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Club's run of success continues

By EMILY NIPPS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 17, 2002

The Seffner Track Club has been around for six years and it has more stories than coach Mike Zelazo Sr. can tell.

The past couple of years have provided enough excitement to get the club recognized locally and nationally.

There is Brian Kerr, who came to the club from Vero Beach and set the U.S. Track and Field national record in youth (age 13-14) boys javelin.

There is Robyn Stawski, who has cerebral palsy and has faithfully taken a bus to meet Zelazo for practice since November. She is now in France competing for a Paralympics title in the discus. There are the three athletes who have qualified for the USATF Junior Olympics in Omaha, Neb., but might not be able to go without the $2,000 they hope to raise.

And there's Zelazo himself, who wasn't able to compete in track because of a birth defect in his feet, but became manager of his junior high team and has been involved in the sport ever since.

Zelazo specializes in the throwing events and his two children, Mike Jr. and Melissa, are track athletes.

Since founding the Seffner Track Club in 1997, Zelazo has built the program into one of the best-known track and field clubs in Florida, despite its relatively small size. The club has 35 registered members.

Nationally, the club is making its mark.

"It's not unusual for us to go to events and do very well," Zelazo said. "This is the first year that this many kids did as well at the Youth Athletic Championships."

At the championships, which were held in Miami on July 3-7, the Seffner Track Club collected 16 national medals for finishes eighth or higher. In June, three club members qualified for the Junior Olympics at a mid June USATF Region 4 meet in West Palm Beach.

Zelazo Jr. qualified in the shotput, discus and javelin. Bloomingdale's Connie Fleming qualified in the shot put, discus and javelin, and Riverview's Shanna Brown qualified in the 100- and 400-meter hurdles.

Zelazo Jr., an Armwood graduate, is hoping to take the sport as far as he can, despite missing the chance to compete at the state level in high school. "It's kind of one thing I wanted to do, one goal I didn't quite reach," Zelazo Jr. said.

If the club raises enough money for the trip to Omaha, it will be Zelazo's first time going to the Junior Olympics, though he has qualified in past years.

The Junior Olympics take place July 23-28.

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