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Valley News Dispatch spotlight athletes: Apollo-Ridge's Alex Smith, Ford City's Gina Batiz

| Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 1:21 a.m.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Apollo-Ridge's Alex Smith reaches for the ball against Summit Academy's Lemuel McFadden on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, at Apollo-Ridge.
Ford City's Gina Batiz

Alex Smith

Class: Junior

School: Apollo-Ridge

Sport: Basketball

Report card: Always a 3-point threat for the Vikings, the 6-foot-2 guard averages 13 points per game. He scored 13 points in Apollo-Ridge's opening playoff win against California. He also is a standout receiver on the football team.

Word is you can dunk. How often do you practice dunking and do you try to dunk in games a lot?

I try it in practice every once in a while. I don't really try to do it during games unless there's a wide-open lane.

What's the most creative dunk you have tried during practice?

Probably a (reverse) dunk. I go from the wing and take off and do a 180 backwards.

Was it difficult to overcome the ankle injury that caused you to miss some time this season and did it affect your confidence level?

Yeah it did. It didn't really bother me at the end of the season because there were nonsection games. I was upset I couldn't play and be there for them. It messed me up going into the first playoff game. I wasn't used to practicing, and I hadn't practiced that whole week. I wasn't ready to get back in and I did all right.

Do you feel pressure when you're called upon to make a needed 3-pointer?

Yeah, but since the whole team looks for me for a basket I feel like I have to make it to give me the confidence.

Gina Batiz

Class: Sophomore

School: Ford City

Sport: Gymnastics

Report card: Batiz placed second all-around and third in vault at the WPIAL Gymnastics Championships. She also competes in bars and floor exercises. She is the only competitive gymnast at Ford City.

What were your goals heading into the WPIAL Championships?

I was hoping to get medals like I did and ... also to support my school.

Is gymnastics more mental strength or physical strength?

It's a combination of both because you have to set your mind to it, and it's also a lot of physical strength. I've been training since I was 3.

What's the craziest move you ever tried?

My backhand spring on the beam. It's four feet in the air.

Your sister, Courtney, was a successful gymnast at Ford City. Was there ever a friendly competition between the two of you?

People always ask us, and I can't answer that question because I'm not her.

Do you still reach out to your sister for advice?

Yeah, definitely. She sometimes coaches us. She helps me a lot.

Do you compete on a team outside of Ford City?

Yes, Ultimate Gymnastics. USAG, the United States Association of Gymnastics.

What goes on with the USAG?

There's levels, and I'm a Level 8. There's levels 1-10. It's a different private club. There's elite and college levels.

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