Just a few years ago, Mobile’s Kayley Burdine started riding a bicycle for exercise. Her hobby eventually turned into a career and reached a new milestone.

Burdine, a former University of South Alabama cheerleader, has announced she will be riding with the Sho-Air Cycling Group this coming season. She said Sho-Air sponsors some of the nation’s top cyclists.

“I am unbelievably excited to announce that I will be riding for team Sho-Air Cycling Group in 2017,” Burdine said. “Sho-Air is one of biggest — if not the biggest — names in American cycling, and I can’t believe I’m signing my first pro contract with them.”

After finishing college, Burdine began her career as a personal fitness trainer. To help stay in shape, she got an entry-level mountain bike to ride to work.

(Photo | Courtesy Kayley Burdine) Mobile’s Kayley Burdine recently signed her first professional
cycling contract.

Some friends suggested she should enter a race. In 2014, she placed third in her first outing and was hooked on the sport.

After competing at the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships in Mammoth Mountain, California, Burdine gave up her amateur status and became a professional rider in 2015. Her commitment has been rewarded with the Sho-Air contract.

“I know that with their help, I will be able to take my racing to the next level, and I look forward to growing with them as a professional cyclist,” Burdine said. “I want to thank all of my fans for your support, and a huge thank you to all of my sponsors as well as my coach Drew Edsall who have helped make this Southern girl’s dream come true.”

The Sho-Air Cycling Group is based in Huntington Beach, California. Burdine said Scott Tedro, the company’s chief executive officer, is working hard to build professional cycling in the United States. “So it is truly an honor to have such a unique opportunity to learn and develop as an athlete with this organization,” she said. “I have been working really hard, and traveling coast to coast racing and building my résumé.

“Last year I went undefeated in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, and was crowned the Pro Women’s Southeastern Regional Champion. This year I will be racing in the Pro Cross Country Tour, which includes races in California, Utah, Montana, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts and New Mexico.”

Taking time to give back
Sports are not always just about winning and losing. There might also be opportunities to help those in need. This was true recently for two area organizations.

• The Mobile Bay Tornados belong to the American Basketball Association. The club has always made it a point to support local charities. At a recent “Unity Game,” fans were asked to bring canned goods, which were donated to the Chickasaw Food Bank. The Tornados recently qualified for the ABA Elite Eight tournament in Baltimore by winning against the South Florida Gold 130-122 to capture the Southeast Division title. You can follow the playoffs by visiting http://abaliveaction.com.

• The nationally ranked University of Mobile softball team has done well on the field with a 24-9 record. The team recently hosted an ALS Day in honor of Dudley Barnette, the father of senior third baseman Anna Blake Barnette. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a progressive nervous system disease that destroys nerve cells and causes disability. At the doubleheader, fans raised $1,800 to help the Barnette family thanks to donations, barbecue dinners and a home run derby.

Those still wishing to help the Barnettes can send checks made out to “Pam Barnette” to: Sally Shouppe or Korie Fontenot, 5735 College Parkway, Eight Mile, AL 36613.

Making a splash
Levenia Sim, a member of the TNT Swimming team in Daphne, recently competed at the National Club Swimming Association’s Age Group Championships in Orlando. The NCSA is an organization of approximately 7,500 competitive swimmers from Alabama, Tennessee and the Florida Panhandle.

Sim set a record in the 10-and-under age group’s 100-meter butterfly race with a time of 1:02.33. The previous mark of 1:02.57 was set in 2003.

TNT Swimming provides coaching to children of all ability levels at the Bounds Family YMCA in Daphne. Sim currently holds 11 individual records for TNT.

Wiffle Ball all grown up
One of America’s favorite backyard games has taken hold in the backyard of a downtown Mobile nightspot. The fall Wiffle Ball season that started in October at O’Daly’s Irish Pub wrapped up last week.

Registration for those wishing to swing at perforated plastic balls in the spring season opened that night. There will be leagues on Tuesday (Dauphin Street Blues Co. Division) and Wednesday (Draft Picks Division) nights at the field — called Pub Park — located behind the bar. Because of the game’s popularity, the leagues are limited to the first 18 teams to sign up.

The games will get started on April 18-19 and run for nine weeks. To register for the next season, visit www.playgetwiffit.com. The site also features a 360-degree virtual tour of Pub Park and a really interesting video of the league.

USA tennis players honored
The men (17-5) and women’s (15-4) tennis teams at the University of South Alabama have excelled on the court this spring. The Sun Belt Conference has taken notice, with several players receiving Player of the Week honors.

The most decorated is Juan Cruz Soria. The senior from San Juan, Argentina, has won the award three times outright and shared it on one occasion. Fellow senior Tuki Jacobs of Windhoek, Namibia, was recognized another week.

Monica Mitta, a senior from Fairhope, picked up the third league honor of her career after compiling four combined wins in singles and doubles. Laura Matuskova of Bratislava, Slovakia, was the fourth USA senior to be recognized. The most recent selection is sophomore Alexandria Stiteler of Bradenton, Florida.

Very special event
The Mobile Area Special Olympics annual track and field competition will be Friday, April 7, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal track facility. This is the largest Special Olympics event in Alabama.

Approximately 400 special-needs athletes representing 51 Mobile-area schools will compete in track events such as relays, runs, walks and wheelchair races. Field events include running and standing long jump, shot put and javelin, plus softball and tennis ball throws.

The opening ceremony is at 8:30 a.m. Featured guests are City Council members Bess Rich and John Williams plus Mobile County Public Schools Superintendent Martha Peek.