Tiffany Palmer laced up her first pair of roller skates at age 5. A year later, she began skating with the Pasadena Speed Team.
Now Tiffany, 10, is a defending national champion in the 2,000-meter relay. She and her 18 teammates are going to their fifth consecutive U.S. Roller Skating and Junior Olympic Championship in Syracuse, N.Y., and Fresno, Calif.
"I'm excited," said Tiffany, a soon-to-be fifth-grader at Four Seasons Elementary School in Gambrills who placed second in last year's finals of the junior individuals. "It's good because all of us have made it, and we can become a better team."
To help raise funds for the trip to the championships next month, the team will sponsor Summer Fest 1995 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow at the Pasadena Skating Center on Mountain Road. Admission is free. The event will feature roller-skating from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., food, a dunk tank and a flea market. Radio disc jockey Reggie Reg of 92Q will also attend.
The team, made up mostly of children and teen-agers, is divided into two skill groups, seniors and juniors. They use in-line and regular skates, known as "quads" on the circuit. Five seniors will compete in Syracuse in August, and 14 juniors will travel to Fresno in September.
The team, the only one of its kind in Maryland, has been a fixture on the local roller skating scene since 1988, said coach Ron Kane. Since 1991, the team has qualified every year for the national meet. But the string of successes doesn't mean the team can be nonchalant about the competition, Mr. Kane said.
"They've got to be ready mentally more so than physically," said the 57-year-old coach, who has led the team since 1989. "They know that it wasn't easy last time, and they know that it's not going to be easy this time. There is someone out there waiting to knock them off."
The team won the Keystone League earlier this year, beating six teams from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
The group qualified for the nationals as a result of its performance in last month's regional trials in Fayetteville, N.C. The team captured six gold, 12 silver, six bronze and five copper medals.
L The outcome was a pleasant surprise for most of the skaters.
Monica Phillips, 12, said she "had no idea" the team would do so well. Monica, an eighth-grader at Chesapeake Bay Middle School, who won three gold medals at the regionals.
"I think everybody felt pretty good," said Rich Ritter, 13, a ninth-grader at Northeast Senior High School who captured a silver and two bronzes. "Everybody felt glad with where they placed."
Many team members said nerves were a big factor in the regional trials.
"It was kind of scary sometimes," said Tiffany, who won two golds and two silvers. "But when you get used to it, it's like practice -- only harder."
Team members, who often practice three days a week, are optimistic about their chances of bringing home the gold from the national championships.
"We're very confident," Monica said.