Local skaters roll to U.S. championships


Howard At Play


AN AMERICAN Olympic gold medalist in 1998, Tara Lipinski, hadn't turned 5 when she won her first regional title in the sport that is our main topic today. Take a guess ... it was not figure skating.

Jennifer Rodriguez, the Miami-raised skater who won two bronze medals in Salt Lake City was a 1992 world silver medalist in our topic sport today, too. Nope, it wasn't speedskating, either.

We're talking roller skating, with the Howard County twist being that some not-too-shabby competitors in the sport live or train here. But if you've not heard of them, the reason is that competitive roller skating is so obscure. This year's national championships will be in Lincoln, Neb., in a few weeks. Competitors must pay their own way, too.

Just to be clear, we're talking roller skating, as two pairs of wheels on each foot, not the newer, more popular inline skating. True roller skaters say those inline skates are better if you're into speed, but if you want, say, to dance either alone or in pairs, traditional "quad" skates remain the way to go.

Locally, the epicenter of roller skating is the Laurel Skating Center on U.S. 1 in North Laurel, south of Whiskey Bottom.

That's where Margaret "Margie" Bargmann manages the rink and coaches several skaters who won medals in the recent Southeast Regional Roller Sports Championships in Greensboro, N.C.

"We don't get a lot of publicity," said Bargmann, daughter of roller skating rink owners and coaches and a skater all her life. "That's because our sport's not in the Olympics, although our skaters do many of the same things the figure skaters [on ice] do."

She and several of her students - all in the National Capital Dance and Figure Skating Club - acknowledge that the number of competitors is declining nationally.

"There's just an abundance of too much else for children to do," said Ellicott City's Cherie Wein, 56, a part-time legal secretary and silver medalist in Greensboro in "novice solo dance," meaning she's new to that type of competition although she's skated for years.

Wein, who devotes maybe 10 hours weekly to skating, said the dance competition requires three-minute routines to dance rhythms that include tango, boogie, polka, foxtrot and waltz.

Other Howard County leaders in Greensboro included tri-medalist Claude Shires of Jessup (veterans solo dance, gold; veterans figures, bronze), Columbia's LaValle Links and Melissa Carter (veterans team dance, bronze), and Susie Mathason and Shires (esquire team dance, bronze).

Most will be competing in Lincoln, said Mathason, an Allview Estates resident who said she has been competing since 1981, explaining that "it's considered kind of rude if you medal at regionals and don't go to nationals."

Next year's Southeast Regionals - for competitors from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina - will be in Howard County, at the Laurel Skating Center, whose manager is duly proud.

"It's the first time they'll ever be held this far north," said Bargmann.

Dome seeking teams

Soccer Dome Inc., which is under construction with a fall target date for opening is accepting preregistration for teams interested in playing at the two-field indoor facility in Jessup.

The new business's Web site - soccerc.com - says that a deposit will be due Aug. 1 and that the rest of the team's fee will be due at an organizational meeting in October.

The site also invites individuals not with a team to express interest in joining one by sending an e-mail to clif@soc cerc.com. Give your age, gender, soccer experience and other pertinent information. Names will be circulated among team managers.

President Clif Everett also says on the Web site that Soccer Tots and Soccer Moms programs, formerly conducted at Volleyball House, will be offered at Soccer Dome. For Information: Rick Crow, 301-498-4906.

The facility also is planning Friday night drop-in play, starting at 10 p.m., as well as drop-in play between noon and 2 p.m. on weekdays.

Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or send e-mail to lowell.sunderland@baltsun.com.

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