As spring sprung in the PNJ area, success followed in local prep sports.
State champions were crowned, school records were smashed and high-school careers were capped off while young talent also exploded on to the scene.
Softball and baseball teams hopped out of their dug outs and aimed to overachieve.
On May 7, Tate softball captured the program’s first state championship. The following week, the Northview baseball team made its way to the state final four after capturing the school’s first baseball district championship at the end of April.
Tate’s Melinda Wyatt was named the softball coach of the year by the Florida Dairy Farmers Association, as her player Tori Perkins finished as runner-up for softball player of the year.
“When Miss (Charlene) Varnell allowed me to coach this program, after she retired from Tate, the first thing in my mind was hoping that one day we could win a state championship …. because (Varnell) has been such an integral part of me,” Wyatt said. “Charlene is the one that’s behind the legacy of Tate softball. She has taught me how to get a group of girls together and make them believe that they can win.”
In track and field, the Milton Panthers saw much to be proud of in Dominique Craig, who wrapped up his senior year with a silver medal at the 3A track and field state finals in the 110 meter hurdles.
“It was a great feeling … I was kind of nervous going into the state finals, it was really nerve-wracking,” Craig said. “I knew if I messed up one hurdle, it was everything. My coaches calmed me down, told me to do what I did at regionals.
“(After medaling at states) I wanted to cry, but I decided I had to play it off. We all went and sat down to wait for our medals. Once I got on the podium, I was the last one to step down. I wanted to let it soak in.”
Prior to states at the 1-3A regional, Craig snapped a Milton High record which had stood since 1978 when he finished the 300m hurdles with a time of 38.29.
Competing in weightlifting, Pace’s Tom Piscopo experienced a similar finale for his senior year.
Piscopo repeated as 2A state champ in the 159-pound weight class, and set a state record on the clean-and-jerk (325 pounds).
In tennis, Catholic coach Geoff Watts called his 10th year with the Crusaders a “banner year” for the program, as Chris Ephron snagged a No. 1 singles state title after finishing runner-up in 2014.
Ephron collaborated with his three-year doubles partner, Danny Sullivan, to make it two state titles in one day for Ephron.
Back to baseball, the future appears bright in the PNJ area as the pitcher and hitter of the year (Matt Cronin, Carl Gindl) will return next year to defend their awards.