The Ultimate Martial Arts Academy of Newton claimed 56 medals — including 28 golds — at the 2008 USSSA National Taekwondo Championships June 19 through 21 at the Overland Park Convention Center.


The Ultimate Martial Arts Academy of Newton claimed 56 medals — including 28 golds — at the 2008 USSSA National Taekwondo Championships June 19 through 21 at the Overland Park Convention Center.

Athletes competed in Olympic-style sparring, points sparring, weapons and forms. Competitors advanced from the Kansas State USSSA Championships, which were hosted April 12 by the UMA and held at the Chisholm Trail Outlet and Retail Shops.

The Newton school was named the Most Outstanding Program Award for 2008 and the Most Supportive State Director for 2008.

“They worked hard, trained hard and it all paid off,” UMA director Chris Rangel said. “It all came down to the dedication of the kids, their parents for getting them there and the kids for tackling the tasks. These are the goals they set up to achieve.”

The team was coached by Rangel, Heather Mills, Ron Ornelas and Johnny Wington.

Along with the golds, the UMA claimed 24 silvers and two bronzes. The school had just two participants who didn’t claim at least one medal.

Winning multiple golds were Jared Rangel in both Olympic and points sparring, Blazee Stahl in both sparring, Etric Jones and Mills.

Jared Rangel, the son of Chris, is a third-generation champion.

“My father competed in national competition is sport karate in 1994,” Chris Rangel said. “I won national titles in 1996 and 1997. Now my son won a title, so that was kind of cool.”

Mills, who is in the 35-plus division, is a USSSA national team member alternate who moved to the open division and won weapons, forms and both sparring titles.

“As a whole, we did pretty well,” Chris Rangel said. “Last year, we took 25 athletes. We came back with 23 medals at Orlando, Fla. This year, we took 24 and all but two placed, so we had similar numbers.”

Two team members — Chris Gallagher and Landon Branine — joined the UMA school after participating in physical education classes at Bethel College. Both were members of the BC football team and both claimed at least one gold at nationals.

“They took the class to stay in shape for post-season physical conditioning,” Rangel said. “They continued to train after graduation and won gold medals in two separate venues. That was kind of neat.”

It was the third year for the Newton school to compete in USSSA, which began and is better known for its slow-pitch softball competition, but branched into other sports including baseball, basketball, golf, volleyball, lacrosse, soccer and two martial arts disciplines — karate and taekwondo.

“I like it for the camaraderie,” Chris Rangel said. “My daughter played USSSA fast-pitch. I’ve been involved with some other USSSA activities. I like their youth programs. It’s pretty similar to the AAU and USA Taekwondo. It’s very family friendly. It’s a non-biased, non-political arena that allows kids to compete in national competition.”

Rangel said one difference between the USSSA and some of the other organizations is the USSSA allows weapons competitions. His school claimed six golds, seven silvers and a bronze in weapons competition.

“That added one extra venue for the kids,” Rangel said. “We decided to go with it, and we love it.”

At the national competition, the UMA students competed with the other state qualifiers as Team Kansas.

“It builds a state-wide program, which we like,” Rangel said.

Top finishers are eligible to compete in the USSSA national team trials. The top eight at the team trials are eligible to compete at a competition, which is in February 2009 in Florida.

“It’s an Olympic year, so this is an important time for the sport,” Rangel said. “Now we’re starting to see some of the future athletes.”