Eleven-year-old Bailey Parrish crashed to the floor at Kate's Skating Rink during a recent afternoon practice, drawing a gasp from his mom, Lisa, but little notice from teammates hurtling by.
Bailey winced as he climbed to his feet, then quickly rejoined the pack. Talking about the tumble a few minutes later, he sounded more like a NASCAR driver than an in-line skater.
"The girl didn't go to the wall far enough," he said. "I went across, hit her and fell. If it hurt, I would've been kind of mad."
When Bailey and seven teammates travel to Lincoln, Neb., this weekend for the biggest in-line skating competition of the year, they will join hundreds of other skaters in a sport that may strike some as a little too dangerous for children.
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But the racers and their parents -- many who have shelled out as much as $1,000 for in-line skates -- say occasional floor burns and bruises are worth the thrill of competing.
"You have a fear when your child is out there," said Lisa Waters, Bailey's mom and secretary of the team booster club. "But you also have an excitement because you're cheering for what your child is fighting for."
In-line skating doesn't get nearly the attention of other youth sports like soccer and swimming. The Rock Hill-based team, called S.C. Speed, has 25 members and hasn't grown much since its founding in the 1970s.
But what the team lacks in numbers, it makes up for in enthusiasm. Practices are held four days a week on the slick wooden surface at Kate's on Celanese Road. Skaters ages 6 to 16 literally push each other down the straightaways and try not to collide on the turns. They wear skates similar to rollerblades.
Catching his breath during a break, Kenny Hunter said the sport has given him a way to meet friends -- and avoid the PlayStation 2 video games that once consumed his afternoons.
"I don't ever play anymore," said Kenny, 15. "The thrill when you go to meets and win medals makes you feel good about yourself. I like to practice so much, I go to other teams' practices."
Kenny was joined on the rink by Haley Bigham, who traded in her cheerleader pompoms for a pair of skates two years ago. This fall, she starts ninth grade at Northwestern High School.
"I've never really been into sports, but I enjoy this one," said Haley, 14. "I'm just not a girly person. I like beating the boys."