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255 try 'awesome' soccer skills challenge at ChamberFest

July 26, 1998

photo: MIKE CRUPI / staff photographer

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Soccer SkillsBy JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Eight-year-old Laura Diller was one of 255 people who took on Major League Soccer defender Alexi Lalas on Saturday.

With her blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, Diller defied the 6-foot-3, 195-pound, New York/New Jersey MetroStars player to keep her from dribbling a soccer ball around him, and around him and around him.

While the red-haired Lalas - all nine cardboard cutouts of him - didn't put up much of a defense, some of the 255 participants at Saturday's 1998 Sprint Challenge did have some trouble eluding him.

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Don Yeager, 13, said he didn't do "real well" against Lalas, getting the ball stuck by Lalas' feet or going wide around him.

"I'm a goalie. I shouldn't have to dribble," said Yeager, of Fayetteville, Pa.

Yeager was attending the soccer skills challenge at Nellie and T.K. Nitterhouse Memorial Park with his friend Brian Padworski, 13, of Chambersburg.

Padworski, who's been playing soccer since he was in kindergarten, said the challenge was "awesome."

So awesome that his father, Walt, 49, took a stab at it on a course for older participants. Padworski said he wanted to set a good example for his sons, Brian and Kevin, 11, who also participated.

A novice at the game, Padworski said his dribbling around 15 red slalom flags was terrible, but he had fun.

After two years of sponsoring a soccer tournament, Sprint chose to hold the soccer skills challenge this year to give more kids a chance to participate, said Tom Iacona.

The four-skill event was held on the final day of ChamberFest, which ran from July 16-25.

The first run through the challenge is free with additional attempts costing $1 each, said Roger Bernecker, a Chambersburg Youth Soccer Association board member.

Sprint provided medals and mugs for the top three male and female finishers in six age groups, Bernecker said.

Lauren Dobish, 8, of Chambersburg, said she went to the challenge to improve her soccer skills. She said she's been playing since kindergarten and will be playing with the Chambersburg Tornadoes this fall.

Laura Diller said she got interested in soccer from her big brother, Matt. "I like the kicking," she said.

Matt Diller, 11, of Chambersburg, plays for the Chambersburg Rage, a traveling team. Diller said he got interested in soccer from his dad, who played the sport for 18 years.

Diller was competing with his friend, Richard Collier, 14, of Chambersburg, who hit three consecutive 50-point goal shots at one skill station.

Scoring a goal was worth 25 points, hitting one of two targets in the bottom corners was worth 50 points, and slapping one of two sheets in the upper corners was worth 100 points.

Collier said the challenge helps show kids what skills they need to work on.

Marc Jacobs, 5, of Chambersburg, was getting an early start in life on improving his soccer skills.

In his "Soccer is Life" T-shirt, Jacobs was relentless in his pursuit to score a goal in a 25-point net, not resting until he accomplished his goal.

His older brother, Erik, 7, scored two 25-point shots and just missed a 50-point shot.

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