), Melucci (vault), Ley (beam, floor), Megan Klavans (beam), Johnson (bars, beam), Bishop (vault, bars) and Caitlin Pendola (floor).

Gemini gymnastics: Level 5 and 6 gymnasts traveled to Fort Collins, Colo., this month and won the team competition in both. In Level 6, Stacey Rothenheber was first all-around in the 9-11 age division, as was Ashley Shible in 12-14. Top-10 performances were earned by Rachel Thibault, Keriann Arnold, Brianne Hebert and Stacy Sacco. Shible won the vault, bars, beam and floor, Thibault bars and beam, and Sacco vault and floor.

Level 5 all-around winners were Brooke Hackett (12-14) and Beth Radel (9-11). Hackett also won the vault, bars and beam; Radel won vault, beam and floor. Valerie Carde, Jaclyn Epstein and Tracy Woodley placed second, third and fourth respectively behind Radel.

In the Octoberfest at Apollo, Jilayne Kloote was first all-around in Level 5, agas 12-14, as was Nicole Pisoni in Level 6.

Football: Lakewood, St. Petersburg and Greenwood each won or tied all four varsity games in last weekend's Pinellas Youth Football Conference competition. St. Petersburg beat Largo, Greenwood defeated Dixie, and Lakewood beat Tarpon Springs.

Games today include Greenwood at Clearwater, Tarpon Springs at Dixie, Seminole at Northeast, Palmetto at Gibbs, Azalea at St. Petersburg, and Countryside at Lakewood. Flyweights play at 3:30 p.m., Mighty Mites at 5, Pee Wees at 6:30 and Midgets at 8.

Notes: Dunedin's under-11 boys soccer team defeated Countryside Lightning 4-0 in last weekend's Southside Kickoff Tournament in St. Petersburg. Fred Johnson of Seminole was a finalist in the boys 10 division of the Bartow Ford Junior tennis ourney.