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Tampa Bay Active Life Games drew more than 200 pickleball players

Roger Cleworth and Sol Flores get ready for the next play in a doubles game on the court.
Roger Cleworth and Sol Flores competed in mixed doubles.

For the past 12 years, pickleball has been part of the Tampa Bay Active Life Games, a 50-and-over competition and region qualifier for the Florida Senior Games scheduled for December at the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis Center in Zephyrhills.

The Tampa Bay Active Life Games took place Oct. 6-7 at the Northlakes Sports Complex. In all, more than 200 players competed in 12 divisions. Men’s and women’s doubles were played on the first day with mixed doubles scheduled on the following day.

“It was very well-run,” said Roger Cleworth, co-captain of the Highlanders in Dunedin. “There were a lot of people, but it was done by 2 (p.m.) each day.”

Pickleball players who won medals in the Tampa Bay Active Life Games pose for a photo.
Gold medalists Leonard Calodney and John Hunt defeated Laurence Wynn and Jimmy Morris in the final for the men’s doubles 80-85 age group.

Northlakes had eight courts, but that facility added six more, which were ready within days of the recent tourney.

“Everything went smooth. People didn’t have downtime,” said Raheem Douglas, an assistant county supervisor who primarily works at the Gardenville Recreation Center in Gibsonton.

“They just got it done in time,” Cleworth said. “That’s the best facility in the whole Tampa Bay area.”

Cleworth and his partner William Crowley competed in men’s doubles, ages 60-64, but did not fare well after the first two rounds. He also played mixed doubles with Highlanders co-captain Sol Flores.

Sol Flores and Annette Schroeder display the silver medals they won in the tournament.
Sol Flores and Annette Schroeder earned silver medals in the tournament.

While they struggled in the 50-54 age group, Flores teamed with Annette Schroeder to earn a silver medal in women’s doubles. That duo rallied from an opening loss in women’s doubles to make it to the gold medal round. They wound up with silver medals.

“She’s a ton of fun to play with,” Schroeder said of Flores, adding, “We had to fight for every single point and for every single win, but we persevered.”

Schroeder and Flores qualified for the state games. Schroeder, who has been playing pickleball for five years, played at Northlakes for the first time.

Additionally, Kathy McCausey and Val Thomopalos won gold in the 60-64 group. They defended the title they won last year in that event with both now advancing to the state tourney.

Seven medalists from the Living the Dream team pose with their medals and pickleball paddles.
Seven medalists from the Living the Dream team included Kathy McCausey, Val Thomopalos, Karen Vogel, Jan Ferreira, Ron Fields, Valerie Fucci and Marilyn Keich.

McCausey and Thomopalos, who run out of Land O’Lakes, have won numerous tournaments at the local, state and national levels. Earlier this year they played at a national tourney in Pittsburgh.

At Northlakes, they went undefeated in winning all eight rounds.

“It was our time,” McCausey said. “We’ve been winning a lot of silvers. It was nice to get gold again.”

In all, seven members of the Living The Dream team out of Land O’Lakes came home with medals. That group included Karen Vogel, Jan Ferreira, Ron Fields, Valerie Fucci and Marilyn Keich.

By Steve Lee Times Total Media Correspondent Photos courtesy of Tampa Bay area pickleball players

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