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Skate park gets rave reviews
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Many parents, kids and fans were on hand to watch the first skateboard competition at the new skate park at J. Wilson Memorial Park in Martinsville. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
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Sunday, October 17, 2010

By PAUL MONTANA - Bulletin Sports Writer

In the grand opening of Martinsville's new skate park Thursday, the ribbon was cut, the courtesy thank yous were doled out and the necessary hugs were given.

All that was left after that was to have kids skate there.

WakeNSkate, Martinsville and Franklin County sponsored the first competition at the new skateboard haven in J. Frank Wilson Memorial Park, which most in attendance regarded as a smash hit.

"The most unbelievable thing I've experienced in a long, long time," said Jim Frith, who headed the committee for budgeting the park's construction.

While Frith and other adults led the charge for building the park, much of the area skateboarding youth also helped fuel the movement, which raised over $100,000 for the facility from May 10 to July 31.

The speed of the fundraising, Frith said, was necessary so that Saturday's event could happen.

"It had to (start) the 10th of May so this competition could be (here) before it got too cold," said Jim Frith, who headed the committee to help build the skate park. "That's why you had to have a short fuse on that firecracker.

"This is the whole goal, was today."�

The "WakeNSkate Comp" featured local boarders and others from as far away as Virginia Beach and South Carolina. Competitors ranged from 19-year-old riders like Ridgeway's Alex Kassebaum to 6-year-olds like Martinsville native Jesse King.

Skaters in each of three divisions - beginner, intermediate, and advanced - were judged on three-minute rides through the park, with judges scoring based on technical difficulty of tricks, consistency (i.e., mistake-free riding), style and variety in the routine.

That was followed by a best-trick contest in a 10-minute "jam session" format - one-after-another, riders attempted their best trick before judges until the 10 minutes expired.

All riders - or their parents for under-18s - were required to sign a waiver agreeing to follow park rules, to assume the risk of personal injury, and to not sue WakeNSkate, Martinsville or Franklin County, except in the case of "gross or wanton negligence" by those entities.

Leaksville (N.C.) native Dustin Odell won the advanced division with a run full of big-air tricks, while Bedford native Jake Hilbish claimed the best-trick contest with a kick-flip indy - flipping the board in the air before grabbing the edge of the board - while jumping across the gap between perpendicular ramps.

But some locals got in on the action too, headlined by Harr taking third in the advanced division behind Odell and Hilbish. Harr's most impressive trick may have been a noseslide grind - riding along the edge of an obstacle on just the front tip, or "nose," of the skateboard - which he did for several seconds before hopping off.

Perhaps just as impressively, the 6-year-old King placed fourth in the beginner division. As if a 6-year-old standing on a skateboard wasn't impressive enough, King rolled in one unchanging direction while turning his skateboard around repeatedly and cruised through the course with little difficulty.

Running the show for WakeNSkate was Micah Gaudio, who also hosts competitions in Rocky Mount. The skateboarding guru came away impressed with Martinsville's new course, and he believes that new parks like Martinsville's serve local youth.

"You've got to give these kids an outlet to go rather than just vandalizing in the streets," Gaudio said. "That's not safe. There needs to be a place where they can go and get out their skate energy. And it needs to be cool like this.

"You should be proud of this park. It's a really great park. One of the best in Virginia, for sure."�

Harr - who said he used to "terrorize the streets" on his skateboard as a youngster - agreed that the park, and the competition, were successes.

"This is the best outdoor skatepark within a two-hour drive from here," Harr said. "The only place that's better is probably the Blacksburg park, and they put a lot of money into that."�

Other local competitors included Martinsville's Clinton Wright (age 15, beginner division) and Tyler Cassell (age 18, beginner).


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