Drew Slaton's hockey career is closely tied to the Augusta Lynx.
The 13-year-old forward started playing hockey about seven years ago after seeing a Lynx game. He was privately coached for four years by former Lynx player Judd Lambert. And for the past six months, former Lynx coach and player David Wilkie has helped Slaton improve his stamina and fine tune his game.
About 11 years ago, everything came together for the Martinez eighth-grader. Slaton earned a spot in the USA Hockey Select 14 Player Development Camp on July 16-22 in Rochester, N.Y., which was no surprise to his coach.
"He's got tremendous athletic ability, works hard and has a good head on his shoulders," Wilkie said.
Slaton was one of 18 boys from the Southeast - and the first ever from the Augusta Ice Sports Center - selected to the camp, which is for players born in 1991 and will have scouts from colleges, prep schools and junior programs in attendance. This was the first year Slaton was age eligible for one of the camps.
In order to be selected, players had to make it through a series of three tryouts over two weekends. The first tryout was held in five different locations across the region and Slaton was one of 15 picked out of a group of 48 in Huntsville, Ala. A total of 80 in his age group made it through the first round.
The second and third rounds took place in Franklin, Tenn., April 29-May 1. The 80 players were divided into teams and played in three games before that group was cut in half. The remaining 40 players were evaluated in one final game before the final cut was made.
"It was awesome, because I got to play with higher level kids - kids that are my level - and I haven't actually done that in a while," Slaton said.
The competition at these tryouts was much higher than the competition Slaton faces with his Junior Lynx team - even though he plays with boys more than two years older than him. Slaton said most of the players at the Tennessee tryout play in Double-A or Triple-A leagues, while he would qualify the local league as Single-A.
Slaton got a taste of the higher competition two years ago when he played for an advanced team out of Raleigh, N.C., but he played for only one year because the price tag - his mom, Robyn Slaton, said it cost $15,000 - was too high and he returned to the local league.
"It's a lot slower (here)," Drew Slaton said.
So, he enlisted the help of Wilkie, whose eight-year professional career was spread across the ECHL, AHL, IHL and NHL.
"If he wouldn't have been helping me, there's no chance I could have made it, because I was so out of shape and needed to get better," Slaton said.
Slaton hopes his performance at the camp will draw scholarship offers from high schools and/or prep schools, so he could play with and against players of his caliber on a daily basis. But that would mean leaving home, possibly as early as this year, to chase his dream of one day playing in the NHL. Slaton, who will turn 14 during the camp, said he'd be OK leaving home for high school. It's a little bit tougher for his mom.
"(I don't) love the idea, and I would be on (instant messenger) constantly, and in trouble at work, I'm sure," Robyn Slaton said. "But if they have a dream and they've worked as hard as he's worked, I think you have to let them try."
FENCING: Westside High School rising junior Jordan Herin, 16, won the under-19 Epee category at the Southeast Sectional Championship on May 1 in Columbia. Herin was sixth in the Open Foil division and in the top 16 in Open Epee.
MARTIAL ARTS: Chandler Duggan, 13, recently obtained the rank of junior black belt. Duggan has been a student at Seigler's Kempo and Jiu-Jitsu martial arts school for more than three years.
JUNIOR GOLF: Martinez sisters Taylor and Ashlan Ramsey have both won recent tournaments. Ashlan picked up her first win last weekend in Hixson, Tenn., while Taylor won tournaments April 24 and May 1.
Reach Kristy Shonka at (706) 823-3219 or firstname.lastname@example.org.