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Two boys teams headed to Knoxville

By STEVE LEE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 25, 2002

HUDSON -- Two boys teams from Top Contenders have qualified for the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympics.

They will join three girls from the Hudson-based gym in Knoxville, Tenn., on Aug. 7-10.

Thirteen boys from Top Contenders' Class 6 and 7 teams were among the top six finishers in the AAU Nationals on June 8-9 at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.

Placing first all-around were Austin Sievers, Shannon Alfonso, Kyle Horvath and Dustin Funderburg. Anthony Carlucci, Chris Hammelman, Brant Pizzo, Daniel Diller, Erik Krause, Chris Atwood, Alex Horvath, Robert Anderson and Aaron Stubblefield also qualified.

Meagan Ryan, Mindy Zavesky and Bianca Nemes qualified with strong performances in May's Junior Olympic tryouts at Port Charlotte.

Ryan, a 14-year-old who missed all but one meet due to a torn ligament in her right ankle, is perhaps the most surprising qualifier. Ryan placed third all-around and had firsts in the vault and floor exercises.

"She had to do it right then and there," Top Contenders owner Beth Strazzullo said of Ryan's all-or-nothing performance. "She actually competed with a little bit of swelling on the ankle."

In addition to the competitive gymnasts, the Top Contenders dance team will also compete in the Junior Olympics. That group, which incorporates ballet, jazz and tumbling into its acrobatic routines, includes Allie Strazzullo, Julie Randle, Kimberly Randle, Tanya Trentacoste, Taura McDougal, Brittany Foster, Emily Brown, Kristi Strazzullo, Zavesky, Tia Ramo and Nicole Bonacasa.

Finishing first all-around in the AAU Nationals, but not advancing to the Junior Olympics because the nationals was not a qualifier for the girls, were Emily Brown and Bonacasa in modified optionals, and Katrina Crowman and Gina Stockton at Level 2.

Runners-up in the nationals were modified optionals' Karlee Burrow and Vicky Kardos; Level 2's Kayla Terry and Brittney Shemwell; and Level 4's Tiffany Dawson.

STARS' QUALIFIERS: Stars & Stripes' Level 9 gymnasts Natasha Jusko, Angela Esposito and Tiffany Brodbeck qualified for the Junior Olympics at earlier meets this season.

Joining that group from Stars & Stipes in Knoxville will be Dominic Esposito, Brandon Millican, David Houston, Daniel Bystry-Wells and Nicholas Hernandez. Dominic Esposito and Millican had first all-arounds in Class 5.

SUNCOAST CHAMPS: Five girls from Suncoast Gymnastics took first all-arounds in Level 4 at the AAU Nationals. They were Kerri Cason, Brionna Patri, Danielle Levy, Jenny Steward and Kathleen Smith.

Brianna Macri and Marisa Licastri were runners-up in Level 3.

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