Photo | Vicky Baker
Gary Holbein Jr.’s family may have to add onto their house as the youngster continues to expand his collection of personal watercraft trophies. The 13-year-old student at Fairhope Middle School recently picked up a world championship title in the sport.
“We could not be more proud of him and his hard work and dedication,” his parents, Tawnya and Gary Holbein Sr., told Lagniappe. “He could not have done it without all the support of all our sponsors and Jet Ski families.”
The 2021 season began to wrap up in October at the International Jet Sports Boating Association’s (IJSBA) World Finals at Lake Havasu City, Ariz. After having finished as the runner-up in 2020, Gary Jr. finished in second place once again in the Junior Ski Lites 10-12 class.
Next up was the end of the Pro Watercross National Tour. He had previously secured the national championship in the Junior 10-12 Ski division with a 100-plus point lead over the nearest competitor.
The Pro Watercross World Championships took place Nov. 4-7 in Naples, Fla. He first raced in the Amateur Ski 4-Stroke Stock Superjet and placed second.
Things turned around the following day in the Junior Ski Stock 10-12 class. Gary Jr. captured the World Championship by finishing first in all three races.
“I am elated about winning the World Championships,” the young competitor told Lagniappe. “It was great to get up to this point with my family after winning second at the World Finals.”
“I hope his story reaches out to other kids who have thought about doing something different and know they can achieve their goals if they just put in the work,” his mother said. “We are already looking forward to the racing season next year.”
Gary Jr. practices and trains with Junior Stars of Florida, a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching children to be safe personal watercraft users and dedicated stewards of our waterways. It is operated by the father-son duo of Doug and Bret Underhill.
“Gary was already well on his way to becoming a champion before getting involved with Junior Stars of Florida,” Doug Underhill told Lagniappe. “He is an amazingly talented rider and, in spite of his young age, has a very strong work ethic that he brings from home.
“His training at Junior Stars of Florida, working with professional racers, Safety Marshals and media personnel have helped Gary hone those skills and make him not just a champion on the course, but a great ambassador for our sport that other kids and parents can respect and admire.”
UM athletes honored
The Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) released its all-tournament teams for men’s and women’s soccer along with volleyball following the three conference championship tournaments. The University of Mobile (UM) was well represented.
- After having won the regular-season title, the UM men’s soccer team lost 3-2 in the tournament final to William Carey University. The Rams saw Alejo Binaghi, Sebastian Jorgge, Rodrigo Paredes and Jose Sanabria named to the all-tournament team.
Paredes scored the game-winner against Faulkner in the semifinals. His goal was a bicycle kick that earned the No. 3 spot on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” Top 10 Plays for November 11.
Binaghi managed to score his 21st goal of the season in the championship loss to William Carey. Binaghi was named SSAC Men’s Soccer Player of the Year and earned the Golden Boot for most goals scored in the conference. Binaghi ranks in the top three in the NAIA with goals and points scored.
All four Rams were also selected to first-team all-SSAC at the conference awards banquet while Daniel Whelan was named Coach of the Year for the third time. Also on the first-team roster were Angel Almiron, Antoine Bedos, Maxime Benoit and Joshua Bynoe. Baptiste Gateau and Emman Rahimi were named SSAC second-team selections.
UM pushed its record to 17-2 after beating Columbia International University 3-0 at home in the opening round of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) playoffs. The NAIA National Championship is being played this week in Decatur, Ala.
- Melea Meadows earned her way onto the volleyball all-tournament list. She finished with a total of 106 defensive digs in four matches and 17 sets played. Her high came in UM’s match against Blue Mountain College where she recorded 37 digs. Meadows also managed 11 assists and four service aces in the tournament.
In her final year with UM, the captain and libero tallied 1,442 total digs throughout her collegiate career, surpassing the 1,000 digs plateau this season. She was named SSAC’s Volleyball Defensive Player of the Year this season and was awarded five SSAC Volleyball Defender of the Week honors on the year.
UM, which finished with an overall record of 24-6, also had senior middle blocker Rachel Hart and senior setter Sarah Warren on the first-team all-SSAC roster. Abby Andrews, Carli Rouse and Aleah Kennedy earned second-team all-conference honors.
- The UM women’s soccer team placed a player on the all-SSAC squad. Freshman Nana Sofie Kumai Bjerre earned her way after playing great defensively at midfield. In Mobile’s two postseason matches, she played a total of 165 minutes.
In her first season with the Rams, Bjerre started all 18 matches on the season for the Rams. Mobile finished with an overall record of 4-12-2.
Spring Hill College’s Taylor Fontenelle, a sophomore from Spanish Fort, has been named the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) Libero of the Year. She recorded 4.15 digs per set despite sharing time at libero and is ranked fifth in the league. She was also named 2021 SIAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and is a two-time member of the SIAC Commissioner’s All-Academic Team.
She is joined on the SIAC first-team roster with middle hitter Kassandra Fairly and outside hitter Emily Weinzapfel. Fairly was also named the 2021 SIAC Player of the Year.
Hailee Richard was the recipient of the Volleyball “Elite 14” award that recognizes the student-athlete who has reached the pinnacle of competition at the SIAC championship level in his or her sport while also achieving the highest academic standard among his or her peers.
The Badgers (30-5) will next play at the NCAA Division II South Regional on Thursday versus fifth-ranked University of West Florida. The game in Pensacola starts at 7:30 p.m.
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