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Commentary | Cheer squads do well at nationals

Both the Manatee Wildcats and East Manatee Bulldogs had cheerleading teams at last week’s Pop Warner National Championship at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando.

And they came home with some high finishes. The Wildcats’ pee wee squad racked up an 80.74 percent score to snag second place in the intermediate cheer large division last Tuesday.

The Bulldogs’ junior midget team grabbed fifth place in the novice cheer small division with a 71.46 percent score during Wednesday’s competition.

The Wildcats also sent their midget cheer team to compete in Friday’s intermediate large division. However, they didn’t manage to place in the top five.

Nonetheless, congratulations are in order for all three teams.

Youth basketball

The Manatee Mustangs are registering for its basketball program. Registration is open to all boys and girls ages 5-16 years old. There is also a need for coaches.

Any players or coaches interested should contact the 13th Ave. Dream Center at 746-7470 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

High school hockey

Despite two late Luke Bafia goals, the Manatee County Hockey Club’s Golden Manatees couldn’t rally in their Lightning Conference game on Friday in Brandon. East Lake beat Manatee 5-4 in the non-division contest. Raven Woodring and Paul Lochner notched the other goals for the Golden Manatees, who remain in second place in the Central Division despite the loss due to goal difference. Currently, Manatee has 14 points -- the same as Tampa Plant, Tampa Jesuit and one point ahead of local rival Sarasota.

After a scoreless opening period, East Lake outscored Manatee 3-2 in the second period before reeling off back-to-back goals to open up a 5-2 lead early in the final frame. East Lake’s victory launched it into third place in the Western Division on 18 points. The Golden Manatees return to the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex for a home game against Gaither/Sickles -- the top team in the Western Division -- slated to begin at 9:45 p.m. on Friday.

IMG’s busy weekend

IMG Academies was the host venue for a variety of events this past weekend, in addition to a couple out-of-town events that IMG’ers fared well in. The IMG Cup, a boys invitational soccer tournament, concluded with various age division winners. They include: Sunrise Elite (U14 champions), FC Florida Premier (U15), Fusion FC (U16), Norcross Soccer (U17), FC Sarasota (U 18/19) and Maccabi Haifa (Super Group). Haifa downed Team USA’s U-17 national team 1-0 in the last match to secure the championship.

The Little Mo International Tennis Open is currently ongoing, although it ends Wednesday.

IMG Academies’ Leona Kung claimed a 7-5, 6-2 victory in the girls 11s semifinal on Monday to move into today’s final. Whitney Osuigwe and Anna Samurgasheva, both of IMG, also won on Monday. Osuigwe grabbed a straight sets victory to move into today’s final of the girls 10s, while Samurgasheva is in the girls 9s consolation finals today.

The IMG Basketball Academy sent its freshman team to Tennessee for the Warren County High School Freshman Tournament. The team downed Warren County by 30 points to triumph with the championship. MaCio Teague was named the tourney’s MVP as Evan Davis and Kevin Fisher earned All-Tournament team honors.

At the prestigious Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships in Plantation, IMG players were well-represented. Yoshihito Nishioka lost in the boys 18s semifinals. Tommy Mylnikov, who also won the boys 16s division at the recent Eddie Herr, made it to the quarterfinals before losing to training partner Diego Pedraza. Hyeon Chung, another IMG tennis player, took the boys 16 title in three sets.

And finally, IMG was the site for Prince’s ‘Who’s Next Academy’ Alliance War Games event that pitted six tennis academies in an eight-team round-robin event. The IMG Rebels defeated the IMG Warriors 7-5 in the final.

Upcoming races

This Friday marks the 16th annual Jingle Bell Run/Walk. The 5K portion kicks off at 7 p.m. and the 1-mile event starts at 7:10 p.m.

It’s normally the largest run/walk in Manatee and Sarasota counties. Participants receive commemorative long sleeve shirts and jingle bells with laces. Music, food, vendors, kids zone, VIP tent and Santa are part of the other events going on.

This year’s location is Lakewood Ranch Main Street. Contact Lee Lewis at the Arthritis Foundation for more information at 708-3901 or via email at

Then on New Year’s Eve, the Manatee River Run at Emerson Point Park in Palmetto begins at 9 a.m. The Saturday race on Dec. 31 is an RRCA-FL 5-Mile State Championship. Visit for more information.

Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017 or via email at