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Skating helps Shatzer turn into big wheel

St. Thomas youth will compete in world championships in China

St. Thomas youth will compete in world championships in China

August 18, 2009|By ANDREW MASON

Even though he is arguably the most successful athlete at James Buchanan High School, Andrew Shatzer doesn't always play the part.

"His gym teacher was amazed when he found out how good he was," said Shatzer's coach, Patty Leazier. "He was like, 'No way.'"

"I got a 'C' in gym," Shatzer said with a smile.

If inline speedskating were a part of the phys ed curriculum, however, he'd be in a class of his own. Within the sport itself, he already is.

Shatzer, 17, of St. Thomas, Pa., who will be a senior this year at James Buchanan, is one of the top inline speedskaters in the United States.

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He placed fourth overall in the boys junior (17-and-under) division this summer at the outdoor national championships in Colorado Springs, Colo. The top six qualified for next month's world championships in China.

Shatzer's overall result was based on his finishes in nine separate races -- ranging from 200 meters to 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) -- both on the track and roads. He was the 1,000-meter track champion.

The 1,000 is the event Shatzer expects to compete in at worlds. He said his goal is to finish in the top 10 out of the roughly 60 competitors who will be in the race.

"He's got the talent," said Bret Donaldson, who also coaches Shatzer.

He also has put in the work.

Shatzer, who's been participating in the sport since he was 5, said he practices four to six hours a day, six days a week during his peak training. He competes once or twice a month throughout the year at indoor and outdoor events across the country.

Shatzer is one of roughly 50 local skaters who are members of Hagerstown's Fast Forward Racing, the team directed by Leazier and Donaldson, both former national champions.

Hailey Leech, another Fast Forward racer, also qualified for the world championships. While the 16-year-old lives in Crystal Lake, Ill., she spends her summers residing with Leazier in Greencastle, Pa., and training with the Hagerstown team.

Leazier owns Turner's Skate Palace in Hagerstown, while Donaldson's family owns Starland Roller Rink, also in Hagerstown. The team practices indoors at those two rinks, and outdoors at Hagerstown's Fairgrounds Park and at the Hagerstown Regional Airport.

Everyone on Fast Forward seems to have one thing in common: A need for speed.

"Kids like extreme things. Kids like going fast," Donaldson said. "You don't get more extreme than putting on a pair of spandex, a T-shirt and a helmet and racing 30 miles per hour on blacktop."

Shatzer, a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie, said his passion for skating is only matched by his love of snowboarding.

When it comes to other activities, though, perhaps like those in gym class, Shatzer admits he can be a little lazy.

"If God wanted me to walk, he wouldn't have invented wheels," he said.

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