Top 10 sports stories for 2005
It was another great year on Anna Maria Island for sports, especially at the high school level where several Islanders made their marks on high school teams. And the younger players showed strong with great seasons in baseball, basketball and soccer at the Anna Maria Island Community Center.
A big thanks goes out to everyone who calls or e-mails with sports news, like Bill Bartlett for the horseshoe crew and Sue Hookem and Mary Pat Swamy who report on women's golf at the Key Royal Club. Also a big thank you to Andy Jonatzke and Scott Dell at the Center for all of their help in keeping me informed on the happenings at the Center.
I want to wish everyone a safe and happy new year. Following are my top choices for sports stories for 2005. Enjoy!
1. Hutchinson scores spot on regional Olympic Development Program soccer team
It has been quite a successful year in soccer for Islander Joey Hutchinson. Just a few weeks back, he was named as the Division I most-valuable player in the Anna Maria Island Community Center's recreational soccer league. That would be impressive enough all by itself, but Hutchinson, who was young enough to play in Division II, has recently earned another impressive accolade in soccer.
Hutchinson traveled to Cape Coral in December for the U14 Regional Olympic Development Program tryouts. Despite being one of the younger players there, Hutchinson did well enough to make the regional team and will now try and "kick it up a notch" when he tries out for the state ODP team.
ODP is a U.S. Soccer Federation program that identifies and develops the best players throughout the country to represent their state, region and the United States in soccer competition. The U.S. national team eventually is selected from these pools of high-level players, so this is a great honor for Hutchinson.
2. Capt. Chiles leads Manatee Hurricane volleyball team
Most folks in Florida are familiar with the late Gov. Lawton Chiles, but there is a Captain Chiles who is showing her leadership skills, though she isn't doing it in politics. Lifelong Islander Christin Chiles was the starting outside hitter and senior captain for the Manatee Hurricanes varsity volleyball team and they had a very successful season.
Manatee went 24-5, won the county championship and advanced to the Regional semifinals which was their best finish in quite a while.
Christin accumulated 35 kills, 60 digs, 10 assists, five blocks and recorded 52 service points, including 22 aces, for the Hurricanes. Manatee Coach Susan Rigo says that Christin is really an asset to the team. "She's really come into her own and stepped up her level of play.
Christin, daughter of Ed and Anne Chiles, plans on attending the University of Florida where she will major in Early Childhood Education after graduating from MHS.
3. Bluewater School of Surfing makes splash on Island
"Let's go surfin now, everybody's learning how, come on and safari with me."
Approximately 30 youngsters from the Island and Bradenton followed those Beach Boy lyrics in July, learning the basic skills of surfing during the first-ever Bluewater School of Surfing Camp at White Avenue beach in Anna Maria.
The campers' surfing education started on the beach with basic instruction on water safety and assigning and choosing proper nicknames. Next Savannah "Linguini" Silenzi, Ellie "Sharkbait" Beatey, Kellen "Tumbleweed" Osmond and the rest of the campers received expert instruction on how to paddle and stand up before moving to the water where they got to apply the skills they learned on the beach.
Each student surfer ventured into the water with an instructor who assists and trains the student to paddle out through the incoming waves. When they reach their desired location, the instructors relay the fine points of spotting good waves and how to get into the proper position to catch the waves. When a suitable wave arrives, the instructors give their proteges a helpful push - and off they go!
Bluewater School of Surfing owner William Kimball brought his school of surfing from the east coast of Florida to Anna Maria Island at the request of Brandi Gomez of West Coast Surf Shop. Bluewater was founded in 1996 in Juno Beach by Kimball, was the first surf school in Palm Beach County and now is one of the most successful surf schools in Florida. Kimball's school boasts a 100 percent success rate among its students.
4. Island Real Estate "four-closes" on West Coast Air Conditioning
The Center's Premier League basketball contest between Island Real Estate and West Coast Air Conditioning was a strange affair from the start, with IRE fielding only four players in the Feb. 5 contest. Despite being down a player, IRE jumped on top with an early 13-2 run fueled by the hot outside shooting of Tyler Bekkerus and strong drives to the hoop by Josh Elsenheimer on the way to an "interesting" 86-71 victory.
Bekkerus, who finished with a season-high 46 points, sandwiched 14 points in the first and fourth quarters around nine points in each of the second and third quarters. He connected on several acrobatic layups in addition to connecting from long range six times. Elsenheimer supported Bekkerus with 34 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.
5. NXTC Surfing has deep Island roots
During one of the early summer swells brought on by tropical weather that formed in the Gulf in June, 4-year-old Christian Daniels was spotted tearing it up in waist-high surf on a custom-made NXTC surfboard at the White Avenue beach in Holmes Beach. You might find it surprising to see a youngster like Christian surfing, but it's not that surprising when you consider that his dad is NXTC owner Tommy Daniels.
Christian's first foray into surfing with dad came at the ripe old age of 18 months. Dad pushed son into his first wave, which Christian caught, stood up and rode to the beach. Mom Beth caught it all on their camcorder.
Daniels, a life-long resident of Anna Maria Island, has been making surfboards under his NXTC label since 1992. He produces 300-400 custom surfboards a year at his Bradenton plant and ships them to places like Central America, Texas, New Jersey, New York, the Carolinas and up and down the east coast of Florida.
For more information on NXTC Surfboards, you can contact Tommy at 755-5878.
6. O'Connor Bowling challenge nets $9,000
Once again, the O'Connor Bowling Challenge was a hit among Island and Bradenton area folks. More than 280 people bowled, with at least another 50-75 spectators in attendance. The O'Connors and their wives and friends, who really do all the work, and their sponsor, The Islander, raised another $9,000 to help fund the sports programs at the Anna Maria Island Community Center. That brings their total in 15 years to a whopping $119,000.
Due to circumstances beyond anyone's control, that day in August produced at least two "triathletes" and several "biathletes." Triathletes Rick Lease and Matt Bowers surfed in the morning, golfed at the Her-icane Golf Challenge (benefiting my MHS girls soccer team) in the afternoon and bowled (if you can call it that) the night away at the O'Connor Challenge. Biathletes, or those that golfed and bowled, included Greg Koeper, Kathy Houck, Bob Slicker, Bowers, Pat Hagerty, Jeff Marx and Wayne Wood. Matt Welch pulled off the surfing-bowling combination to earn biathlete status as well, while this writer did bowl one game in place of my wife Jennifer to keep my bowling streak alive.
7. Unlikely Dearlove on championship quest
Regular readers of Islander sports have grown accustomed to reading about the basketball exploits of Justin and Hailey Dearlove during the past few years, but older sister Heather has recently enjoyed some successes of her own on the basketball court.
As a freshman member of seventh-ranked Bradenton Christian Panthers girls' basketball team, Heather Dearlove is not a starter and she spent half the season on the school's junior varsity team. You won't hear her complain though. Not after the experience she gained after her midseason call up, not to mention the contribution she made during her team's run to the state final four.
In BCS' 62-54 victory over Lecanto Seven Rivers Christian on Feb. 22, Dearlove played an important part in the Lady Panther's rally from an 11-point deficit. Senior center and third all-time leading scorer Jessica Magley started the rally with a three-pointer and senior point guard Danielle Fischer contributed a pair of three-pointers during the run, but Dearlove's basket from the left wing brought BCS to within one point late in the third period as BCS stayed alive in its quest for the final four in Lakeland.
Dearlove and her teammates went on to make it to the final four for the fourth time in Magley's five seasons as a starter on the BCS girls basketball team.
8. Wrestler Price learning as he goes
A T-shirt seen at the District 11, Class 2A wrestling tournament in Venice said all you need to know about the rigors of wrestling. "You play baseball, basketball and football. You don't play wrestling."
As a freshman with no wrestling experience, Price's expectations weren't real high. He went out for the wrestling team purely as a way to get a good workout so he'd be ready for the next football season. Little did he know he'd be an important contributor to the varsity team before the season was over. He started out on the JV team and had some successes to go along with learning the ropes. He compiled a 9-8 record before a varsity wrestler became ineligible in the 189-pound division. Price, all 175 pounds of him, got the call and moved up to wrestle with the varsity team.
He's taken his share of knocks, but it's all good, says Coach Gugliemini. "Sean's done a nice job for us, given his inexperience. He's shown a lot of heart, plus he's gaining a world of experience, which will only help him down the road."
9. Islander's slam helps Bayshore JV to 12-0 victory
Island resident Pat Cole had three hits, including a grand slam home run over the left-center field fence to lead the Bayshore High School Bruins to a 12-0 victory over Lemon Bay on March 11 in junior varsity baseball action.
Cole, a product of the Anna Maria Island Little League program, is a sophomore in his second year as the starting catcher for the JV Bruins. He's had at least one hit in every game for the 4-2 Bruins for a gaudy .467 batting average.
10. Puck drops for first Islanders roller hockey action
The puck dropped and the action commenced in the first-ever Anna Maria Islanders roller hockey league at the Anna Maria Island Community Center. The end-to-end action got started in April when the league's three teams laced 'em up and started their season.
Though the experience and talent levels vary greatly from player to player, there was no shortage of fun for players, parents and fans.