Madras honor student Alex Cheek finishes 3rd in national skateboard competition
By CHRIS GOLTERMANN
Alex Cheek remembers watching his cousins ride skateboards as a young boy and the birthday party of a friend at a Newnan skatepark that has since closed.
Both were influential in the 12-year-old eventually trading in his tiny laminated wood board for bigger and better rides as a young boy.
On Saturdays like today, Cheek typically cherishes the 90-minute round-trip ride to Canton to Progressive Skatepark to practice with a dream of turning pro obvious, but not oblivious among academic goals on the road to high school for a boy who excels at math and language arts as much as slides and grinds.
“I’d like to go pro. But I know I’m going to be looking toward college too,” he said. “That would be Plan B. Skateboarding can be so risky with injuries.”
The sport remains, however, among his most passionate activities and has been since getting his feet on a board at 5 years-old. He watched others and was entranced after a visit to the former Factory Skatepark in Newnan for a friends birthday party.
“My cousins used to skate and it looked like fun,” said the Madras Middle School seventh-grade honor student. “We got a WalMart board and I messed around with it. But I wasn’t taking it serious or anything. One of my friends had a birthday party and that’s when I finally thought skateboarding was the thing for me.”
Cheek spent most of that summer learning new techniques and tricks and by 2009 made the first of four consecutive trips to the King of the Groms. After placing sixth in 2010, he missed a chance to reach last year’s finals.
“He had a sprained knee but he went along and competed anyway,” said Cheek’s father, James. “But he didn’t get discouraged. He came back this year and qualified.”
This year he qualified for the invitation only championship by competing in one of six regional qualifiers at the Canton facility, with others held in Toronto, Texas, Arizona and California.
Competing among nearly 40 finalists, Cheek placed third following a pair of 50 second runs. Up next is the Free Flow Tour event in Tampa on June 30.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “I got to meet new people and learn new tricks.”
Skateboarding, however, isn’t Cheek’s only interest. While able to practice at his home on a pair of rails, he equally enjoys other sports including football, basketball and swimming and plans on trying out for the Madras Middle basketball team this winter.
Saturdays have become a favorite, though, since it’s the one day Cheek gets to ride at the skatepark. His mother, Denesia, makes the 45-minute drive nearly every week with him.
“My mom is nice enough to take me up there every Saturday,” he said. “We used to only have to drive five minutes. I’d come home from school, do my homework and then go up there.”
Cheek and Newnan High student Austin Gordon, who has competed on the Gatorade Free Flow Tour, the amateur series of the Dew Tour, are among local skateboarders who have excelled at the national level without much of a home base to practice locally.
Last May, local college student Jimmy King expressed his frustrations of skaters during a public hearing about potential uses for Newnan’s 3.8-acre Ray Park, but the facility was deemed too small by city officials. Carrollton has one and Spalding Parks and Recreation opened The Grind Skate Park in 2007. Kennesaw is currently building a $1.2 million facility one of the largest in the southeast.
Currently Cheek’s family is hoping they can pick up a sponsor to help with expenses.
“He really, really, really wants a sponsor so bad,” said James Cheek. “Sponsors are everything in this sport. It’d mean the world to him.”