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Without a doubt, Spinning Wheels Skate Club is on a roll


"Wow'' was the only word Coach Sherri Milward could utter when her roller skating club returned home from its regional championships.

After adding the medal count, her excitement's easy to understand.

Home for Milward is Oakville and home for her club is the Spinning Wheels roller-skating rink in Crystal City.

Roller-skating has three disciplines — artistic, speed and hockey.

Milward coaches artistic roller-skating in which contestants are judged on their skating ability in the areas of freestyle, dance and figures.

"There are nine regional competitions held across the nation in July of each year,'' she explained in a news release. "Regionals are qualifying meets for the nationals to be held in August in Lincoln, Neb. You have to finish in the top three to get a medal and win the opportunity to skate at the National Championships.''

The Northwest Regional, where Milward's club competed, is comprised of eight states and was conducted in Tulsa, Okla.

With only nine of her skaters competing, Milward's team captured eight gold, nine silver and two bronze medals — a total of 19 medals.

"Our numbers are small, but we have a lot of talent,'' Milward beamed.

Milward's national champion from last year, Terra Heggemeier, scored big winning four medals on her own.

"Being the returning national champion there's a lot of pressure, but Terra is strong,'' the coach stated. "She is very dedicated traveling an hour and a half from Coulter-ville, Ill., for practice three days a week.''

Milward's most experienced skater, Penny Horcher, won three medals on her own and a fourth in team dance with her partner Oscar Diaz.

Milward said, "Penny's skating is peaking just at the right time. We're pointing toward that national placement.''

Milward's daughter, Jennifer, also competed and won the gold medal in solo dance.

Jennifer is a sophomore at Oakville High School.

"Cheerleading and soccer occupy a lot of her time, so she misses some skating practices,'' her mom explained. "But, between now and nationals, without the school pressures, Jennifer will have more practice time.''

And according to her mom, "She better because Courtney Potgen is breathing down her neck.''

Courtney, who will be a freshman at Festus next September, finished a close second to Jennifer in solo dance.

"Courtney also won the gold in creative solo dance,'' Milward added.

Keith Kowalczyk of Sunset Hills is the Spinning Wheels' assistant coach and also competes.

He also is excited about nationals.

"The kids have worked harder this year and it is paying off,'' he said.

Kowalczyk won two gold medals on his own and a third with team dance skating partner Joann Baumgartner.

Baumgartner is the daughter of the club's elder stateswoman, Erna Meyer, who at age 77 still is competing.

The assistant coach explained, "When skating gets in your blood, you're hooked for life.''

Baumgartner returned this year to skate dance with Kowalczyk after being off for several years raising her family.

"Our biggest surprise was the quality skating we got from our newest club members, husband and wife Larry and Carol Rustle,'' Kowalczyk continued. "Carol's been a skater for many years, but Larry is new. He shocked us all by not only finishing first in his figure event (where you attempt to perfectly trace a figure line), but then won the silver medal with dance partner, Pat Wid-man of south county.

"Pat's a former national champion and a seasoned figure skater who won the gold medal in her own event, as well, but this is the first time she's skated team dance,'' he said.

This year's nationals will take place from July 21 through Aug. 3 in Lincoln, Neb.

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