Troy Yoder of Heritage and Paige Patrick of Carroll are typical high school athletes. Yoder plays football and baseball, and Patrick runs cross country and track.
What they do for fun is what makes them unique. Both are multiple-event former national champions in roller skating, and next week they will compete in the USA Roller Sports National Championships at Memorial Coliseum. This is their chance to introduce something they love to all their friends and family.
“I love football and I love baseball, but I know once I get out of high school I can't play sports anymore and I'll have to quit,” Yoder said. “I'll never quit speed skating. Once I can't play any other sports, I'll still do speed skating.”
This sport is a passion for many reasons.
“With speed skating, the teams are a lot closer-knit,” Patrick said. “With track and cross country, we go out to eat sometimes, but with speed skating we go out to eat and do other things together all the time. We're more open with each other, and it's year-round. It's more like a family.”
Skating competitively is definitely something family members of any ages can do together. Brian Gettys is 56, his son Jarrad Gettys is 32 and his son Aaron Gettys is 14. There are numerous other father-son and mother-daughter combinations locally, and even a few father-mother-kids participants.
A lot of these skaters are also supremely talented. Roller Dome North took 28 kids to regionals three weeks ago and 25 qualified for nationals, most with top times. Bell's Roller Skating Rink took 25 to regionals and 22 are skating next week. The local skaters range in age from 5 to 56.
There are lots of stories to watch for:
• Braxtyn Weidler, 10, has been to the nationals the last three years and won last year. He's already being sponsored by a skate company.
• Christian Keesler is a sophomore at Wayne who has already traveled to Austria, France and Germany to train with the U.S. World Team.
• Master's men's skaters Aaron Hoover and Tony Garcia both came back to skating after long layoffs to qualify for nationals. Hoover came back to coach and decided to skate again, and Garcia brought his younger daughters into the program.
• Preston Radike has only been skating for about a year, but the 13-year-old has already advanced to nationals.
• Haley Zent and Gracie Kolkman might be only 5 years old, but they won gold and silver medals at the regionals with the nation's top two times. Julian Kolkman and Lane Neuenschwander did the same thing in the 7-year-old boys category.
After being very popular from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, roller skating has seen a resurgence in recent years, according to local rink owners. The Roller Dome Speed Team started about seven years ago, and the Bell's Roller Rink Speed Team about four years ago. Both clubs have about 50 skaters and are growing.
“I can see it coming back to where it was,” Bell's owner John Dunlap said. “When we had invitationals, we used to have 300, 400 skaters at a time in here, and now we're up to 200, 250.”
The regular season lasts from October to April, with teams traveling to one major meet per month. Training goes on year-round.
“A lot of parents that do it with their kids raced back in the '80s and early '90s and then got out of it,” Roller Dome coach Brian Weidler said. “Now we're back into it with our kids. We're all kind of reliving our youth through and with our kids.
“Even the kids who don't have parents who race, when we go out of town for our races, it's a big family deal. We go out to eat together, go to the pool together, we do everything together.”
This week they hope to win national titles together.