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HESSTON, Pa. (May 7) – The third time was the charm for Drew Ritchey and the Laurel Highlands IMCA RaceSaver Sprint Series.After back-to-back rainouts, the tour got its opening night show in on Saturday and Ritchey led all 20 laps of the main event at Hesston Speedway.Ritchey and Randy Sterling drew front row starts and Ritchey was quick to set the early pace. Jake Gomola, who had started third, headed up the chase but couldn’t find a way to the front.As the race went on, Sterling’s car appeared to get tight and Nathan Gramley reeled him in. Gramley got faster as the race went on and overtook Gomola for second.There wasn’t enough time left for Gramley to complete his charge however as Ritchey capped the win. Gomola, Brad Mellott and Steve Kenawell Jr. completed the top five.The Laurel Highlands Sprint Series heads to Dog Hollow Speedway on Friday, May 13 and returns to Hesston on Saturday, May 21. Feature results – 1. Drew Ritchey; 2. Nathan Gramley; 3. Jake Gomola; 4. Brad Mellott; 5. Steve Kenawell Jr.; 6. Ron Aurand; 7. Joe Zap; 8. Ryan Lynn; 9. Randy Sterling; 10. Reed Thompson; 11. Jack Thornton; 12. Tim Lash; 13. Hunter McCracken; 14. Jim Kennedy; 15. Dale Schweikart; 16. Judi Bates; 17. Jeff Taylor.
Ahead of the Satellites’ planned appearance at the 2013 WYC in Turkey, Goal remembers Ghana’s dazzling keeper who led the U20s to a runners-up finish in 2001 at Argentina.The last decade has seen quite a few brilliant goalkeepers feature for the Black Stars, notably the likes of Richard Kingson, Sammy Adjei and George Owu; for good measure, you could throw current [alternating] regulars Fatau Dauda and Adam Kwarasey into the mix as well.Somehow, though, those privileged to have lived through a slightly earlier era would be inclined to believe the most outstanding of the lot never got to tend goal for Ghana, and probably never would. And, almost certainly – for those of that particular school of thought – the individual they might have in mind would be a certain Maxwell Owusu Banahene.By the age of 18, Banahene was already something of a legend for Ghana at youth level football, rising quickly to become one of the country’s most promising prospects at the time. As first-choice goalkeeper and team captain, he had guided the Black Starlets to silver and bronze at the U17 African Cup and World Cup respectively in 1999.Two years later, Banahene, again in the capacity of an undisputed No.1 and skipper, would lead the Black Satellites to a runners-up finish in Argentina, conceding just twice along the way, prior to being humbled 3-0 by the Javier Saviola-inspired hosts.Owu – who would later play a part in sealing Ghana’s maiden successful Fifa World Cup appearance – deputised for Banahene at the tournament, while the likes of Petr Cech (now a bona fide Chelsea and Czech Republic great), Maarten Stekelenburg (a World Cup finalist with the Netherlands in 2010) and Wilfredo Cabellero (Malaga’s Argentine goalkeeper who performed so brilliantly in this season’s Champions League) all debuted at that tournament yet were bested by the splendid Banahene. At club level – with Sekondi Hasaacas and later Liberty Professionals – he was doing just fine. This clearly was a young man who truly had the world at his feet.Not for long, though.LOSTIn 2002, Banahene’s fine progress was obstructed in the worst possible way when he suffered a career-threatening knee injury that robbed him of his present and much of his future as it appeared then.A few years later, Banahene could only watch as the Stars qualified to and appeared at the World Cup, with the contributions of goalkeepers who -good as they were – wouldn’t have considered themselves fit to tie the laces of Banahene in his pomp, as well as a good number of the players that featured alongside him at junior level. From that blessed Satellites batch alone, as many as eight played at Germany 2006 namely, Michael Essien, John Mensah, John Paintsil, Sulley Muntari, Derek Boateng, Emmanuel Addoquaye Pappoe, Razak Pimpong, and Owu. Quite tellingly, among the octet mentioned are all four players who shielded Banahene throughout the 2001 World Youth Championships in that spectacular unit constructed by coach E.K Afranie.While his colleagues have continued to shine at the highest level for Ghana, Banahene desperately sought to resolve his health issues and – quite disappointingly – for a while, he was obliged to sort them out by himself. No one else seemed too interested. Liberty, where he played as of the time misfortune struck, failed to help satisfactorily, as did the Ghana Football Association. On his own, there was only so much the young man could do.Unable to bear the considerable cost of treatment alone, Banahene had to abandon his mission of recovery and rehabilitation, for which purpose he had journeyed to England. At that point, all hope looked lost for a career which seemed set for a premature crash, having barely taken off.REDEEMEDFrom nowhere, a ‘saviour’ – one that Banahene perhaps least expected a supportive arm from – intervened. Paintsil had excelled alongside Banahene at Argentina 2001 and perhaps had greater consciousness of his former peer’s potential and plight than most. Paintsil had just secured for himself a move to England’s Fulham and saw in his own progress a fine opportunity to help a brother in misery. Banahene was invited to The Cottagers’ training complex in London where he benefitted from the club’s advanced expertise and facilities in sports medicine and physiotherapy, all at the expense of his colleague-turned-benefactor.Gradually, the former goalkeeping prodigy was nursed back to optimum form and fitness and subsequently staged a comeback at 26, an age at which he should have been reaching his peak instead. Improved as his reputation from the past was, however, Banahene never lacked suitors when he felt good enough to re-launch his career. A number of lower-tier English clubs (with whom he trained while recuperating) expressed some interest but Banahene ultimately signed for Ghanaian side Berekum Chelsea, featuring for a while in the Ghana Premier League.LOST AGAINSo scanty is information available on the player that, try as this writer did, finding reliable news on Banahene’s present bearings seemed almost impossible. For a man who has been out of public consciousness for a while, that is hardly surprising, lamentable as it is. Apparently, though, he is on Chelsea’s books no longer.Wherever Maxwell Owusu Banahene might find himself now, however, he certainly might wonder just what could have been had injury not curtailed his bright beginnings and rendered him what he would always remain to those whoever saw him play: the forgotten man of Ghanaian football.