It’s Friday night and Paige Oswald is cheering, because that’s what Oswald does during football season.
But Oswald isn’t just a cheerleader.
She practices martial arts, specifically Ming Wu.
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Recently, Oswald joined three fellow students of Ming Wu Martial Arts in Lakewood Ranch as part of the United States Martial Arts team at the World Martial Arts Games in Las Vegas.
Andrew Winn, Kelly Machuca and Michael Santoni all represented their teacher, Grand Master Jessie Vi as Team USA members.
And they didn’t just compete.
Oswald, a second-degree black belt, won three gold medals. Santoni won two golds, a silver and a bronze. Winn earned two golds and a silver. And Machuca rounded out the group with a gold.
“They’re very disciplined that they trained themselves,” said Vi, who is Oswald’s stepfather. “Dieting to start with. And training themselves to put together a set of routines that they do every day is very hard for them ... but they came through and they did it.”
The experience was a unique one for the Ming Wu quartet.
“I got to meet a bunch of people from different countries,” said Oswald, a Braden River High junior.
“I was excited, because I got to socialize, and I learned a whole bunch of different martial arts moves and stuff from the bunch of different countries,” Machuca said.
However, heading to the world games isn’t just booking a flight and packing for the trip.
Arduous training sessions take place in the hopes of a spot on the team.
Then raising money for the trip through fundraisers and sponsorship to help cover the cost of leaving Manatee County has to happen.
“Each team member had to raise about $5,000 to go,” Santoni said.
Santoni is the youngest in the group at 13 years old, and he happened to win the most medals.
His golds came in Non-Traditional Open Hand Forms and Creative Forms.
Winn, a Lakewood Ranch High senior, took his world titles in the Non-Traditional Open Hand Forms and Musical Forms.
Machuca, a Braden River junior, won his world championship in the Traditional Japanese Okinawan Forms.
Oswald won her three titles in the following divisions: Traditional Chinese Open Hand Forms, Non-Traditional Open Hand Forms and Extreme Open Hand Forms.
Each one learning from Vi’s Ming Wu creation, which is a Chinese fusion art that combines many different martial arts disciplines.
“It has a bunch of different soft movements in it,” said Oswald, whose sponsor Neal Communities helped cover the costs for her. “It’s really different than Karate, hard movements and stuff. It’s just really graceful.”
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The East Manatee River Dawgs, representing the Florida Gulf Coast chapter of the Fellowship Christian Athletes, recently won two travel baseball tournaments.
The 10-and-younger team went 4-0 en route to winning the single-elimination Oldsmar Smackdown Tournament. The team earned a bye as the No. 1 seed after the seeding round to best the eight-team field.
The 9-and-younger squad also went unbeaten (5-0) en route to the championship in the Meteors Tournament that took place in Sarasota.
Both tournaments were under the IBC banner.
Manager John Goda said the plan is to try and expand to one or two more teams next year.
Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017.