When someone mentions going ice skating, where do you think of first? Florida?
No way, those Northerners say, but Florida now boasts rinks all over the state. Through Saturday, eight ice skating clubs from Florida competed among 39 from 20 states in the 1998 South Atlantic Regional Figure Skating Championships.
The Tampa Bay Skating Club hosted the regional competition at Tampa Bay Skating Academy's twin rink facility in Oldsmar. The regionals are the first qualifying step toward nationals.
"The top four skaters in each of the eligible divisions of singles, pairs and dance advance to the Eastern Sectional Championships," said Lyn Edens, president of the Tampa Bay Skating Club. "The top four there go on to the U.S. National Championships. From there, our U.S. Olympic Team is chosen."
Megan Raymond, from the Florida Suncoast Figure Skating Club, based at SunBlades, is one of 13 local skaters who advanced to the Eastern Sectionals last year and competed in this week's competition.
"I have been to sectionals four times, once in ice dance and three times in figures," said Raymond, 16. "That experience is a definite benefit for me."
Raymond is from Venice and for the last four years traveled daily to SunBlades to train with her coach Agi Soderman. Now in her first year at Harvard studying neurobiology, Raymond works with two coaches in the Boston area.
"I was 5 years old when I first started skating," Raymond said. "We were living in New York and came here to shop. That's when I went to Centre Ice. One of the things I love the most about skating is meeting all the other skaters."
Raymond competed in free skating, or singles, at the regional competition and because there was no competition in figures, automatically advanced to sectionals.
"It's unfortunate that figures competition is being eliminated," she said. "I believe concentration and focus are learned through figures practice. Because of that, I think there will be less consistency as the younger skaters move up."
Other skaters from SunBlades scheduled to compete were Abby Evans, Shawn-Marie Andrews and Sharon Rubin in juvenile freestyle; Edward Wolfson, juvenile free; Megan McNeil and Angela Rodriguez, intermediate ladies; Jeremy Barrett, intermediate men; Susanne Searles, junior ladies; Stephanie Alpert, senior ladies. Andrews and Barrett competed in juvenile open pairs and Jillian McFela and Clint Lemasters entered juvenile open dance. Host club TBSC entered 49 skaters.
The South Atlantic Regional contest began Tuesday and concluded Saturday evening.
TENNIS: Tiffanie Kalvoda of Tierra Verde teamed with Jackie Bohannon of Sarasota to win last weekend's girls 14-and-under doubles title in the Designated Doubles Bowl at Cheval Country Club in Lutz. St. Petersburg's Jonathan Crooms won the boys 12-and-under championship with Oldsmar's Ryan Buchanan.
Local finalists included Kelly Nelson and Pearly Leung (girls 18), Bugsy Bauer and Brianna Williams (girls 14), Ehen Pindyck and Stephen Poulos (boys 18).
The Florida Junior Doubles Championships are Saturday through Nov. 10 in Bradenton.
ROLLER SKATING: Laura Wilson won two first-place awards in Level I Division C competition in this month's West Central Florida League Skating Contest in Orlando. Wilson won ladies figures and solo dance. Cory Dalzell was second in Level I Division A boys figures, fifth in solo dance and teamed with Stephanie Barbosa to finish third in team dance. Shannon Hallberg was third in Level I Division A girls figures and sixth in solo dance. Barbara Scarpetta was eighth in esquire ladies figures.
GYMNASTICS: Janelle DeVaul was first all-around in Level 4 novice competition for 7- to 9-year olds at the Second Local Qualifier in Brandon. DeVaul was also first on floor, second on uneven bars and vault and fifth on balance beam.
Michelle Jocelyn was second all-around in Level 6 novice for 8- to 9-year olds and was first on vault and bars. Jamie Oakes was third all-around and first on beam. Mollie Parkinson was third all-around in Level 4 advanced for 10- to 11-year olds.
Treasure Island offers gymnastics to preschool and school age children at the Community Center. Call 547-4575 or 391-8345.