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Medalist philosophy produces success


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 25, 2001

Developing healthy, strong adults is the primary focus of the coaches at Medalist All-Star Gymnastics in Pinellas Park.

It's all the better if a good athlete emerges in the process.

Since 1995, when the club was purchased by a group of seven parents and coach Shelli Tatro, that philosophy has remained the same.

Cindy Crane, who handles the program's business side, is the only Medalist parent who has yet to have a gymnast involved in the club. "We're really big on motivation," Tatro said. "We also emphasize being a teammate and having fun."

Medalist has grown from about 15 members to 50 in the competitive group and around 100 on the recreational side.

In competitions this month, nine girls in Level 7, two in Level 8 and three in Level 9 qualified for the May regional and kept alive their hopes of earning a berth to this summer's nationals. In the most recent meet, at Palm Beach Community College, Amanda Crane in Level 7 and Robyn Braun in Level 9 were first all-around.

Braun posted victories in floor exercise and on the uneven bars, vault and balance beam. Crane was first on vault, bars and beam and was third in floor.

The other coaches are Anthony Tatro, Carlee Bingham, Heidi Voci and former Medalist gymnast Desiree Martin for the girls and Sharon Ostlund for the boys. Sarah Lydon and Peg Williams work with the recreational competitors.

"I've been here about a year, and we're trying to get the boys to have fun, win a few medals and work on their optional skills," Ostlund said.

"They haven't competed for two years, so we're working on some basics," she said. "We work out three times a week, plus there are classes."

In this month's Cupid Classic in Clearwater, Kevan Cook was first all-around, Stephen Kerekes was second and Robert Ostlund was third in Class 6.

Cook, 10, won the floor, still rings and high bar events, was second on pommel horse and vault and third on parallel bars. Kerekes, 13, won pommel horse and parallel bars, was third on high bar and second on floor, rings and vault.

Ostlund, 11, won vault and high bar, was second on parallel bars and third on pommel horse, rings and floor.

"I hadn't competed for two years," Kerekes said. "I usually do my best on floor, and that's what I like best."

Ostlund, whose sister, Sarah, has been involved in gymnastics about five years, was pleased with performing a kip on the high bar in his first meet of the season.

Each week in practices in the 10,000 square foot air-conditioned facility, gymnasts from preschool age to teenagers work on improving their skills, support their teammates and have fun.

DIVING: Austin Hampton won a silver medal in 1-meter competition, finished fourth on the 3-meter and sixth on platform in Orlando in the All-Star International Invitational's division for 14-15-year-olds.

Hampton trains with Joe Greenwell of the Jetstream in Brandon.

SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING: Suncoast WaterWorks has been awarded a $5,000 grant from the U.S. Synchronized Swimming Foundation to establish beginning programs at 20 area pools.

To be considered as a site, contact Karne Paulk, 531-9451, or Sherri Lee, 588-2518.

STAR OF THE MONTH: Pinellas students awarded the Tampa Bay Sports Commission John Lynch Star of the Month for December included Brandon Tucker, Katelyn Kreighbaum, Jessica Cubides and Jason Kiggins.

Kreighbaum is involved in volleyball at Azalea Middle School, as is Tucker at John F. Kennedy Middle. Cubides and Kiggins run track at Seminole High School. Kiggins also is a wrestler, and Cubides is on the basketball and volleyball teams.

The monthly awards are given to students in recognition of achievement in athletics, academics, sportsmanship and community involvement. Each recipient becomes eligible to be considered for the John Lynch Star of the Year award presented in May.

Among the January winners are Kimberly Beers, Tyson Brock, Veniece Kilissanly and Damon Lister.

Beers plays basketball at Kennedy Middle School. Brock participates in basketball, volleyball, softball and soccer at Blessed Sacrament. Kilissanly competes on the tennis and swimming teams at Seminole High, Lister plays soccer for Seminole.

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