Need for Speed

Kristin Biondo is the latest in her family to make a run at the Olympics.

The 2003 U.S. Junior Short Track Championships Cleveland Heights Community Center Ice Rink, 1 Monticello Boulevard, Cleveland Heights 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, December 21 and 22, Free; call 440-899-0128

Speedskater Kristin Biondo doesn't get ready for her next big race by jogging or eating big bowls of pasta. The most important step for the 16-year-old competitor from Broadview Heights is a mental one -- being able to picture winning long before she hits the ice.

Her visual powers will be put to the test this weekend, as she and 30 other elite junior speedskaters from around the country go shoulder-to-shoulder in a series of races to determine who will make the 2003 U.S. Junior World Team.

"I've been racing as long as I can remember," says Biondo, who competed in her first race at age three and is part of a speedskating tradition that crosses three generations (most recently, brother Ron was a member of the U.S. Olympic Speedskating Team at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City).

Therefore, racing competitively is nothing new to Biondo; she's gone up against other racers as a Tiny Tot, Pee Wee, and Midget. But her level of competition reached new heights this year, when she was named to the U.S. Olympic Development Team and began racing against other top U.S. juniors.

At the 2003 U.S. Junior Short Track Championships, skaters will compete in four distances -- 500, 1,000, 1,500, and 3,000 meters. In each heat, four or five skaters race counterclockwise around a 111-meter oval, jostling for position on the turns and hoping to finish in the top two, so they can advance to the next round.

Though she still races on skates her mother bought her several years ago, Biondo has a new custom-fit pair on order. They won't get here in time for this weekend's trials, but she plans on doing well enough to wear them next month as part of the U.S. Junior World Team. Now that's positive thinking.

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