Three team members of GT Speed race around the track at Stardust Skate Center. The team is preparing for the USARS National Championships.
ALBANY, Ga. -- A group of dedicated teens and their coaches will be heading out West next month, attempting to prove they're the fastest kids on wheels.
Team GT Speed, coached by Jason Watts and Scott Tinson, is taking more kids to the USA Roller Sports National Championships this year in Albuquerque, N.M. than it ever has, an indication of the skill and dedication of the team, Watts said.
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"We're excited," Watts said. "We've been fortunate to have been to the nationals before but we've never had this many kids make it.
I tell them that when they get there if they're able to get a spot on the podium in the end -- first, second or third -- then they've made it. They've done their best."
In preparation, the team has stepped up practices and now skate and work on strength and agility drills six days each week.
"We're training six days a week and twice each day," Tinson says. "We start off in the morning with a bike ride or a trail ride. We'll go down to Turtle Park and skate the trail and cycle the trail. We'll come back and do interval training and hill climbs."
The Lee County School System has allowed the team to use its football stadium to train, where they skate and bike the track and run the stairs of the stadium.
"The kids work extremely hard for the kids. It's really a full time job for them," Tinson said. "They haven't had a summer like normal kids do, most of their summer has been training."
In the midst of the training are the regional and sub-regional competitions. From Virginia to Florida, the group has traversed much of the Southeast competing.
Team members Jayden Watts, Sabien Tinson and Olivia Farr each picked up first place finishes at the Southern Regional Finals in their respective age groups. Brendon Farr, Tanner Watts, Alex Munro and Micah Sikes each finished in the top three at the competition.
"We travel a lot so the skaters and their families have to be dedicated," Jason Watts said. "Most of the year we're either training or competing and it all builds up to this one week at nationals. It sounds a bit silly to say that we train year-round for one week, but that's what it all boils down to."
And the skaters aren't the only ones who sacrifice for the sport they love. The parents give a lot of time and money to support their kids.
In addition to all of the travel that is involved, parents also have to pay for expensive skates and maintenance. A bair of basic inline speed skates, according to one parent, is $700. Custom made skates, which are the norm, are easily upwards of $1,400.
"It's something you have to really love doing," Jason Watts said, "because it's not easy both from the time, effort or money perspective."
Nationals are set for July 13-19.