On their own turf
Two Sherwood students excel at very different sports: Thomas Micich prepares to race the national Stars of Karting circuit while Kenzie Conner's competitive cheerleading team heads to the prominent Cheerleading Worlds event in Orlando
Two Sherwood students are reaching the pinnacle of their unique sports - Thomas Micich is racing on the national kart circuit and Kenzie Conner is headed to the foremost event in the world of competitive cheerleading, the Cheerleading Worlds.
On the Indy path
At the age of 13, Thomas Micich, a seventh-grader at St. Francis Catholic School already gives the impression that, in the event of an emergency, this is the guy who will stay calm and know what to do.
It's a trait that helps in certain situations - say, when you're an aspiring Indy racecar driver, cruising the track in a tiny kart that hugs the pavement, which is what Micich, who will race in the Stars of Karting National Championship Series this year, does for fun.
'I've been racing since I was 5 years old,' Micich says. 'So I don't get too nervous.'
The son of Ethan and Jennifer Micich of Sherwood, Thomas got his racing start on his 'home track' in McMinnville and has raced the national circuit once before, but for a younger age division. This year he'll compete against 34 other kart racers in an older - and more difficult - division. In the world of racing, this is the required first step on the path toward becoming a professional Indy racecar driver.
'That's my goal,' Micich says of going pro.
'(Kart racing) prepares you for racing open wheel cars,' explains Micich' mother, Jennifer, who says racing on the national kart circuit is like a feeder program for Indy racing - a sport that is enormously popular in Europe, but is starting to catch on in the United States too.
Thomas will race a French made Sodi Kart with the Stars of Karting, a Huntington, Calif. based racing team that includes trainer Luke Vasquez and his son, Phillip, who is a professional Indy car driver.
The national championship circuit will take the Micich family, which also includes 10-year-old Robert, who is also a kart racer, throughout the country for the next several months. Thomas will race in Florida in early April and then head to Salt Lake City for his second race.
'The season is April through October, so it interferes with most other sports,' Jennifer Micich says. 'Thomas used to play lacrosse, but he missed too many practices because of racing.'
Of course, that's OK with Thomas, who says he truly loves racing and doesn't mind giving up the school activities that typical 13-year-olds are involved in.
'I miss school sometimes, but racing actually motivates me to do better in school,' Thomas says.
'His teacher said he has a good work ethic,' his mother chimes in.
Thomas may have gotten the bug from his father, Ethan, who used to race formula cars when he first met his wife. Nowadays, Ethan is content to watch his oldest son excel at the sport he once loved and accompanies Thomas to his national races.
No fear of flying
If your idea of cheerleading is still stuck in the realm of high kicks and pom-poms, you need to experience competitive cheering.
That's Kenzie Conner's sport. And don't tell this 14-year-old Sherwood High freshman that cheerleading isn't dangerous - Conner, a petite flyer on the Tigard-based West Coast Extreme cheer team just spent more than a year out of practice thanks to a broken shoulder.
'Yeah, they dropped me,' Connor says, shrugging away the horrified look on this reporter's face. 'It's not scary though. I have no fear.'
In fact, after the whole 'broken shoulder incident,' Conner and her team went on to win a $25,000 bid to compete in the Cheerleading Worlds event that Conner calls 'the Olympics of competitive cheering.'
The sport that Conner participates in is known as All-Star Cheerleading and is sanctioned by the U.S. All Star Federation, which sponsors regional and national competitions that culminate in the big event - the Cheerleading Worlds in Orlando, Fl., which is where Conner and her team are headed for a weekend of competitive cheerleading, April 21-22. In 2007, more than 100 teams from 15 different countries competed at the Cheerleading Worlds. Conner's team won the $25,000 bid to compete at the Worlds during a Portland competition in mid-March.
'We were so excited,' Conner said. 'We were all crying.'
Conner is the daughter of LeeAnn Medina of Sherwood and Vic Conner of Utah. She lives in Sherwood with her mother and stepfather, Bob Medina, and has two brothers, Garrick, 17, and Carson, 18 and a stepsister, Chazle Jensen, 21.
Like Micich, the race kart driver, Conner forgoes other school activities to concentrate on competitive cheerleading and practices at least nine hours a week with her Tigard team.
'I love it,' she says. 'Sometimes I get nervous in competition, but it's fun.'