Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Catching up with Russia alum Vania Brandt...

Fish Report recently caught up with 2005 Russia alum and new Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader Vania Brandt! Vania was just named a 2011 Ben-Gal this past Friday and we got a chance to ask her a few questions. Here's what she had to say:

F.R.  Thanks for the interview Vania and congrats on making the Ben-Gals team! What's the process for getting selected and how many ladies were you competing against?
V.B.  The process for becoming a Ben-Gal is quite a challenge. My first official clinic (practice) at the stadium was on April 2nd. Clinics were held every Saturday in April in order to prepare us for the tryout process. Ben-Gals from the previous year would teach these clinics and go over a myriad of things involving fitness, dance, diet, and cosmetology. All of this is intended to help us get a feel for the Ben-Gal style. There were about 100 girls who initially tried out for the team. The tryout process consists of three different cuts, including the finals. Throughout the process we were required to learn new dances on the fly and immediately perform them, as well as consistently display several different dance techniques. During the first and second set of tryouts, roughly 35 girls were cut.  The finals consisted of 64 girls competing for 32 spots on the team. Finals were open to the public and took place at The Syndicate in Newport, KY. Over 500 people showed up to support us! We had such a talented group of girls who tried out this year and I am so proud of every single one of them for what they accomplished. Not every girl can say that they made it to the finals to become an NFL cheerleader!

F.R.  How much time does being a Ben-Gal involve? Is it just working Sundays during the season?
V.B.  Being a Ben-Gal is very time consuming. We have practice every Tuesday and Thursday night from 7:00-9:30, and are also required to do a minimum of 10 community service appearances. Most people are not aware of this, but there are also stringent requirements to even be on the team. You have to have a full time job or be full time student, so it is a very professional organization. These women are amazing and I am so grateful to be a part of the team!

F.R.  Hopefully your family is all Bengals fans! Any chance they will be able to watch you up close on game days?
V.B.  Absolutely! Orange and Black run through my family’s blood! They are so supportive and will be cheering me on at the games! I get one free ticket for each home game and will be giving that to my boyfriend, Nathan. He’s a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, so hopefully this will convert him! Even though he’s not Bengals fan, he is so happy for me and has supported me every step of the way. He’s already bragging to his friends that he is dating a pro cheerleader!

F.R.  Are you able to give any credit to your cheerleading days at Russia for your success today?
V.B.  Definitely. Getting comfortable performing in front of large crowds at the Russia basketball games was an invaluable experience. I also did gymnastics for 6 years, which helped me grow as a performer.

F.R.  Final question, any advice for all the cheerleaders back home on what it takes to get to the next level?
V.B.  Determination. I tried out for the team last year, but didn’t make it. I took the advice from coaches and practiced consistently this whole past year. There were times where I felt like giving up because the process is so challenging and I was afraid of failure again. You just have to stay positive, keep your head held high and do everything you can to improve and show them that you can do it! Hard work and strong dedication will pay off! 

Thanks for talking with us Vania and good luck this season!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Catching up with Marion Local alum Cory Luebke...

Fish Report recently caught up with 2004 Marion Local alum and San Diego Padres pitcher Cory Luebke! After successful years in high school with the Flyers and three years at Ohio State, Cory was drafted after his junior year of college in 2007 by the Padres. The left-hander was called up to the bigs in September 2010 and has been with the club ever since. With the 2011 season underway, Fish Report got a chance to ask Cory a few questions and here's what he had to say:

F. R.  Thanks for talking with us Cory and congrats on getting your first win of the season on April 25th! San Diego is about as far away from Maria Stein, Ohio as possible. Do your family and friends get many opportunities to come to the ballpark and watch you play?
C.L.  No problem and thanks. Haha, yeah I don't think I could be much farther from Maria Stein. My family has always shown a ton of support and comes to see me as often as they can. My family has been to San Diego, Arizona, Chicago and Milwaukee. It is always good to have them in town. Anytime we head east they try to make plans to meet up.

F.R.  On Easter my 6-year old son opened up a pack of Topps baseball cards and was pumped to get a Cory Luebke rookie card! How does it feel to have your own baseball card and what's it worth if he needs to sell it?
C.L.  I do feel pretty lucky to have a baseball card. I know when I was little I always enjoyed collecting cards. Haha, lets just hope he does not need to sell it now. Don't think there is much of a market for them. For his excitement I'm guessing there are several kids opening packs wondering who the heck this is.

F.R.  During spring training Fish Report posted an article from a San Diego website about you winning a quarterback competition among your teammates. What was that all about and did you inform those guys you played in the best high school football conference in America?
C.L.  It was during the NFL combine we have a young talented pitcher we recieved in the Gonzalez trade who had signed a letter of intent to play at Tennessee. Buddy wanted to see if he was legit so a quarterback competition was arranged. It was a good time and involved about 12 or so targets along with targets on the back of moving golf carts. I think I sent the same article to Coach Goodwin and titled it "Can't believe you ever benched me." We got a good laugh out of it. I think I just had a good day.

F.R.  Speaking of high school, back when you played baseball for the Flyers, do you have any favorite memories or games you'll never forget?
C.L.  I don't know if there was anything specific about baseball, but I think just the overall enjoyment of being able to play all three sports with your friends throughout high school is something I won't forget.

F.R.  Finally, any advice you can offer for the young kids from our area that want to play in the big leagues some day?
C.L.  I believe what helped me out was never looking to far ahead. When in high school and college the big leagues can seem miles away. I just always tried to take things one step at a time and to be honest with myself. When in college I tried to work on what would get me drafted. In rookie ball I tried to improve on what would get me to A ball. In A ball I worked on what would get me to AA, and so forth. I think it was just a combination of knowing what your strengths are and working hard on your weaknesses. It is a process that never stops. I try to never become content and to always keep working on something that I know will make me better.

Great stuff Cory! Thanks for talking with Fish Report and good luck with the Padres!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Softball memories...

The softball team from Cruizer's Bar & Grill in Russia hosted a softball tournament this past weekend at Russia Park and I couldn't help but remember the end of my own playing days some 13 years ago.  Back then our team was sponsored by Mo's Place, which actually occupied the same building as Cruizer's does today.  Men's softball seemed to be a more popular sport in this area back then, although I'm told by current players it's still popular in the Mercer County area.  For me, it was almost all I wanted to do from about age 20 to 28.  Nothing was more fun than competing on the diamond against other local teams and then enjoying some camaraderie with a cold beverage in the bleachers afterward.  In our early years we'd play in 3-day tournaments on the weekend and then a league game during the week.  We'd travel on overnight trips to the state tournament and once we even played in an all-night tournament that lasted from sun down to sun up.  It was perfect us single guys.  As our playing years went on we attended a lot of teammate weddings, started bringing little kids to the ballpark, and played less and less softball.  Those 3-day tournaments turned into 1-day tournaments and league night became a thing of the past.  Family life got busier and we all gradually retired from the sport we had so much fun playing.  Great memories and great friends all thanks to softball!

Note: Click on the picture above to get a close-up of these weekend warriors.  Notice the little girl in the corner is now a Russia sophomore and standout athlete for the Raiders!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Catching up with Minster alum Randy Stueve...

Fish Report recently caught up with 1990 Minster alum and Ironman Randy Stueve! Randy, now a pharmacist in Durango, Colorado, competed in the Hawaiian Ironman World Championship back in 2008. In 2011 he's back on the Ironman circuit will be racing Ironman St. George (Utah) coming up on Saturday, May 7th, which is reportedly one of the toughest Ironman courses out there. Before the big race Fish Report got a chance to ask Randy a few questions and here's what he had to say:

F.R.  Thanks for talking with us Randy! What kind of activity does the Ironman involve and why is the St. George course so tough?
R.S.  Thank you Craig, it's great to be back! An Ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike leg, and a 26.2 mile run. There are numerous Ironman races around the world, but in only its second year, the St. George course has garnered a reputation for being the hardest course in North America and one of the top three hardest in the world. The bike course has about 6600 feet of elevation gain. There are harder bike courses out there, but it's the run that sets St. George apart with around 2400 feet of elevation gain. That's a tough marathon to throw at tired legs!

F.R.  When was your last previous race and how did that turn out?
R.S.  Last November, I raced Ironman Cozumel. I'd been getting back into shape all summer, and I really wanted to peak for this race. Unfortunately, I was involved in a bike accident two weeks out from the race. A deer and I collided! I was doing about 25mph and a doe shot across the road and barreled right into the front of my bike. My bike and I cartwheeled down the road for a bit, and it took me awhile to regain my bearings. I remember opening my eyes and slowly moving all my extremities to see if anything was broken. Fortunately, my only injuries were road rash and strained muscles along my ribs and spine. My bike, however, was totaled. It took a lot of rehab and a borrowed bike, but I made it to the start line. I had the swim of my life, but my back couldn't handle much more than 40 miles on the bike. The run was even worse. I did finish, but I was very disappointed. I'm still waiting on a get-well card from that deer! Also considering getting a deer permit next fall.

F.R.  You must have been a big runner and swimmer in high school. Is that how it started?
R.S.  Ha! I was on a swim team in 4th grade, but that was it. I played football and baseball in high school and didn't do much more than intramural sports in college. I didn't get into triathlon until 2002. My first race was a disaster, so I did a second race just to get it right. After that, I was hooked. In 2005, I moved out to Durango, Colorado so I could pursue my passion full-time.

F.R.  If you ran the Minster Oktoberfest could we put our money on you to win? 
R.S.  Not if you're smart. I'm not a pure runner, and it usually takes me a bit to get warmed up first. My fastest 10K ever was a 36:01 during a triathlon last September. For some reason, I'm able to maintain my run speed coming off of the bike better than most. That's where I make up a lot of ground in races.

F.R.  Last question, when you're competing in an Ironman, is it harder physically or mentally? 
R.S.  That's a great question. It's certainly a mixture of both, but I think it comes down to what your goal is for a race. If you're a beginner, the physical aspect is the bigger hurdle...simply getting in the necessary training to complete the race. Once you've reached the level where you're competing for a podium spot or a Kona slot, then it's more of a mental game. If you look at the start line at an Ironman, there are maybe 10-20 pro's that are physically capable of winning. The difference is where they are mentally. That mental focus you carry with you in your day to day training comes out on race day, and it separates the winners from the rest of the field. It's true in most aspects of life. Your top-performers are able to tap into something special that elevates them.

Great stuff Randy! Thanks for talking with Fish Report and best of luck in St. George!

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