The 30th Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games are Aug. 1-10 in New Orleans. More than 12,000 coaches and athletes in 24 sports are expected. Pinellas athletes will be among the approximately 400 youths from Florida.
"We currently have 7,000 athletes registered, but expect about 12,000," said Greg Bensel, director of media and public relations for the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation. "Some AAU events will be held outside of New Orleans, but the majority will be held here. As a matter of fact, 11 of the 24 sports will be held at the Superdome _ nine will take place at the same time."
Gymnastics is one of the events scheduled at the Superdome and will include nine area gymnasts. Competing Aug. 8-10 will be Level 10 gymnasts Alicia Weatherilt and Sarah Callaghan; Level 9's Lisa Hilleboe, Missy Benton, Jessica Freilich and Desiree Martin, and Level 8's Sevi Biondi, Jennifer Monaghan and Cary Fitzsimmons.
"We have been practicing harder than "We have been practicing harder than ever," said Kevin Grund, coach of all the gymnasts except Martin. "We especially have emphasized conditioning and ballistic stretching. We've tried to keep the girls in the routine mode while adding some new skills."
Grund expects more than last year's 2,900 gymnasts at this year's event.
Soccer players Andre Poulard, Phommachanh Vongsavanh, Anthony Lazzara, Carlos Macioch, Daniel Mosny, Kevin Conaway, Shea Cox and Ryan Alexander are members of an under-17 boys team that competes Aug. 7-10.
Two tennis teams from the North Pinellas Junior Team Tennis summer league are among seven representing Florida in competition Aug. 7-9. Players include Carla Wrassmann, Sarah Sealey, Lauren Campbell, Adam Siegel, Duffy McKenna and Bryan Lauer on one 18-and-under co-ed team, and Meghan Conrad, Pammy Klibanoff, Brenda Corace, Jonathan Tharin, Justin Szeremeta and Andrew Ertsgaard are on the second team.
Pinellas athletes also will be competing in baseball. Although several age divisions will play in New Orleans, the 15-and-under division is in Concord, N.C., Aug. 3-10.
The father-son duo of Ken and Mike Minacci are coaching the 13-player squad, which won the AAU state tournament to qualify for the nationals.
The Minaccis will rely on pitchers Todd Alexander, Boof Bonser and Ty Banks; catchers Cory Agar and Bronk Allen; infielders Aaron Sobieraj, Keith Stegebauer, C.J. Stimson, John Sims and Justin Pikramenos, and outfielders Tyson Mason, Charlie Carapazza and Andy Kucek.
"These players were selected from the top 14-15-year-olds in the area," said Mike Minacci. "Even though we won the state tournament, none of them have ever gone to a national championship. We are all excited."
Additional athletes registered for the AAU games are asked to call this writer at 796-5559.
SWIMMING: The Bardmoor Aquatic Team came from behind to win its second consecutive Strawberry Invitational in Lakeland this month. After placing second behind Tampa Palms through three sessions of competition, Bardmoor rallied to score 90 points in the last session. It totaled 656.50 points with its 68 swimmers while Tampa Palms earned 567 with its 96.
East Lake Woodlands was fourth (418.5), Countryside Country Club fifth (380) and Carlouel Yacht Club seventh (286.5).
High-point winners were Laurie Moreau, Megan Morelli, Trevor Caldwell, Andy Helvenston, King Lotz and Eric Anderson.
This weekend, Bardmoor hosts Countryside, East Lake and the Lansbrook Aquatic Club for the Pinellas Aquatic League Relay Championships. The PAL Championships are Aug. 10-11 at the Long Center.
TENNIS: Christa Grey of Seminole and Janet Walker of Seffner teamed to reach the doubles finals of the girls 18 U.S. Tennis Association Clay Court National Championships this month. Walker also reached the round of 16 in singles. It is the first year in the 18s for both Grey and Walker.
Kelly McCain of Largo placed fourth in the girls 14 competition and won the doubles. It is her first year in the division.
ROLLER SKATING: Southland Skating Club members travel to Lincoln, Neb., next week for national roller skating competitions. Sandy O'Shields, Chris McFalls, Terry Plecas and Jim Reese qualified for Standard Nationals, and Linda Reeds, Meghan Dellaire and Jack Hallas will compete in the Junior Olympic Nationals.