Figure skater's work nets gold

Published September 3, 2006

For Emma Oleck, a recently sprained ankle didn't call for ice. It meant staying away from it.

Oleck, a third grader at Espiritu Santo Catholic School in Safety Harbor, is an accomplished figure skater. After a doctor recently advised her to take a few days off from skating to recover from her injury, the 8-year-old reluctantly obliged.

"She dies if she's away from the ice, even for a day," said Oleck's mother, Pamela. "We usually have to drag her off the ice."

It's Emma Oleck's love for the sport that fuels her dedication to training, which includes early-morning technique work on her trampoline. And it is that training that helped her win gold medals in five individual events solo, footwork, artistic, interpretive and freestyle in the Freestyle 3 level of the Ice Skating Institute World Recreational Team Championships in Marlborough, Mass. Oleck won eight medals at the late-July event.

Oleck, a straight-A student, began skating at age 3 after registering for a 10-week course through the Tampa Bay Skating Academy. She seemingly hasn't left the ice since. She was part of the academy's team that finished fourth among 121 teams at the Massachusetts event.

BASEBALL: St. Petersburg Senior, a 16-19-year-old team representing the Southeastern region of the United States, finished third out of eight teams last month at the RBI World Series in Compton, Calif. RBI stands for Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, a Major League Baseball-backed initiative.

Despite pounding out 15 hits - including three each from James Wilson and Victopher Pagan - St. Petersburg fell 13-9 to Philadelphia in a semifinal slugfest. Wilson had a triple and drove in two runs for St. Petersburg, which fell behind 11-5 after three innings and lost to eventual runner-up Philadelphia for the second time in the tournament.

St. Petersburg, which won three games, earned a spot in the semifinal with a 5-1 victory over Chicago. Pagan had two hits against Chicago, while ace pitcher Donald Albro allowed five hits and struck out 10 with no walks in seven innings.

The St. Petersburg Juniors (age 13-15) also competed in the tournament, finishing with a mark of 2-3.

Patrick Camporini, Sean O'Brien and John Ryan Murphy, all members of the Tampa Bay Renegades 14-and-under AAU team coached by Rey Ortega, were named to the National Youth Baseball 14-under All-America team. The Clearwater-based Renegades won the AAU nationals in late-July.

SOFTBALL: The St. Petersburg RBI girls, playing under the Boys & Girls clubs of the Suncoast, beat teams from Minneapolis and Philadelphia and finished with a record of 2-3 at the RBI World Series.

Shortstop Cristal Kotchman and third baseman Shannon Tyson each had two hits and two RBIs in a 22-2 rout of Minneapolis. Starting pitcher Tabitha Bittel allowed only two hits and struck out five in four scoreless innings for the victory.

St. Petersburg beat Philadelphia 8-3, scoring seven runs in the first inning. Tyson had two more hits and drove in three runs. Kotchman added two hits.

SWIMMING: Grant Johnson and Emman Crescimbeni of the Clearwater Aquatic Team both recently met Olympic Trials qualifying standards.

Johnson, competing in the National Long Course Championships, qualified in the 100 breaststroke, while Crescimbeni met the trials standard in the 200 butterfly in competition at the Junior National Championships in Irvine, Calif.

TENNIS: Pinellas County's Police Athletic League will begin its youth tennis program on Sept. 16. Play takes place from 8-10 a.m. each Saturday during the school year at the Seminole High tennis courts.

Boys and girls age 7-15 are encouraged to attend, with a chance to learn the game and the opportunity to join one of two PAL teams - the Rallyball and Tournament squads.

For more information, contact the Pinellas County PAL at (727) 582-5854.

Times correspondent Emery Skolfield can be reached at (727) 481-2027 or sptimesyouth@yahoo.com.