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Susquehanna County's top current collegiate athlete did not even have the opportunity to compete in his sport in high school.
Montrose graduate Zack Roeder competed in the Big Ten Gymnastics Championships over the weekend, leaving him just one event from the end of his collegiate career.
The Penn State University senior is preparing for the National Collegiate Athletic Association Championships April 2-4 in Champaign, Ill. Roeder earned All-American honors last season by finishing second in the NCAA Championships in both the vault and pommel horse.
Roeder is again ranked second in the nation in the pommel horse and is one of the leaders of a Penn State team that went 16-1 and ended the regular season ranked fourth in the nation.
With his two All-American honors from last season in hand, Roeder has the chance to match his older brother, Ron, who was a four-time All-American at Penn State.
"Nobody recruited the kid," Penn State coach Randy Jepson said of Zack Roeder, who made the team as a freshman walk-on and has been one of Penn State's top performers since his sophomore season. "His work ethic and his ability speak for themselves.
"He's established himself as one of the top vaulters and pommel horse guys in the country."
Roeder went across the border to train at the Southern Tier Gymnastics Academy while at Montrose. While in high school, he qualified for the United States Optional Nationals in 1998 and 1999.
During the regular season, Roeder won the pommel horse in four of eight competitions. He won the floor exercise twice and finished tied for second once. He also finished tied for first in the vault once and added a pair of seconds and a third.
After winning just once in the first three meets in the pommel horse, Roeder won three out of five times. He had a career-best 9.825 in the horse February 14 against Temple.
Roeder had three of Penn State's best six scores in the pommel horse, four of its best six in the floor exercise and two of its best three in the vault.
Roeder reached the finals in two events in the Big Ten Championship while helping Penn State finish second.
Roeder wound up fifth in the conference in the pommel horse and eighth in the floor exercise.
WEEK IN REVIEW
In professional baseball, Montrose graduate Rich Thompson is working toward his potential major-league debut in training camp with the Kansas City Royals.
Going into last Sunday, Thompson was hitting just .231, but the outfielder was showing some of the reasons he has a chance to make the team.
Thompson is getting on base and stealing bases. He leads the Royals by getting hit by pitch (four times) and in stolen bases (three).
In boys' basketball, Bishop O'Reilly started its postseason by eliminating Susquehanna from the District 2 Class A playoffs.
Eight wins later, the Queensmen finished their playoff run Friday by winning a state championship, 70-54, over Sewickley Academy at the Giant Center in Hershey.
Bishop O'Reilly, a Kingston school which was the only District 2 team to reach a state basketball final this season, opened a 23-point lead at the end of the third quarter.
Tim Crossin led the win with 31 points. He went 9-for-15 from the floor, including 3-for-5 on 3-pointers, and 10-for-12 from the line.
Matt Flanagan added 14 points while Josh Aciukewicz had 12 points and eight rebounds for Bishop O'Reilly, which finished 30-4.
Bishop O'Reilly beat Susquehanna, 73-37, in the district quarterfinals.
In college basketball, Gerry McNamara's performance for Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday is one that will be remembered for a long time.
Make no mistake: this is more than a northeastern Pennsylvania story. McNamara's effort drew praise and created memories that will have the Bishop Hannan graduate talked about nationally each year when great March Madness moments are discussed.
Syracuse, the defending national champion, was in serious trouble, down 11 with Hakim Warrick on the bench in foul trouble for the last seven minutes of the first half. McNamara's 28-point half, 43-point game and eight 3-pointers kept the Orange in the game, allowing Syracuse to beat Brigham Young, 80-75.
Binghamton native Bobby Gonzalez was already a hot coaching prospect for leading Manhattan into the NCAA Tournament for two straight years. Thursday's 75-60 opening-round upset of Florida, which had been ranked number one earlier in the season, just increases the chance that Gonzalez moves on this year.
Watch for Gonzalez to land somewhere in the Big East. St. John's and Georgetown already have openings, but there could be other movement.
Syracuse reached the Sweet 16 with a win Saturday while Manhattan had its season end.
On the same day, Amber Jacobs of Abington Heights was helping Boston College get started with a win in the women's tournament.
Jacobs made all three of her 3-point attempts as BC jumped out to a 22-4 lead on the way to a 58-56 victory over Eastern Michigan. She finished with 13 points and three assists.
A LOOK AHEAD
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons announced a promotional schedule that includes a July 10 appearance by Steve Carlton at Lackawanna County Stadium.
Carlton will throw out the ceremonial first pitch that night when fans will receive a bobblehead doll in his likeness.
The Red Barons will also have bobblehead nights for Lenny Dykstra and John Kruk, who made brief appearances with the team on injury rehabilitation assignments from the parent Philadelphia Phillies. Dykstra's bobblehead will be the giveaway on June 20 and Kruk's will be August 8.
As usual, there will be some type of promotion tied to nearly every game.
One addition is Double Win Wednesdays. Any fan attending a Wednesday night game that the Red Barons win receives a free upper reserved ticket for the next Wednesday home game.
Tickets for individual games go on sale Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m.
The Red Barons play their home opener April 12 at 7 p.m. against Buffalo.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached on-line at RobbyTR@aol.com.
JIMMIE JOHNSON Gets First Darlington Win
"I cant believe I won at Darlington," said Jimmie Johnson after holding off Bobby Labonte on Sunday to win the Nextel Cup Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington Raceway.
"Its unbelievable," said Johnson. "Its been a goal of mine to win at Darlington and weve always had a great car and came close. The pit stops are what made the difference and what got us the win."
The decisive move for Johnsons No. 48 Lowes team came during a round of yellow flag pit stops after Kyle Petty lost an engine during lap 374 of the 393-lap race.
It was a drag race back to the track between Johnson and Bobby Labonte, but Johnson edged out Labonte by a car bumper.
When green flag racing resumed on lap 382, the leaders were Johnson, Labonte, Robby Gordon, Ryan Newman, and Elliott Sadler.
On the next lap Kasey Kahne spun in turn three after receiving a bump from Tony Stewart.
The next restart was a single file one with only four laps to go.
Johnson got a good jump on Labonte, and was able to able to hold off the challenge for his first win at The Lady in Black and the seventh of his Cup career.
"The car was a handful early in the race, but the guys adjusted on it all day," said Labonte. "The pit stops were good, we got beat out a little bit there at the end, but on a short run we werent as good as on the long runs."
Ryan Newman came from a lap down after making a mistake on pit road to finish third.
"When youre leading and you go a lap down, cause the driver makes a mistake on pit road, I knew we had a car that was capable of running in the top-five," said Newman. "The team did a great job getting us off pit road, and I picked up one more on the race track."
Robby Gordon, Elliott Sadler, Kurt Busch, Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick, Jeremy Mayfield, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top-10.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was one of the early leaders, but about midway of the race, he lost the handling on his No. 8 and wound up 10th.
Jeff Gordon ran into Andy Belmonts spinning car during lap 26 and did not finish the race. Afterwards, he was critical of the slower, "filler" cars that NASCAR now allows to enter races.
In addition to other problems, points leader Matt Kenseth received a pit road penalty and finished 31st.
Top ten finishing order: 1. Jimmie Johnson, 2. Bobby Labonte, 3. Ryan Newman, 4. Robby Gordon, 5. Elliott Sadler, 6. Kurt Busch, 7. Mark Martin, 8. Kevin Harvick, 9. Jeremy Mayfield, 10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Top-10 points leaders: 1. Kenseth-743, 2. Earnhardt Jr.-722, 3. Stewart-708, 4. Busch-687, 5. Kahne-679, 6. Johnson-665, 7. Newman-637, 8. Sadler-636, 9. Harvick-608, 10. Martin-583.
Fans Come To Aid Of DAVE BLANEY Racing fans are paying out of their pocket to help sponsor Dave Blaney for the June 20, Sirius 400 at Brooklyn, Michigan.
According to John Fredenburg, Blaney is currently driving for Bill Davis Racing in Gail Davis No. 23 Nextel Cup car. BDR plans to run 4 more races with Blaney in the unsponsored ride in hopes of securing sponsorship for this team. After a strong showing in the Bud Shoot Out and lead lap finishes in the Daytona 500 and at Atlanta, Blaneys fans have decided to pool their resources in an effort to get Dave on the track for one more race this Cup season.
"We are trying to do several things," said Fredenburg. "First, we want to make sponsors aware of our unwavering commitment to Dave Blaney and BDR by putting our money where our mouth is.
"Number two, make NASCAR aware that the fans are what this sport is all about and we are not interested in watching field fillers who (unlike Dave & BDR) have little chance of being competitive.
"And three, let Dave do to the talking for us from behind the wheel of the No. 23. Dave has paid his dues and many are now realizing the extent of damage done to Dave's Cup career by driving for Jasper the last couple of years, especially last year when Jasper climbed into bed with Penske and spent the year using up all of Penskes leftover Ford engines.
"His current situation with BDR is a handshake deal at best because Dave is still technically on contract with Penske/Jasper.
"To make a long story short we (Dave's fan base) are taking pledges from individuals and businesses at Dave's Official message board quickestlap.com. Go to the Dave Blaney forum on that site and you will see that we have raised close to $50,000 already.
"It is unfortunate that a sponsor cannot be secured for Dave because his fans would rather spend that money on sponsor related items and apparel. Just ask Whelen Engineering."
I think its great that fans are willing to shell out their own cash to help a driver that is capable of running up front. The difference between drivers who win and those who run in the middle of the pack are big money sponsors.
There is a racing adage, "Money Buys Speed, How Fast Do You Want To Go."
NASCAR has 25-30 drivers, like Blaney, that are capable of winning a Nextel Cup race, but only about 10-12 teams have the needed money to buy the latest technology, engineering and personnel that allows their driver to run up front.
But that doesnt mean that drivers like Dave Blaney dont have the skills it takes to be a winner. They just dont have the cash.
Personally, I hope Daves fans raise enough money for him to race at Michigan and more races.
BIFFLE Beats Teammate Jeff Burton In Busch Race, Darlington, SC Greg Biffle, driver of the Roush Racings No. 16 National Guard Ford overcame a slow pit stop in the early laps of the Busch Series Diamond Hill Plywood 200 to drive away to his first Busch win of 2004.
His teammate, Jeff Burton finished second about a straightaway behind him.
This was the first test of the new SAFER barriers that were recently installed on the outside walls of the turns. There were three crashes, but no reported injuries of any of the involved drivers.
Top ten finishing order: 1. Greg Biffle, 2. Jeff Burton, 3. David Green, 4. Martin Truex, 5. David Stremme, 6. Johnny Benson, 7. Robby Gordon, 8. Michael Waltrip, 9. Casey Atwood, 10. Mike Bliss.
Top-10 points leaders: 1. Harvick-620, 2. D. Green-594, 3. Waltrip-578, 4. Truex-550, 6. R. Gordon-543, 7. Hamilton Jr.-532, 8. Keller-531, Stremme, 9. Biffle-513, 10. J. Sauter-507.
SIZZLERS: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, and Kasey Kahne are the cream of the crop after five races.
FIZZLERS: Dale Earnhardts teammate, Michael Waltrip, hasnt come close to equaling the performance of Earnhardt. After five races he is below 37th in points. Richard Childress thought this would be the year Robby Gordon and the No. 31 team came alive. Gordon did get his first top-10 of the season at Darlington, but he is still not a leading driver, and is 24th in points.
The Nextel Cup and Busch series are at Bristol, Tennessee, while the Craftsman Trucks are idle.
Saturday, March 27, Busch Series Sharpie Professional 250, race 5 of 34, 250 laps/133 miles, 1 p.m. TV: FX Channel.
Sunday, March 28, Nextel Cup Food City 500, race 6 of 36, 500 laps/266 miles, 1 p.m. TV: Fox.
Racing Trivia Question: Who drives the No. 87 Nextel Cup Chevrolet this season?
Last Weeks Question: How many Nextel Cup teams does Robert Yates Racing field? Answer. Two; the No. 88 UPS team driven by Dale Jarrett and the No. 38 M&M, driven by Elliott Sadler.
If you would like to read additional racing stories by Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter, go to www.race500.com.
The Tunkhannock Tigers fifth and sixth grade girls travel team capped a 17-1 season by winning the Endless Mountain Basketball Tournament title on March 14 at Mountain View High School in Kingsley. The regular season champion Lady Tigers, seeded first in the tournament, were the only team to remain undefeated in the two-day, double elimination contest. The Lady Tigers won four games over the weekend, including three dramatic come from behind victories two against previously undefeated and defending champion Abington.
Lady Tigers 2004 ravel Team (l-r) are: front row Brielle Ankenbauer, Sarah Starzec, Tiffany Rule, Erika Freeman, Brooke Darling; back row Emily Henn, Coach Terry Darling, Allison Dewitt, Maria Romero, Marissa Fuller, Danielle Fassett, Kayla Mooers, Anna Nole, Head Coach Ron Hampsey. Absent from photo were Alexa Drungell and Sara Ragnacci.
The Endless Mountain Girls Basketball League includes 11 teams from five counties: Abington, Elk Lake, Montrose, Blue Ridge, Forest City, Honesdale, Pike County, Lackawanna Trail, Mt. View, Tunkhannock, and Wallenpaupack. The Tunkhannock Girls Travel Team is part of the Tunkhannock Youth Basketball program. TYB co-presidents are Frank Lenivy and Doug Thomas.
Registrations for next years team are on September 21-23, 2004, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Tunkhannock Area High School Lobby.
The scheduled March 17 stocking of the East Branch of Wyalusing Creek was postponed until March 31 due to inclement weather. The truck will meet at 1:30 p.m. at the Basil Leaf Restaurant in Montrose.
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