Unicyclists riding high

Mount Si sophomore Becky Banning knows she won't get a scholarship or a lucrative contract out of her passion for unicycling, but that doesn't stop her from practicing up to three hours a day, six days a week.

In an increasingly cynical era of professional sports, it's refreshing to meet athletes motivated to practice by the fun they have with their teammates and the pure thrill of improving themselves.

"I love competitions! I love learning new things and meeting new people from all around the world," Banning said during a recent afternoon practice at North Bend Elementary School's gym. "And my team-they're just my favorite people in the world."

Banning's favorite people form Panther Pride, a performance and competitive unicycle team made up of riders aged 5 to 62. The team, which represents every school in the Valley and includes riders from surrounding communities, is coached by Alan Tepper, North Bend Elementary's physical education teacher. Tepper introduced unicycling to Valley students more than two decades ago as part of a gym class on circus arts. Unicycling stuck, and now Panther Pride performs at special events like parades, and half time shows for professional and college sports teams including the Seattle SuperSonics and the University of Washington Huskies, as well as the Mount Si High School Wildcats. The team also competes nationally and internationally, both in group and individual events.

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