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Rolling Along: Roller Hockey Program Thrives in Peachtree Corners

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Norcross Roller Hockey
Norcross Roller Hockey’s MS Rink Rats vs. MS Gladiators Game at a January game (Photo by Paul Peterson, Visit his profile for more information, www.flickr.com/people/paulpete)

They’re small by comparison, but scrappy. And quite skilled.

High school team vs. Norcross Roller Hockey coaches (Courtesy NRH)

The Norcross Roller Hockey Program (NRH) at Pinckneyville Park on the Peachtree Corners-Norcross boundary may not gather in the thousands of youths and adults who take part in area football, baseball and recreational soccer programs, but interest is growing, said league officials, even if more than a few local people have no idea the program exists.

What they lack in size, they more than make up for in enthusiasm. The games are like a fluid dance with a hockey stick accompaniment as players move rhythmically up and down the court on their inline skates, constantly in motion, deftly passing (and stealing) the hard plastic puck and taking shots at a hyper-focused goalie.

Mark and Dianne Ogden

It’s a tight-knit and supportive bunch that gathers each week at a well-appointed rink that boosters think is likely the finest outdoor roller hockey facility in the Southeast.

“We are in excess of 100 players right now, “said John Hendry, President of the parent Peachtree Booster Club, which also includes a soccer program. “We have been as high as 250 people (in a non-COVID year), so it’s varied between 100 and 250 over the years.”

Norcross Roller Hockey’s MS Rink Rats vs. MS Gladiators Game at a January game
(Photos by Paul Peterson, Visit his profile for more information, www.flickr.com/people/paulpete)

“A lot of it is letting people know we’re here,” he added. Agreeing with that, Mark Ogden said, “It was tough getting the word out. We always found that a lot of people didn’t know about the program. Either they weren’t close to it or we didn’t do a good enough job of publicizing it. You’re always in competition with other sports.” Ogden presided over NRH for nearly a decade and stepped away after his kids aged out of the sport.

Norcross Roller Hockey’s MS Rink Rats vs. MS Gladiators Game at a January game
(Photos by Paul Peterson, Visit his profile for more information, www.flickr.com/people/paulpete)

A northern game moves south

Ogden gets a huge credit for advancing the program that kicked off in 1975 at the behest of northern transplants who wanted to bring their favorite sport south. Games — originally it was only an adult league — were held in the gym at Peachtree Elementary School, later moving to a concrete slab in Pinckneyville Park after Gwinnett County built it in the early 1990s.

Longtime officials praise Ogden for lobbying the county to construct the current rink around 2006. The $1.6 million project included a sport court surface designed specifically for inline hockey, new dasher boards, quality lighting, an upgraded scoreboard and cooling fans for hot-weather games.

Today the operation is helmed by hockey vice president Nick Sally, who said NRH is still upping its game, having improved its website and increasing its social media presence. He brings a lot of cred, having grown up playing roller hockey and swatting the hard plastic puck in college and semi-pro play later.

Sally’s still hip-deep involved, playing in the adult program as well as coaching. His youngsters are in the youth division, which starts with 4 to 6-year-olds and extends upward to the youth hockey program encompassing categories from 8 and younger to 18 and under.

Skill and character

The kids obviously want to win, but Sally is quick to point out that “we try to make it very family friendly, which fits right into the Peachtree Corners vibe. We have proud parents cheering for the kids, but nobody is yelling and screaming at each other.”

The program puts a strong emphasis on recreation coupled with skill and character development, he and others said.

Three of the players on the Gladiators youth team that lost on a 10-9 shootout that January Saturday nevertheless displayed a pumped and positive vibe. To a person, they signal they’ve developed greatly and are by no means done with that process.

“We put a lot of effort into the game and we may have lost, but we played pretty well,” said Ben Vanden Bos. He said he wants to shift to ice hockey at some point and got interested after seeing his uncle coach a team.

“I think I’ve become a lot more athletic playing roller hockey,” he explained. “It is harder than a lot of different sports. There are more mechanics with shooting and developing strength through skating.”

Teammate Eduardo Avila-Hinton Junior also has his gaze on the ice and said, in addition to developing character and motor skills, he’s been able to connect and make new friends. And he says it’s helped take his mind off teenaged stress (he’s 13) and the overall events of the year when he gets lost in midst of a contest.

And then there are the lessons that are not as apparent on the surface as are the toned muscles and rocket like passing and puck-handling. “It’s taught me to be more humble,” said Timothy Hendry, “and not act arrogant about how I play or how I am with sports. It’s also teamwork.”

Norcross Roller Hockey coach Mike Bergeson (Courtesy NRH)

“It’s a natural progression,” John Hendry, father of Timothy, said of the desire to glide and slide on ice. “As the kids get into the teenage years, a lot of them are moving up to ice. It’s a loss for us but it’s a win for the sport.”

Norcross Roller Hockey coach Jim Asztalos
(Courtesy NRH)

On the plus side

He does point out the roller form of the sport has some distinct advantages over and differences from the iced version — even if they are close cousins.

Body checking is not allowed, and that means fewer injuries. Positions aren’t divided into offensive and defensive ranks, which results in a fluid, rhythmic motion up and down the court, making a game more of an endurance contest and a showcase for teamwork. Players are four to a team with a goalie instead of five.

And, said Hendry, there’s a financial factor. The league costs about $100 for a three-month season.

“I know how expensive other sports can be,” he said, running well into the hundreds of dollars “and this gives them the same benefit at a much lower cost.” It’s also a quick learn, he said. Kids step onto the play surface with no experience and within three weeks, “they’re skating and handling the puck and able to take part in the game.”

Ogden maintains a strong affinity for the game, even though he’s gotten out of active involvement with the league and booster club, and he thinks back to when he got involved. His oldest began playing after a neighboring friend took up the sport, then the other two joined in.

“I just fell in love with it,” he said.

As have literally successive generations. Youngsters playing in the program are following in the footsteps, well, skates of parents and even grandparents who also played.

With other roller hockey rinks having opened in places such as Snellville and Peachtree City and the local kids traveling to play teams there, the future looks busier.

“I see no sign of it going away anytime soon,” said Hendry. “I’ve been involved with this program for ten years and it’s definitely growing.”

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Sports

A Record-Breaking Year for Wesleyan Athletics

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Wesleyan is known for its faith-based academic excellence, but maybe you didn’t know that the school’s athletic prowess is just as impressive.
Girls Cross Country // Images courtesy of Wesleyan

Wesleyan School is known for its faith-based academic excellence, but maybe you didn’t know that the school’s athletic achievements are just as impressive. This year alone, Wesleyan has amassed an astounding nine state championships.

“The Wesleyan School athletic program has been incredibly blessed to enjoy a significant amount of success during the 2023-2024 school year. Winning nine state championships is a credit to our student-athletes, coaches, and parents,” said Chris Cleveland, head of school and assistant coach for the varsity boys basketball team.

Nine state championship titles are the most Wesleyan has ever won in a single school year. But the school’s athletic department is focused on far more besides winning. 

“While winning a state championship is a substantial accomplishment that is worthy of celebration, it is not the sole measure by which we measure the success of a season. It is our greatest desire and prayer that the lives of our students will be transformed due to the investment by our coaches and through the relationships they build with their teammates,” added Cleveland. 

After the girls and boys lacrosse teams won their state titles earlier this year, Wesleyan now has a state championship in every sport they field.

“We are so proud of our student-athletes, coaches, and our entire athletics program. Regardless of the number of state championships in a given year, our goal is to develop young men and young women of character. When recognition like state titles accompanies that objective, it certainly is a lot of fun and a great honor for our entire community,” commented Lacy Gilbert, director of athletics.

Congratulations to all Wesleyan student-athletes, coaches and faculty for this incredible accomplishment.

List of team titles:

  • Girls Softball
  • Girls Cross Country
  • Boys Swim & Dive
  • Girls Swim & Dive
  • Girls Lacrosse
  • Boys Lacrosse
  • Girls Tennis
  • Girls Track & Field
  • Boys Golf

List of individual titles:

  • Weezie Moore – Girls Cross Country
  • Abbey Suits – Dive
  • Hattie Wasmuth – Swim: 200 Medley
  • Max Perry – Swim: 50 Free
  • Ryan Cowart, Jace Neeb, JJ Neeb and Max Perry – Swim: 200 Free Relay
  • Ansley Chapman, MC Harrison, Vivian Hosier and Hattie Wasmuth – Swim: 200 free relay
  • Ryan Cowart, JJ Neeb, Max Perry and Connor Worgo – Swim: 400 free relay
  • Ansley Chapman, Lily Corbitt, Vivian Hosier and Hattie Wasmuth – Swim: 400 free relay
  • Weezie Moore – Track & Field: 3,200 meters
  • Kyra Brubaker, Ansley Voss, Eva Murphy and Julie Anne Bush – Track & Field: 4 x 800-meter relay
  • Anne McSweeney – Track & Field: 800 meters
  • Ben Vondrak – Track & Field: Wheelchair 800 meters and 200 meters

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The ALTA Foundation Announces the 2024 L. Keith Wood Scholarship Award Winners

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Congratulations to the eight well-deserving recipients who will receive this year’s L. Keith Wood Scholarship award winners scholarship. ALTA Foundation committee members reviewed numerous applications from exceptionally talented, intelligent and community focused students to make their decisions.

To qualify for this award, candidates must have engaged in either the ALTA Junior League, participated in the Junior Challenge Ladder, or been involved in the Foundation’s START program. They had to have shown a dedication to community and volunteer service along with being able to display how tennis has assisted with their growth, both on and off the court.

Each awardee will be granted a $2,500 scholarship to support their educational endeavors and will be honored on center court during ALTA Day on July 22 at the Atlanta Open.

Here are the winners:

Isabelle Coursey – Atlanta, GA
ALTA Facility: Dekalb Tennis Center
Graduate of: Chamblee High School
Attending: Georgia Tech

Riley Hamrick – Peachtree Corners, GA
ALTA Facility: Peachtree Station Swim and Tennis
Graduate of: Norcross High School
Attending: University of Georgia

Athena Misewicz – Dunwoody, GA
ALTA Facility: Dunwoody Country Club
Graduate of: Dunwoody High Schoolz
Attending: University of Georgia

Prisha Mody – Johns Creek, GA
ALTA Facility: Peachtree Station
Graduate of: Johns Creek High School
Attending: University of Georgia

Mara Opre – Suwanee, GA
ALTA Facility: Sharon Springs Park
Graduate of: Lambert High School
Attending: Anderson University

Ben Stone – Suwanee, GA
ALTA Facility: Mayfair/ St. Clair
Graduate of: Lambert High School
Attending: University of Alabama

Ally Turnbough – Snellville, GA
ALTA Facility: Briscoe Park
Graduate of: Greater Atlanta Christian School
Attending: Clark Atlanta University

Davis Wall – Duluth, GA
ALTA Facility: Canterbury Woods
Graduate of: Peachtree Ridge High School
Attending: University of Georgia

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Peachtree Corners Gets Pole Position in Speed Week 2024

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The 2024 Curiosity Lab Criterium will take place on a course in the world-famous Curiosity Lab in Peachtree Corners.
Criterium Race in 2023

The first Curiosity Lab Criterium took place last year on a cold, rainy day, but the weather didn’t dampen enthusiasm for the event.

The collection of Speed Week criteriums in Georgia and South Carolina kicks off Thursday, April 25, in Greenville, SC, and wraps up on Sunday, May 5, in College Park, GA.

Peachtree Corners has added many new components this year, including a Sunday time slot.

“It was a good opportunity for us to get a feel for it,” said Louis Svehla, the city’s communications director. “[We got to see] how it would work in the setup and stuff like that.”

This year’s event will also feature a running race, races for kids, food trucks, vendors and other activities for the family.

Speed Week is a premiere event on the U.S. Pro Cycling Circuit that draws cyclists worldwide, including Olympic medalists and world and national champions.  In 2023, the professional men’s and women’s events drew cyclists from over 30 states and more than 20 countries.

Criterium Race in 2023

Gearing up for race day

The 2024 Curiosity Lab Criterium will take place on a course in the world-famous Curiosity Lab in Peachtree Corners, a 5G-enabled, 500-acre living laboratory ecosystem designed specifically as a proving ground for IoT, mobility and smart city technologies.

The Curiosity Lab Criterium will feature an array of innovative technologies currently being deployed to help protect vulnerable road users (VRUs). This event will also showcase the VRU technology of tomorrow as exhibited by private sector V2X companies and sensor innovators, OEMs hardware and software manufacturers, government officials, bike companies, advocacy groups and more.

“Despite it being a dreary day in the middle of the week last year, the public showed up and had a good time,” Svehla said.

“We always want people to gather and hang out with each other, especially when these events are free and really for them,” he added.

“For our first one, we were very happy with the turnout. … The vendors and the food trucks we hired for the event made their minimums, so they didn’t cost the city any money,” he explained.

Criterium Race in 2023

Even better than last year

Event producers, sponsors and race teams also gave great feedback.

“They were ecstatic about this course. They absolutely loved it because it’s unlike any other course they have on this circuit,” he said. “They love that there were elevation changes and … it was in a different type setting, not just on a city street like others.”

The success of that first year prompted the promoters to move this year’s race to a Sunday, a weekend race. It’s the day after the Athens race and the second one in Georgia.

“It’s not really far distance,” Svehla added. “And because of that, we expect to have more professional riders, both in the men’s and women’s professional divisions. And we’re hoping that also boosts the amount of … third tier riders that are amateurs but want to compete.”

“Last year’s races started at 3 p.m., and I think the last race went off at 9 p.m.,” he said. “This year, we are starting at 10 in the morning.”

The last race starts at 8 p.m. and lasts about an hour. In between, there are several junior categories for kids from 9 to 14 years old, a 130-yard race for little kids ages 5 to 9, a foot race and many family-friendly activities.

“Although the bike races are open to whoever registers, the running races are invitational only,” Svehla said.

“They’re inviting some of the best runners from the Southeast,” he said. These people are going to run a sub-six-minute mile, minimum.”

3-D printed trophy

Taking home the gold

Last year’s custom 3-D printed trophies for the professional men and women competitors will be replicated in smaller trophies and medals for the amateur racers.

The design is the same as last year, but the spokes on the wheel are gold. Local company ZhumeisterLabs (ZLabs3D) will be making the trophies.

In addition to being a fun, family-focused event, Curiosity Lab Criterium is also a chance to showcase the best of Peachtree Corners.

“[This] allows us to showcase Curiosity Lab, its different technologies and what being an IT city means,” said Svehla.

“We also want to be a leader in working with companies to provide solutions that make being on the road or next to the roadway as safe as possible. This, hopefully, will encourage more cycling, walking, running and multi-use trails.”

Curiosity Lab Criterium 2024

What: U.S. Pro Cycling Circuit Race and Running Race 
When: Sunday, April 28
Time: 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners City Hall (310 Technology Pkwy)
Learn more about the event at peachtreecornersga.gov/385/Curiosity-Lab-Criterium-2024.

Speed Week Events
April 25 through May 5

Greenville Cycling Classic
Greenville, SC
Thursday, April 25

Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System Criterium
Spartanburg, SC
Saturday, April 27

Athens Orthopedic Clinic Twilight Criterium p/b Michelob Ultra
Athens, GA
Sunday, April 28

Curiosity Lab Criterium
Peachtree Corners, GA
Tuesday, April 30

Spin the District – Union City criterium
Union City, GA
Wednesday, May 1 (non-speed week event)

Bonus! Track racing @ Dick Lane Velodrome
East Point, GA
Friday, May 3

Spin the District – Hapeville Criterium
Hapeville, GA
Saturday, May 4

Lagrange Cycling Classic
Lagrange, GA
Sunday, May 5

Speed Week Finals – Spin the District – College Park Criterium
College Park, GA
Sunday, May 5

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