Over-the-top athletes

They aren’t paid, but these neighbors are dedicated to their sports — and they're pretty darn good.

Early-morning jogs, strict diets and punishing workouts are par for the course when you are a professional athlete. But what about the attorney, salesman or student who has a relentless passion for a particular sport? We’re not talking about your typical weekend warrior, but the hard-core athlete driven by something deeper than a desire to have fun or shed pounds.

Meg Weathers AKA Daisy Shoots

Some girls brave enough to sign up for roller derby end up with shattered bones, but neighborhood resident Meg Weathers has been lucky to sustain only some bruises and a popped shoulder joint.

“It’s a little bit of a badge of honor,” she says. “I’m almost embarrassed not to tell you I have more. My friend has a hematoma on her leg, and I was a little jealous.”

Weathers, known on the rink as Daisy Shoots, has been playing in the Assassination City Roller Derby League for about year with the Deadly Kennedys. The girls play on the third Saturday of each month from January to October. All four teams will compete in the championship round this month. Although it might look like a bunch of girls skating around in a circle trying to hammer each other, there’s more to it than that.

“It’s all about strategy,” Weathers says. “I think you kind of find a couple of things you’re good at. I’m fast, I can get in front of people. It’s incredibly engaging. You’re looking backward, but you’re skating forward. I get smacked pretty hard, so I fly pretty far.”

Sometimes, right into audience members’ laps. But that’s part of the fun, Weathers says.

“We like our fans to be that close. The energy level is awesome. People are wearing their team colors. It feels really cool because there are a lot people watching you, banging on the walls. My family’s staring right at me. The audience is always going crazy. I can’t think of a sport where you get that kind of exposure.”

When she’s not at her day job working for a local marketing firm, Weathers practices at least twice a week with the league and does yoga on her own to stay flexible. Though Weathers has been working out for years, she has never been much into sports. She actually studied theater in college.

“It’s a sport where people who are non-athletes become athletes,” she says about roller derby. “I think that’s a beautiful thing. It’s made me confident and not doubt myself. The other stuff in your life doesn’t seem so daunting. Assassination City is like a huge family. I have a huge amount of respect for all the girls.”

Reza Anvarian

Reza Anvarian’s alarm sounds at 4 a.m. every morning, and he hits the pavement by 4:45. He runs 5 to 7 miles, swims 2,000 meters and bikes about 40 miles — all in a day’s work. And somewhere in between, he runs a restaurant.

If you’ve frequented Southpaw’s Organic Café on Berkshire, you’ve probably seen Anvarian behind the counter chopping veggies and whipping up healthy rice bowls. When he’s not at the store, he’s training for the Longhorn Half Ironman set for early October in Austin. The triathlon includes a 1.2-mile open water swim, 56-mile bike ride and a half marathon. He’s been preparing for about three months now.

“It just feels good,” he says. “I’m addicted.”

While Anvarian has always been an athlete, triathlons are new to him. That’s because this Golden Glove-winner spent most of his life as a boxer. He started at age 12, right after he moved to the U.S. from Azerbaijan in Eastern Europe. He went pro for two years before retiring and settling down in the restaurant business. He completed his first triathlon in Austin’s 2008 CapTex race after his trainer’s wife bet he couldn’t do it.

“To prove her wrong, I went out there, and I did it,” Anvarian says.

Owning a health food store makes it easy for him to eat well every day. But he doesn’t cut out all of the fun. He allows one “cheat meal” a week, like his recent trip to Twisted Root where he indulged in a burger, French fries and fried pickles. After cheating, he returns to his strict regimen.

“I eat super clean during the week. This is a lifestyle, but it’s not my life.”

But it still takes some serious commitment.

“To be able to say I did Ironman, I don’t think there’s anything tougher.”

Ron Piacenti

As a kid, Ron Piacenti and his buddies played baseball all day long, grabbing up every bit of daylight they could.

“We stayed until the streetlights came on,” Piacenti says, since his mother had ordered him home by dark.

He went on to play college ball at Vanderbilt University, and his team won the Southeastern Conference championship twice. At age 57, Piacenti is still going strong, playing for the Cubs in the North Texas Men’s Senior Baseball League, one of the most competitive in the area. He has been playing shortstop in the 35-and-over division since 1995, working harder to compete with younger players. He lifts weights, does long toss drills with his brother, and regularly hits the batting cages.

“The game adjusts itself to your age,” he says. “I’ve been lucky and had no joint or bone injuries, which is fairly rare in this league.

In October, he’ll travel with the Cubs to Phoenix, where the league plays its annual World Series against other MSBL teams from throughout the country. Piacenti’s team ranked first in its division at press time.

“A good part of baseball is the camaraderie on the bench. It’s like you’re back in college again. I’m probably going to play for quite a while longer.”


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