Vongni Yang, The Union Democrat

After winning three gold medals at the Southwest Pacific Regional Championships in Fresno in June, roller figure skater Tanner Hines is headed to the country's biggest stage.

Tanner, a 13-year-old Sonoran, and incoming eighth grader at Gold Rush Charter School, placed first in the Freshman/Sophomore A level men's figures, loops and the combined event to punch his ticket to the 2014 Roller Skating National Championships on July 20 to Aug. 2 in Lincoln, Neb.

He beat skaters from California, Arizona and Nevada.

"It was pretty cool," Tanner said. "I was a little nervous, but it was fun competing against all the other people throughout the state. It was exciting."

This is the seventh straight year that Tanner will compete at the national level, and it may be an advantage as he prepares for his three events.

"I know what I'm supposed to do," Tanner said. "What I'll most likely be doing and what it's going to be like. I feel it's going to be easier."

Tanner was lured into the world of roller figure skating by his mother, Maria Hines, who took the sport up when she was a senior in high school in 1982.

Tanner started skating when he was 5-years old and started competing at 7.

After walking away from the sport's contests in 2002, Maria, 49, got into coaching, teaching youth roller figure skaters at High Country Sports Arena in Sonora, where she always brought Tanner along with her for the sessions.

One day, after one of Maria's young skaters qualified for regionals, Tanner admitted he was interested in the sport.

"Mom, I really want to do this," Tanner said.

Maria was all for it: "And I said, 'Alright, lets give it a try.' So then we just kept going."

From there, Tanner started to excel under the watchful eye of his mother.

His first trip to nationals was in 2008, and he has returned to the prestigious event every year since.

"He's just better than I am," Maria said. "It's an unbelievable thing to actually watch him because he really is good. He has a lot of natural talent."

Tanner spends more than eight hours a week honing his craft with Maria at High Country Sports Arena, where she also doubles as a board member and roller derby coach.

Once a week, the Hines make the two-hour drive for skating lessons with Danielle Storm of the Roseville Skate Club in Roseville.

With Storm and Maria both training Tanner, he said they have been critical to his growth and progression as a skater.

"I'm nervous kind of now, but we're working on kind of not getting nervous throughout the next week before I go," Tanner said. "So, I'm hoping to do my best."