3 locals go for all the marbles

Katie Carozza just needed a walk on the beach.

Last year’s national runner-up saw her berth in today’s semifinals slipping away until she rallied and won a playoff to grab the final spot in the field of eight girls who remain at the National Marbles Tournament in Wildwood, N.J.

Carozza will be in one of two groups of four competitors, with each playing 12 games to determine who advances to the final.

The Grand Junction 12-year-old was a finalist last year. This year, after a strong start in the four-day tourney, she began sliding, and the pressure mounted.

“There was a lot of pressure,” said Leah Lee, coach of the four Grand Junction-area marbles shooters who qualified for the national meet. “She was last year’s runner-up, and she was in danger of not even making it to the final day. She lost some games today that she did not expect to lose, and she was upset.”

But a nearby beach provided the respite Carozza needed to regroup.

“We took a walk on the beach, and she calmed down a bit, and she came back and won three of her next four,” Lee said.

That tied Carozza for eighth place with a 22-16 record and forced a best-of-five-game playoff between her and the other girl, and Carozza emerged with the chance to go for the title that eluded her last year.

“She’s back in it, and everything starts over (today),” Lee said. “I’ve seen kids in eighth place (going into the final day) come back and win it.”

Also competing in the girls division, Lee’s 10-year-old daughter, Anna, finished the meet in 14th place with a record of 16-22.

In the boys division, 13-year-old Jonathan Blair of Grand Junction and 12-year-old Sam Lee of Glade Park earned spots in today’s semifinals. Blair’s mark after three days was 32-14 and Sam Lee was 30-16. One of the competitors in Lee’s group of four today will be Gunnison’s Caleb Isaacson.

“They’re representing Colorado really well,” Leah Lee said of the Grand Valley’s quartet, adding five states are represented in today’s semifinals.

How well rested they’ll be today may be a factor. A free concert by country music superstar Kenny Chesney was scheduled for Wednesday night across from the hotel where Lee and her charges are staying.

The competitors also will have to do more than keep cool under pressure. Lee said the forecast for today in Wildwood calls for 100 degrees. And in New Jersey, there’s humidity to go with it.


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