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The Keystone State Games entered their 22nd year this week by continuing their gradual evolution.
With nearly 7,000 athletes competing in more than two dozen sports, the games tend to show minor changes from sport to sport and level to level.
The games, which opened Tuesday in the Wilkes-Barre area, also change from year to year.
Additions for this year's games include the sport of sled hockey, a junior high level of field hockey, team competition in weightlifting and a soccer showcase for college coaches.
Gaining college exposure is the goal of many of the state's top high school athletes who display their skills in the higher-profile sports. There is also room for recreational athletes to turn more competitive in sports such as bowling.
Basketball, soccer and track and field draw the largest number of competitors from around the state. Susquehanna County athletes are most active in track and field and softball.
Athletes in the eight largest team sports started months ago in an effort to earn spots on regional all-star teams through various tryouts.
Jake Beautz, 17, a volleyball player from Uniondale; Rachel Cross, 13, a junior high soccer player from Hop Bottom; Kate LaBarbera, 15, a basketball player from Montrose; Amber Lattner, 15, a soccer player from Montrose; Kyle Parsons, 16, a volleyball player from Uniondale; and Jordan Smith, 15, a baseball player from New Milford are among the athletes who have made it through tryouts.
The qualifiers join a varied group of athletes in competition that starts slowly in the Wilkes-Barre area and heats up at sites from Scranton to Hazleton by the weekend.
The multi-sport competition, which is modeled after the Olympic Games, concludes on Sunday.
In the regional team sports, local athletes are part of the Pocono Region, which features Bradford, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Pike, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming Counties.
The sports are: archery, baseball, basketball, bowling, cross country, diving, fencing, field hockey, 7-on-7 field hockey, golf, gymnastics, ice hockey, inline hockey, judo, karate, lacrosse, shooting sports, sled hockey, soccer, 7-on-7 soccer, softball, swimming, synchronized swimming, table tennis, tennis, track and field, volleyball, water polo, weightlifting and wrestling.
The Keystone Games office supplied a list of registered county athletes as of Friday.
Other county athletes in the games are: Tara Dymond, 16, Meshoppen, softball; Laura Eastman, 15, Meshoppen, softball; Mandy Fugel, 15, Springville, softball; Amber Gaffey, 14, Thompson, track and field; Hannah Hauser, 16, Springville, softball; Marsha Kime, 65, New Milford, masters swimming; Charles Kime, 69, New Milford, masters swimming; Aaron Korty, 21, Montrose, track and field; Joe LaBarbera, 15, Montrose, track and field; Katherine Lucenti, 15, Montrose, softball; Jacob Merrill, 21, Montrose, track and field; Allen Russell, 15, Susquehanna, track and field; Sarah Stang, 15, Rushville, softball; Melinda Stanton, 16, Susquehanna, track and field; Julie Teed, 17, Hallstead, track and field; Carla Van Den Hengel, 17, Springville, golf; Hennie Van Den Hengel, 53, Springville, golf; Jan Van Den Hengel, 55, Springville, golf.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached on-line at RobbyTR@aol.com.
NEWMAN Gets Fourth Win At Pocono
Long Pond, PA Ryan Newman won Sundays Winston Cup Pennsylvania 500 for a series leading fourth victory, and his second win in the last three races.
Newman, driver of the No. 12 Alltel Dodge is the only Dodge driver to win a race this year. In winning the 200 lap race, Newman led a race-high 88 laps.
The final caution came out on lap 181 after the engine in Bobby Labontes No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac expired. Earlier, his teammate, Tony Stewart had lost an engine in his Joe Gibbs Pontiac during lap 154.
Newman was the leader when the green flag was given on lap 186.
At that time, the top-five drivers were Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Terry Labonte, and Michael Waltrip.
Busch got by Earnhardt on lap 191 for the second spot, but he was never able to put his No. 97 Ford in a position to pass Newman.
"I had to do some defensive tactics there at the end to keep his nose in the dirty air," said Newman. "I had to come off the corners so he couldnt get clean air to his motor."
Busch gained on Newman, but as the cars took the white flag, it was evident; the race was Newmans to lose or win.
"We could get a good run on him in turn one, but he could get us in turn three," said Busch. "We gave it a great effort and had a great day."
Earnhardt slipped back to fourth, but moved back into third on the final lap.
"We were lacking track position" said Earnhardt. "We could catch the 12 car, but we couldnt pass.
"But well take what we got and we made up a few points."
Earnhardt moved back into second place in the Winston Cup points standings, after leader Matt Kenseth finished 13th, and Jeff Gordon, who was previously second, hit the wall and crossed the stripe 36th.
Top ten finishing order: 1. Ryan Newman, 2. Kurt Busch, 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 4. Michael Waltrip, 5. Terry Labonte, 6. Jeff Burton, 7. Joe Nemechek, 8. Todd Bodine, 9. Dave Blaney, 10. Sterling Marlin.
Top-10 points leaders after 20 of 36 races: 1. Kenseth-2977, 2. Earnhardt Jr.-2745, 3. J. Gordon-2669, 4. Johnson-2547, 5. B. Labonte-2545, 6. Waltrip-2538, 7. Harvick-2443, 8. Busch-2418, 9. Newman-2363, 10. J. Burton-2355.
700 And Counting For RICKY RUDD
In 1975, after running his first Winston Cup race, Virginia native, Ricky Rudd almost called it quits. This past Sunday at Pocono, Rudd competed in his 700th Winston Cup race.
"We had mostly borrowed equipment and without my dads help, I would never have made it," said Rudd. "It was pretty hard, and there were several times in those early years, I wondered how far we could go."
It would be eight years and several car owners before Rudd ever found victory lane.
"I'd have to say probably that first Winston Cup win, which came in 1983 driving for Richard Childress was very important," Rudd continued. "That was his first win as an owner and my first as a driver. Then I remember winning the IROC championship (in 1992), and then winning the Brickyard with our own car in 1997. And there are others that just don't come to mind right now."
Along the way, there have certainly been highlights for Rudd, who has 23 career victories and won at least once each year from 1983 through 1998.
But retirement still isnt in his picture.
"There have been a lot of guys that have come and gone that have been older than me, but it's nice having that mileage under you," he said. "I'm definitely not the youngest kid on the block, but not the oldest either.
"I'm sure when it comes time to exit, it will probably be pretty quick -- (hopefully) on a high note," he said. "It would be great just to finish your last race and go out in victory lane and then leave the sport. That would be my dream."
WIMMER Takes Pikes Peak Busch Race The top ten results of the NASCAR Busch Series Trimspa250, run Saturday, July 26 at Pikes Peak, CO: 1. Scott Wimmer, 2. Jason Keller, 3. Scott Riggs, 4. Johnny Sauter, 5. Joey Clanton, 6. Stacy Compton, 7. Ron Hornaday, 8. Kevin Grubb, 9. Ashton Lewis, 10. Kasey Kahne.
Top-10 points leaders after 21 of 34 races: 1. Riggs-2882, 2. D. Green-2880, 3. Keller-2832, 4. Hornaday-2832, 5. Vickers-2758, 6. Hamilton Jr.-2677, 7. Wimmer-2576, 8. J. Sauter-2545, 9. Hmiel-2479, 10. T. Bodine-2467.
CASEY MEARS Wins Pocono ARCA Race Casey Mears, fresh from victory the day before, doubled his pleasure Saturday afternoon at Pocono Raceway with a convincing victory in the action-packed Pennsylvania 200.
Mears, in Chip Ganassis Target Dodge, held back a late-race charge from David Reutimann to earn his third career ARCA RE/MAX Series triumph in only his sixth attempt.
"The confidence is up there for sure," said Mears. "You know when your confidence is up, and you know you can do it, it makes a big difference. Our program has been improving everywhere, all the way around, the teams morale, the confidence in all of us that we can get the job done. I think running over here in the ARCA RE/MAX Series has improved my ability to tell those guys (his crew) better information to get the car better. We had to really stay on our toes there at the end with David (Reutimann) running so well."
Top ten finishing order: 1. Casey Mears, 2. David Reutimann, 3. Frank Kimmel, 4. Mark Gibson, 5. Mark Sherman, 6. Jason Jarrett, 7. AJ Henricksen, 8. Billy Venturini, 9. Ken Weaver, 10. Andy Belmont.
GAUGHAN Is Craftsman Truck Leader Top-10 Craftsman Truck Series points leaders after 13 of 25 races: 1. Gaughan-2000, 2. Kvapil-2000, 3. Musgrave-1969, 4. Setzer-1921, 5. Crawford-1890, 6. Wood-1876, 7. Hamilton Sr.-1868, 8. Leffler-1852, 9. Cook-1754, 10. Edwards-1687.
All three of NASCARs major divisions are at Indianapolis. The Winston Cup series competes at the famed brickyard, while the Busch series and Craftsman Trucks race on the .686-mile track at nearby Clermont.
Friday, August 1, Craftsman Trucks Power Stroke Diesel 200, race 14 of 25, 200 laps/137 miles, 9 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Saturday, August 2, Busch Series Kroger 200, race 22 of 34, 200 laps/137 miles, 8 p.m. TV: TNT.
Sunday, August 3, Winston Cup Brickyard 400, race 21 of 36, 2 p.m. TV: NBC.
Racing Trivia Question: Who is the 2002 Craftsman Truck Series Champion?
Question and answer to last weeks question: What year did Rusty Wallace move into Winston Cup? Wallaces first Winston Cup race was the Atlanta 500, March 16, 1980.
Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter is a syndicated NASCAR columnist. If you have a racing question that you would like answered send it to The Racing Reporter, P.O. Box 160711, Mobile, AL, 36616, or e-mail it to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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