Raj Lal and Arjun Khurana are so mild-mannered, it is hard to tell whether the doubles team is winning or losing.
Lal and Khurana earned a bronze medal in the Under-14 division of the Show-Me State Games’ tennis tournament Sunday at Green Tennis Center.
“Our parents told us that we should guard our tempers,” Lal, 12, said.
Lal and Khurana, both from Columbia, rebounded from a 1-6, 1-6 loss in the semifinals to win the third-place game, 6-0, 6-3.
Lal has been playing since he was 3, his father, Sunder Lal, said.
“At age 3, he wouldn’t let me leave the house,” Sunder Lal said. “He’d be waiting there at five in the morning at the entrance to the garage, wanting to go with me to play tennis.”
Khurana, 11, said he started tennis a few years ago; his mother, Jasmit Khurana, said “there isn’t enough time in the day” to play all the sports he wants.
“He’ll play anything with a ball,” she said.
Soccer is the boys’ primary sport, and both competed in the Games’ soccer tournament last weekend.
“Both our teams lost,” Raj Lal said. “We didn’t place this year.”
Raj Lal and Arjun Khurana will be entering Gentry Middle School in the fall.
Nothing was going to slow Columbia’s Sara Sabulsky this year.
As she struggled to pedal up the hill, her blond braids swayed underneath her helmet. Sweat rolled down Sabulsky’s face, but she wanted to know only one thing.
“How far ahead are they?” she said.
Sabulsky, 11, did not need to worry. Competing against eight other riders in the 8- to 12-year-old division of the Games’ mountain biking competition at Rock Bridge Memorial Park, she finished second in 33 minutes, 35 seconds.
Sabulsky’s first mountain biking competition was at last year’s Games. An accident during the race hindered her performance and she finished fifth.
“I went over my handle bars when I hit a rock,” Sabulsky said. “I had my water bottle in my right hand, so I couldn’t reach my brakes. It didn’t really matter though because it was my front brakes, so I was going over the handle bars no matter what.”
Still, Sabulsky was not taking any chances this year. She used a CamelBak, a backpack with water inside of it that allows riders to drink through a hose without using their hands.
Sabulsky said mountain biking did not interest her at first.
“But I saw how fun it was to go really fast in the woods, so I did it,” she said.
Sabulsky knew some of her fellow racers, such as Andrew Rau from Blue Springs, who finished first at the Games.
“Someone at the starting line said something like, ‘There are no friends on the track, there are only friends off the track,’” Sabulsky said. “But I think there can be friends.”
Since last year’s Games, Sabulsky races more frequently and said she is comfortable competing against the boys.
Sabulsky said mountain biking lets her enjoy the outdoors and is a way to stand out in a crowd.
“It’s fun and it’s different,” Sabulsky said. “Not many girls do this.”
— Sonya Grogg
Perseverance is a word that comes to mind for those who know the Pin-Up Girls.
For the past three years, the Pin-Up Girls have lost to the same team in the finals of the Games’ women’s soccer tournament at Cosmopolitan Park. This year was different, though, with the Pin-Up Girls winning 2-0 against the Soccadillos, a team which includes several players from McKendree College in Lebanon, Ill.
Before the game, Pin-Up Girls manager Kim Clementi said she was confident her team had improved enough to win, despite the odds.
“They (McKendree) were older and more experienced,” Clementi said. “Most of our girls, except for a few, are seniors and are going to college next year.”
The Pin-Up Girls won their first game 3-1 on Sunday morning, but it did not come easily. At halftime, the Pin-Up Girls were ahead 2-1 and their opponents were playing rough.
“The refs were not good this game,” Clementi said. “It was a very physical game on the other team, and they were way below us on skill, and so they tried to beat us up as opposed to play us. They had speed, but they had no skill.”
Playing in the Sunday’s heat and humidity made the championship draining, especially after the tiring first game.
“We stepped it up a lot,” Megan Newland said. “We just had fun and we won.”
Newland, from Lee’s Summit, plays goalkeeper. She said the Pin-Up Girls knew they had to win and when the Soccadillos fought, they fought harder.
“I wanted it bad,” Newland said. “Every year I’ve played, we’ve lost to them.”
Win or lose, the Pin-Up Girls said they enjoyed the tournament.
“The best thing about this team is that we have fun,” Clementi said.
“We don’t take it too seriously. This team technically comes together as a team once a year to play this tournament and there are new people every year. We just come together for this one tournament, for this one weekend and we just have fun.”
— Alexis Headley