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Gymnasts hope meets will be a springboard to success

Competing well at regional meets, qualifying for national championships and earning a spot on a Junior Olympic team are goals of every young gymnast.

This weekend in Atlanta, Level 8 competitors are participating in the regional championships. Lara Straub, Heather Nerad, Julie Corder, Tatiana Yepes and Jayme Lauricella are representing LaFleur's of St. Petersburg along with Kim Conaway, Jacqueline Smith and Denise Wedin from LaFleur's of Largo. Largo's Erin Godin was named to the Level 8 Florida A Team.

Next weekend, the St. Petersburg gymnastics club will send 10 competitors to the Level 10 nationals in Seattle, Wash., the most of any competing club. Last year, St. Petersburg sent eight.

Representing LaFleur's will be Tara Tagliarino, Lindsay Beddow and Jena Gallagher in Senior A, Krissy Dreger and Lisa Campanioni in Senior B, Lauren Bernloehr and Emily Earle in Junior A, and Margaret Dann, Lauren Campanioni and Jacqueline Pallardy in Junior B.

"They are all at their peak. They're healthy, strong and motivated," said Mary Linnemeyer, a LaFleur's coach along with Brad Harris. "Our biggest worry now is the effect of the three-hour time delay in Washington."

Linnemeyer believes that the Senior A team has a strong chance of winning and that Tagliarino is capable of winning the all-around title.

"Her skill level is high enough that if she hits her events, she can take it all," Linnemeyer said.

The top seven all-around Level 10 gymnasts are invited to join the Junior Olympics National Team. Last year, Dann and Dreger were named to the squad.

On May 16, the Level 9 national competition will be held and will include Stephanie Pink of the Largo gymnastics club and Summer Hubbard and Courtney LeCroix of St. Petersburg.

"This is what the girls work toward," said Linnemeyer. "There are a lot of gymnasts in the area and a lot of them are doing very well."

BOYS GYMNASTICS: Duke VanVleet and Jason Pierce qualified for the Men's National Championships May 9-10 in Battle Creek, Mich. VanVleet will compete in Class 1; Pierce, in Class 3.

To qualify, VanVleet placed third all-around in a regional championship and Pierce was fourth.

FENCING: Andrew Stroud won the open duel division and the open sabre competition in the West Coast Duel Meet in Clearwater last month. Jessica Blake won the D-and-under foil, Patrick Kondor the under-16 epee and Jimmy Malone both the under-11 and under-13 foil divisions.

BOYS BASKETBALL: The St. Pete Beach Bombers 13-and-under AAU team won the Orlando Force Tournament last month by defeating current state champion Orlando Force twice. Last weekend, the Bombers won the Lakers Invitational in Mount Dora and this weekend battle in the AAU State Tournament in Orlando.

Players include Marquell Brooks, Jimmy Fricker, Jorden Kolosey, Brian Leclere, Kyle Masterson, Lasting Milledge, Chad Rodosevich, Lerue Rumph, Jamon Sanders, Lance Skipper and Deon Troupe. John Fricker and Paul Skipper are the coaches.

Last year, Skipper, Fricker, Leclere, Troupe and Rodosevich competed on a team that placed third in the nation at the Cage National Championships. This year's team will compete in the Cage event in June in Louisville, Ky.