Top 10 Island sports stories
|Five-year-old Christian Daniels flies over the ramp during action at the Holmes Beach Skateboard Contest in May.
|West Manatee Fire Rescue third-baseman Daniel Pimental dives to make the tag on Duncan Real Estate's Alex Burgess, who tried to take an extra base after a play at the plate in April Little League action
|Dips Ice Cream's Johnny Mattay is a picture of concentration as he prepares to shoot a free throw in the closing moments of the Division III championship game in March.
|Maddie Valadie goes backside on a nice wave during the Bluewater School of Surfing's camp in July.
It is hard to believe another year has passed, much less another year of Island sports. This means it's time now to reflect on the past year's sports stories in order to put together another top-10 list of sporting events. Since this column primarily focuses on youth sports, it's hard to put one story or one kid ahead of another while knowing how important each effort is for every child.
With that said, these choices are based on a number of variables, none of which are too scientific. So please don't be offended by the omission of many great performances in 2006.
There are times during the year when there are no leagues playing and sports stories are a bit harder to come by. So here's a big thanks to everyone who calls or e-mails with sports news, like Bill Bartlett from the horseshoe crew and Sue Hookem, Mary Pat Swamy and Bob Kral who provide golf news for the Key Royale Club. Also a big thank you to the Anna Maria Island Community Center's sports director, Andy Jonatzke, and the rest of the crew at the Center for all of their help in keeping us up to date on the happenings at the Center.
I want to wish everyone who reads my column a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy new year. Following are my top-10 sports stories for 2006. Enjoy!
1. Skateboarders see 'big air'
The second-annual Holmes Beach skateboard contest, held May 20 at the Holmes Beach skate park, drew approximately 50 participants and a large throng of skateboard enthusiasts who cheered on their favorite skaters.
Chase Lewis captured the 8-and-under division with Neil Carper coming in second. Five-year-old Christian Daniels came in third place followed by Henrik Brusso.
First place in the 9-11 age group was won by Jacob Blue, who narrowly came out on top over second-place finisher Giorgio Gomez and Luke Shackelford at third place. Travis Belsito came in fourth place in what turned out to be the most competitive division.
Cory Wash got huge air to win the 12-14 age group over Jeff Ray. Michael Harrington finished in third place, while Islander Billy Annis took fourth. Ray also captured the "best trick" contest after the regular competition had concluded.
The 15-17 age division had only three competitors, but they all had mad skating skills. Islander Christian Chamberlain grabbed first place over Davey Gabbard and Corbin Kitchen.
2. Islanders excel in soccer at different levels
2006 has been a great year for Islanders playing soccer at varying levels. Many of them got their start playing in the Center's recreational youth soccer leagues.
In late December, Joey Hutchinson, who got his start in soccer at the Center, was featured along with his U13 Manatee Magic teammates for winning three out of four tournaments and climbing to No. 5 in the GotSoccer.com soccer rankings. Joey is one of the leading scorers on the team at his left forward position.
In early December and in March, another Manatee Magic soccer team was featured that boasted four Island girls, including Center products Ally Titsworth and Martine Miller along with more recent Island residents Christina Papazian and Erin Mulrine. All four girls play prominent roles on their U13 girls team. Miller is one of the leading scorers from her forward position, while Titsworth and Mulrine help anchor the midfield. Papazian is the last line of defense in goal for the team, which is currently tied for first place in its division.
Papazian was also in the news in late November for her stellar play in goal for the Manatee High School all-girls Her-icanes varsity soccer team. Also featured then were center products Amber Wright, who starts at right defender for the varsity team, and Sean Edwards, a starter at right midfield for the girls' junior varsity soccer team.
Last, but certainly not least, another Islander and Center product- Stephen Thomas of Anna Maria was featured in a story after he and his U14 IMG Soccer Academy teammates captured the Region C Cup in Tampa in March.
On May 9, Thomas was again in the news after being named MVP of his team at IMG's season-ending awards banquet at El Conquistador Country Club. Thomas was the starting central midfielder and led his team in assists.
3. Skimmers entertain big crowd at BeachHouse
For the fifth consecutive year, the Back-to-School Skimboard Bash on the beach at the BeachHouse Restaurant in August entertained a crowd of 200 or so onlookers with great skimming, good music and "colorful" commentary.
Local winners included Blaine Jenefsky in the minis (8-and-under) division and Giorgio Gomez in the menehune (9-11) division. Neil Carper and Izzy Gomez finished in second and third place respectively in the minis, while Luke Shakelford took second and Bradenton's Bryce Hamilton grabbed third place in the menehune. Blake Tyre claimed first place in the men's 18-21 division, while Joey Mattay grabbed second place. Islanders represented themselves well in the 15-17 division with Spencer Carper, Kevin Kirn and Josh Riccio taking second- through fourth-places.
4. Veteran's Day tourney climaxes soccer season
The Center's first annual Veteran's Day soccer tournament in November was a resounding success with a day full of exciting mini-soccer games that included the instructional division with a 6-7 all-star game and a 7-up all-star game for players that are graduating to play the big field next season.
Spectators enjoyed a day full of soccer and concessions - good chili donated by Hurricane Hanks and cheeseburgers donated by Rotten Ralph's Restaurant.
Congratulations to Ooh La La! Bistro in Division III, Sun in Division II and ReMax Realty in Division I for winning their respective divisions.
5. Four champions crowned in basketball
Four championship teams were crowned in February to close out the 2006 youth basketball season at the Community Center. Though there were no surprise champions, there were two dramatic endings in the Division III and Division I championship games.
Dips Ice Cream overcame a 13-11 deficit in the last minute of its championship game to defeat Beach Bistro 14-13 and win the Division III title thanks to some clutch foul-shooting by Johnny Mattay.
Homes of Distinction edged Danziger Allergy & Sinus 41-40 to win the Division I championship. With one second remaining on the clock, Homes of Distinction ran an inbounds play underneath its basket to perfection, resulting in a game-winning layup by Blake Wilson.
Congratulations to the players, coaches and fans of Island Real Estate, Homes of Distinction, Island Family Physicians and Dips Ice Cream for their championship seasons and congratulations to all of the participants in the league for another great season of basketball.
6. Duncan dominates Little League
Though the 2006 Little League baseball season lacked drama, mostly due to Duncan Real Estate running away with the title, it still was a memorable season.
The season kicked off with a parade of players, coaches and parents that started at Island Baptist Church and finished at the Center's Benji Scanio Stadium. The parade was followed by a series of mini-games, team photos and plenty of hamburgers and hot dogs grilled up by Mark Howard.
Sunday afternoon, Anna Maria Island Little Leaguers descended upon McKechnie Field in Bradenton to catch the spring-training game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and our very own Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
The regular season was dominated by Duncan, which played its home games at the Longboat Key Recreational Center field. Duncan lost only one game all season to easily win the league title.
West Manatee Fire Rescue's Tommy Price had a season to remember. He was the league's most-feared hitter, posting a .600 batting average that included eight home runs and earned him the league's MVP award, while Blake Wilson led the league in hitting with a .683 average. Chris Pate captured the rookie of the year and Jake Rappe was awarded the sportsmanship trophy.
7. Surfers catch first waves
Approximately 40 Island youths caught their first waves and rode them to the beach during the Bluewater School of Surfing's camp held in July at the White Avenue Beach in Anna Maria.
Bluewater owner William Kimball and his staff of local surf instructors, Kevin Kirn, Joey Mattay, Tommy Rudek, Brandi Brady and Cameo Ewing, start out the camper's education with the surfing basics, including how to choose an appropriate nickname while also emphasizing ocean safety.
Having fun is a requirement of the Bluewater School. According to its Web site, "The best surfer is the one who's having the most fun."
8. Key Royale golf news
The Key Royale Club held its match-play championships in May. Ernie Hauser defeated Web Cutting one-up on the 19th hole to bring home the top prize. Women's champion was Penny Williams, who defeated Joy Kaiser one-up.
Women's nine-hole championship went to Mary Selby, who defeated Mary Pat Swamy two-up.
Del Reppenhagen teamed up with Merritt Fineout to win the mixed couples' championship over Duke and Cindy Miller.
In other notable club news, 13-year-old Connor Perez, a seventh-grade student at Wakefield School in Gainesville, Va., got his first hole-in-one at the club's 196-yard hole No. 3 on April 10.
Perez, a lefty and a member of the varsity golf team at Wakefield, finished with a 37 to beat out his grandfather, Bob Squier. Also witnessing the shot were grandmother Judy Squier and mom Amy Perez. Connor used a driver to put the ball in the hole in one shot. No word on whether he was able to buy everyone in the clubhouse a drink - as is the custom for anyone who gets a hole-in-one.
9. Experience overcomes youth
The kids on the block gave it a valiant try, but in the end, the Islander junior league baseball players came out on the wrong end of a 6-1 score against coaches and other adult players during the inaugural "Spring Fling" baseball game in April at Birdie Tebbetts Field in Holmes Beach.
Once again, Ben Valdivieso pitched solidly to keep the game close until the final stanza. The old, er, experienced guys took an early 3-1 lead before tacking on three more runs in the top of the seventh inning.
Oldies pitcher Scott May retired the Islander juniors in order to close out the game. Bob Gurskis, Greg Ross and Jim Dudevoir shared mound duties with May and all pitched effectively. Ross provided the lone offensive excitement when he ripped a triple that one-hopped to the fence.
Other members of the Islander Oldies were Chris Moneuse, Mike Brusso, Dave Pate, Steve Titsworth, Mike Field, Andy Jonatzke, Phelps Tracy, Tim Tedesco and Dawn Wash.
10. Islander inducted in high school hall of fame
Mickey Hooke, 45, former Islander and longtime staff member at Galati Marine in Anna Maria, was recently inducted into the Bayshore High School Athletic Hall of Fame. Hooke received his award in October at half time of the Bruins' homecoming football game.
Hooke, who graduated Bayshore in 1979, was an all-state track and cross country runner for the Bruins, earning a seventh overall finish in the 1977 3A cross country meet with a time of 15:18 over the three-mile course. Hooke also earned a fourth-place finish in the 1978 state 880 run in track and field. Hooke's time of 1:55.4 in the 880 run remains a record at Bayshore today.
Hooke now has an official plaque in the Hall of Fame display case at the entrance to the school's gymnasium.