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CAT diving team makes a splash

Clearwater Aquatic Team divers celebrated their one-year anniversary last month with a command performance at the North Florida Invitational in Jacksonville.

Flipping, twisting and turning, they earned three first-place awards, three seconds and eight other placements sixth or higher.

"The meet went really well for us and I think everyone had their best showing," said Gina Germano, 22, second-year CAT diving coach and a former diver at St. Bonaventure. "In fact, they did phenomenally well, considering we have hardly been on the boards lately."

Combined with holiday breaks and school exams, the divers have had limited board training, but activities such as medicine ball workouts, plyometrics and other dry land workouts led by Germano more than made up for the absence of a diving board.

As a result, Kaila Johnston and Cody Dodds won their respective age-group events in the 3-meter novice division, and first-time competitor Jonathan Heddleston was first among age 12-13 1-meter novice divers.

Johnston, 14, was a gymnast before switching to diving a year ago. The Clearwater High freshman combined her first-place finish in the 14-18 novice division with a fourth in the 14-15 Junior Olympic 1-meter event.

"I imagined that one day I would stop gymnastics and when I came here with a friend, I liked it," said Johnston. "There are a lot of similar skills between the two. You picture in your mind what you want to do, visualize it and then Gina calls out to let you know where you are when necessary."

Dodds, like Johnston, was a gymnast first and joined the CAT diving squad about six months ago.

"Cody has the best attitude and is one of the most coachable I've ever worked with," said Germano. "He's just 11 years old and learns really fast."

At last month's invitational, Dodds added to his first-place 3-meter finish with a second on the 1-meter board.

Three-meter competitors, like Johnston, Dodds and MacKenzie Smith, must travel to Tampa a couple of times a week to practice on an outdoor board since the Long Center is without one. One-meter competitors share the two boards at the center, cheering and supporting one another.

"It's really a lot of fun on the team," said Dodds. "There are more girls than boys, but that's okay. We're all friends."

Also finishing second at the Jacksonville meet were Leah Ross in her first competition at the intermediate level in the 1-meter 12-13 age division, and Ryan Schomburg in the 10-11 novice 1-meter.

Also trying their first diving competition were Hannah Ferderber and Dani Epstein. Ferderber was fifth in 12-13 novice 1-meter and Epstein was third in 12-13 intermediate 1-meter.

Also placing among the top six were Ashley Heddleston, Katie DeHetre and Austin Lashley.

Later this month, Germano will take her CAT team to Coral Springs for another invitational.

GIRLS GYMNASTICS: Today and Sunday is the annual Gemini Cup at the Long Center in Clearwater, with nearly 500 gymnasts from 10 states and Canada in optional-level competition from Level 7 to the open division.

BOYS GYMNASTICS: The Apollo School of Gymnastics in Clearwater finished fourth in Class 7 and fifth in Class 6 team competition last month in the Men's Gasparilla Classic in Tampa.

James Van Cleve III was eighth all-around in Class 7 and Tomily Bourgoing was ninth to lead the team that included Blake Kelly, Jessee Scott, Bradley Hutson and Peter Riedt. The Class 6 team was led by Jordan Loscalzo at fourth all-around, Grant Brittain at sixth and Jeremy Roberson at eighth. Victor Valenty was sixth all-around in Class 5, and Alex Khoury was runner-up in Class 2 with a first place on both vault and high bar.

Colin Christ was first all-around in Class 3 in last month's Gym Force Classic in Tallahassee and finished second all-around to Joshua Matson in the Gator Swamp Invite in Gainesville. Christ and Matson train at Gemini.

Other top-five all-around Gemini performances were earned by Troy DeLoach in Class 4, Evan Cooke in Class 6 and Michael Murphy in Class 7.

TWIRLING: Irene DeGroat, 7, won the national pom girl title in the Drum Majorettes of America competition held last month in Cleveland, Tenn. DeGroat, a first-grader at Dunedin Elementary School, trains at Deb's Allstars Baton Twirling Academy in Clearwater and is in her third year of competition.

ICE HOCKEY: The Mustangs and Panthers bantam (14-and-under) teams each won two games last week to maintain their first- and second-place positions respectively in the Florida Metro Hockey League. The Midget (15-17) and Pee Wee (12-and-under) divisions did not play. The Mustangs also are in first place in the Midget and Squirt (10-and-under) competition. The Raiders are first among Pee Wee teams with an 18-0 record.

TUMBLING: Sunburst Power Kids members Marissa Conley and Jessica Orr each won three events in the Friendship Competition held in Pinellas Park last month. Conley in the 4-5 age division and Orr in 9-11 won their respective trampoline, double-mini trampoline and tumbling events.

Winning two events were Sarah Ficca and Ann Gunter in the age 12 division, Kari Nodine in 3-and-under, Emily Silvis in 6-8, and Austin Delgado in 5-and-under. One-event winners included Marissa Cassaway, Robin Latham, Raven Goodall and Robyn Joyce.

VOLLEYBALL: A 16-week instructional volleyball league for girls ages 10 to 13 begins Feb. 13 at the St. Paul's School Gymnasium in Clearwater. Club director Ken Deterding may be reached at (941) 723-9125, or contact Kathie Bekker at 785-1304 to reserve a position. The cost is $100.