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Championship game berths up for grabs

This weekend's youth football games will determine the teams for two conference championships.

Today at Northeast High School, the Suncoast Youth Conference junior varsity semifinal playoffs are scheduled for 8 a.m.

The Pinellas Youth Conference is at Clearwater High School stadium today for 8 a.m. varsity and JV semifinals.

Saturday, the SYFC had its varsity semifinals and the PYFC played varsity and junior varsity semis.

Advancing to SYFC varsity competition were three squads from the Clearwater Jr. Tornadoes and Pinellas Park Thunderbirds programs; two from the Azalea Bulldogs, Northeast Bandits, Countryside Jr. Cougars and Tarpon Springs Spongers; and one from the Dixie Jr. Rebels and Dunedin Jr. Falcons.

In this weekend's PYFC action are three varsity teams from the Gibbs Jr. Gladiators, St. Pete 'Lil Devils and Largo Jr. Packers; two from the Silver Raiders, Greenwood Panthers and Manatee Mustangs; and one from the Lakewood Jr. Spartans.

In JV competition, the SYFC is represented by six Clearwater clubs, five from Countryside, two each from Azalea and Northeast and one from Dunedin.

In the PYFC, Gibbs has three junior varsity teams, St. Pete two, and there's one each from Lakewood, Largo and Manatee.

In the PYFC flag playoffs are Gibbs, Lakewood, the Silver Raiders and Manatee.

"Our season has gone really well," Pinellas Park league president Mike Abbott said. "Our numbers have grown, and we've gone from seven teams to nine, in addition to five flag teams.

"I think a real key to our success is our coaches," he said. "There's a lot of quality coaching out there, and many of the coaches have played here and come back to coach."

Pinellas Park has varsity squads in the Flyweight, Mighty Mite and Midget divisions. Last year, the Thunderbirds finished second to Clearwater in the Midget class.

The Azalea league, which started to blossom about three years ago, boasts more than 600 players in its football and cheerleading programs. In the semifinals this weekend are Bulldogs in the varsity Flyweights and Midgets and JV Flyweights and Midgets.

"We have a lot of good volunteers and are in a good community," Azalea president Don Bariteau said. "Those factors have helped in our growth, plus adding the flag program.

"We also have a great relationship with St. Petersburg Catholic High School, which is our home field. I think we do what we do for the right reasons."

Bariteau and his family have been involved in the league since its inception. Bariteau's father-in-law, Charles Sciandra, got the ball rolling in 1970. Bariteau's wife, Carol, cheered for the Bulldogs as a youth, and their four children have participated.

"This weekend will be a battle, and I hope all the parents and other supporters are out there to cheer us on," Bariteau said. "We do have a terrific support group."

Next weekend, the SYFC championships will be hosted by the Azalea Bulldogs at St. Petersburg Catholic High. Varsity title games are Saturday, and the junior varsity plays Sunday.

The PYFC is at Clearwater High on Saturday and Sunday.

SWIMMING: Bringing home the gold for St. Petersburg Aquatics in the Sarasota YMCA Meet were Tracy Rorer, Katie Brown,Megan Romeo and Cameron Chambers.

Rorer won the 11-12 girls 100-and 200-yard breaststroke and was second in the 200 freestyle. Brown was first in the 11-12 500 free, and Romano posted a victory in the 11-12 200 free.

Chambers won the boys 11-12 500-yard and 200 free and finished second in the 200 breaststroke.

Melanie Stickney was the runner-up in the 100 breaststroke and 500 free.

In the boys 8-and-under, Joseph Briggs took second in the 100 free and third in the 25 free. Bradley Shaffer was second in the senior 200 free and third in the 100 breaststroke.

BASEBALL: Molly McKesson led the Ocala Lightning to its first Women's AAU National Baseball Championship with a .565 batting average. In the title game against the Chicago Storm, McKesson went 5-for-6 in a 12-inning 5-4 win. In an earlier meeting with the Storm, McKesson, 16, pitched a three-hitter in an 11-1 victory.

GYMNASTICS: LaFleur's of Largo received top Level 4 and Level 5 team honors in the Tropicana Sunfest Meet in Sarasota. The Gemini School of Gymnastics won the Level 5 small-squad competition and was second in Level 6.

For LaFleur's, Tonya Narzinsky, Christine Miles and Mikayla Mann finished first all-around in Level 4. Michelle Watts was second, Nikki Wiseman fourth and Caitlin Tarr fifth. Megan VonStetina and Taylor Sides ended up atop Level 5. Nicole Hayden and Rebecca Roberts placed second all-around, and Rachel Crouch and Jessica Bunn tied for fourth.

Posting event victories were Narzinsky (beam, floor), Miles (vault, beam), Mann (bars), Watts (floor), Wiseman (vault, bars), Level 4; and VonStetina (floor), Sides (floor) Hayden (bars), Roberts (beam), Crouch (vault) and Bunn (vault), Level 5.

In the Trick or Treat Invitational in Tampa, Andrea Voynovich of LaFleur's was second all-around in Level 4 and won the vault.

Bayside Gymnastics claimed first-place awards in Levels 6, 5 and 4 of the Fall Trophy Classic in Pinellas Park.

Leading Bayside with top all-around honors were Jocilyn George (Level 6); Samantha Stephan, Brittany Tanner and Sara Wright (Level 5); and Ashley Ventura and Briana Rizzo (Level 4). Top-five performers included Hannah Buck (Level 6); Kate Shanahan (Level 5); and Amy McLarry, Brittany Reuther and Lindsay Prince (Level 4).

Capturing event titles were George (vault, balance beam, floor exercise), Level 6; Stephan (vault), Shanahan (uneven bars), Tanner (vault, bars, beam) and Wright (vault), Level 5; and Ventura (vault, bars, beam, floor), Rizzo (beam) and Paige Tripp (vault), Level 4.