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Athletes aim for overseas track meet


School is out, and for most teens the carefree days of summer have arrived. But some Baltimore student-athletes are fretting about dollar signs and bank balances.

Nineteen deaf teens from around the country were selected for a U.S. team traveling to Russia for a track and field meet. Six of those selected are high school students at the Maryland School for the Deaf in Frederick. However, the Baltimore group still needs to raise $2,955 by Tuesday, or only a few will be able to make the trip.

"We are still trying to hit every source we can," said Brenda Davis, whose son, Joseph, will participate in the high jump. "It's frustrating, but it's a challenge."

The six athletes have been friends and teammates all their lives and are committed to traveling as a unit. Their parents have dedicated the past few months to making that dream a reality.

"I have never seen parents work so hard to raise money," said Barbara Salkin, whose nonprofit Pangaea Inc. arranges international exchanges of high school students. "I have never worked with such a committed group of parents in my life."

Each of the athletes had to come up with $1,700 to cover airfare, food and living expenses. So far, three students still need $985 each.

A lot of the nine-day trip will be spent soaking in a new culture, traveling across the country and meeting other deaf athletes. The group will be guest of the U.S. Embassy in Russia and will depart July 7. For most of the Baltimore teens, it will be their first trip out of the United States, and their first plane ride.

"I am scared of flying on a plane. I'm still a little shaky," said Audris Harris, a high jumper headed to Russia. "That's all right. I ,, am going there to win the gold."

Latoya Plummer, Dewayne McNeile, Natoshia Brunson and DeJuan Hamilton round out the team, which already has won events from Rhode Island to Florida.

"I am excited. I am really competitive and I am looking forward to the thrill of going out there," Joseph Davis said. "I am excited to make new friends and experience a whole new world."

Donations can be sent to Brenda Davis (who is coordinating the collection) at 629 N. Robinson St., Baltimore, Md., 21205, or to Pangaea Inc., 6028 Rofsmore Drive, Bethesda, Md., 20814. Checks should be made payable to Pangaea, Inc.

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