Tucumcari karate students to compete at nationals

Robert Ciolli

Five students from the American Karate Studio in Tucumcari will be competing for five days beginning Monday at the National Amatuer Athletic Union Tae Kwon Do Championships in Madison, Wisc.

Kaycee Lease, 9, her brother Kyle Lease, 12, Melanie Jones, 8, and her cousin Jasmin Jones, 6, and Andrew Casteel 6, will be going up against some of the best students in the U.S. for both forms and fighting skills.

The team recently returned from the national qualifing competition in Houston where they placed second in one event and first in seven others.

Instructor Mark Anthony Baca, who holds a fifth dan tae kwon do black belt, said that the team has been going to competitions for the past six months.

“We’ve been to tournaments in Carlsbad, Lubbock, Alburquerque, and two in Tucumcari,” Baca said.

The students also have been training seven days a week to get ready for the event, Baca said.

With over 200 entrants, in divisions grouped by age and belt rank, the five local students will be competing for a chance to participate in the Junior Olympics, July 31-Aug. 2 in Detroit, Mich.