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PLANT CITY

You. Your neighbors. Your neighborhood.

SPORTS

Chargers make splash at swim meet at YMCA.

FREE • thursday, SEPTEMBER 13, 2012

showtime!

NEIGHBOR

Circus performers amaze, entertain at Plant City shows.

Sandra Shea has big plans for Big Dog’s Patio.

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OUR TOWN

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KING OF THE crocs By Amber Jurgensen | Staff Writer

GATOR

+ Strawberry Fest unveils theme The Florida Strawberry Festival released this week its theme and artwork for the 2013 festival. Themed “Our Masterpiece of Fun,” the artwork depicts Plant City’s famous berry sporting a beret and holding a paintbrush. The festival runs Feb. 28 to March 10, 2013.

+ Sculpture contest winners announced The Plant City Photo Archives & History Center and Hopewell Funeral Home and Memorials Gardens recognized the winners of the Plant City Sculptures Photo Contest during a reception Sept. 7. First-place honors went to T. Eric Barber for his snapshot with “Unconditional Surrender.” Ginny Miller won second place, and photos from Mark Gilman and Karen Gilman, and Lauren Boyd tied for third place. The winners received $30 for first place, $20 for second, and $10 for third place. The contest was open to the public, and entrants were to asked to submit an 8-inch-by-10-inch photograph of themselves with one of the eight bronze J. Seward Johnson sculptures in the “Man on the Street” exhibit. To view all the winning photos, visit our website, PlantCityObserver.com.

SEE OUR TOWN / PAGE 8

GURU Bruce Shwedick hopes to raise money for a new crocodilian holding facility in Frostproof.

DOVER — While scrubbing the enclosure of a Tomistoma crocodile one morning, Bruce Shwedick knew he was a bit too close to the 8-foot reptile that can grow up to 17 feet. But the crocodile had never once snapped at the reptile specialist. Shwedick continued cleaning the enclosure. “The next thing I knew, my hand was in his mouth,” Shwedick says. “He snapped twice and then just held my hand in his mouth.” The 100-pound Tomistoma remained still, gears churning in its head. “He was deciding if he was going to eat my hand or spit it out,” Shwedick says. “Even crocs can be finicky.” Shwedick relaxed his hand i n s i d e

the beast’s mouth. If he tried to pull it away, the crocodile would no doubt clench down its 77 slender teeth on his hand and begin a full body roll which could end in death or dismemberment for Shwedick. Luckily for Shwedick, his hand wasn’t exactly on the approved food list by the Tomistoma’s standards. Slowly, the crocodile opened his jaws, until Shwedick could slide his hand out. Shwedick was left with a severed tendon on the middle finger of his left hand. He had to undergo surgery and wear a cast for weeks. But the damage could have been much worse. However, that hasn’t stop Shwedick’s passion for working with crocodiles. Although the incident was the bite that has

Photo by Peter Brazaitis

Bruce Shwedick, an instructor for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’s Crocodilian Biology and Captive Management Course, has been fascinated with reptiles for most of his life. caused the most damage, Shwedick has been bit about a dozen other times by crocodiles and four times by venomous snakes. Shwedick is part of a crocodile specialist group, the Crocodilian Conservation Center of Florida and the Tomistoma

Task Force. He owns a facility in Dover, where he keeps crocodiles he has raised and crocodiles from zoos around the country. Shwedick is working on opening another larger facility in Frostproof, which he hopes to have operational by June 2014. The property is 16 acres; five will be compound areas and the rest a buffer zone.

LIFELONG LOVE

So, how did a Maryland native end up owning two facili-

Crocodilian Conservation Center of Florida

In 2010, Bruce Shwedick, along with Curt Harbsmeier, Ralf Sommerlad and Colin Stevenson, founded the Crocodilian Conservation Center of Florida. They hope to raise awareness about crocodilian conservation. Currently, they are building a crocodilian holding facility in Frostproof for Chinese alligators, Cuban crocodiles, Tomistoma, Orinoco crocodiles, Siamese crocodiles and West African crocodiles. To donate, call (813) 486-0256 or mail donations to P.O. Box 3176, Plant City, FL 33563.

SEE GATORS / PAGE 8

The popularity of Mighty Mike, who is almost 14 feet long and travels in a 430-pound box, has helped fund the new Frostproof facility. Photo by Bruce Shwedick.

INDEX Cops Corner..........7

Vol. 1, No. 11 | One section

Crossword.......... 15

Obituaries.......... 10

Sports................ 11

PlantCityObserver.com


PlantCityObserver.com

Plant city observer

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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2012

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Plant city observer

PlantCityObserver.com

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2012

3

governance By Michael Eng | Managing Editor

City commission approves tentative budget The Plant City Commission will host its final public budget hearing Sept. 24. The tentative 2012-13 budget sailed through Plant City commissioners at the first of two public budget hearings Sept. 10. Finance Director Martin Wisgerhof presented the $59,749,121 budget to the commission. He also proposed a 4.7157 millage rate, which remains the same as 2011-2012 despite the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s estimated 3.2% reduction in assessed property values. “We wanted to take every opportunity for local businesses and residents to see some relief in these times of economic turmoil,” Wisgerhof said. The $59,749,121 budget represents is about 1% higher than the original budget approved for 2011-12. The increase in revenue is primarily through a 1/2-cent local sales tax and an increase in cost allocation from the Water

in focus

Utilities Fund, City Manager Greg Horwedel said. Although Mayor Mike Sparkman and Vice Mayor Mary Thomas Mathis in July advocated for raises for city employees, the proposed budget does not allow for any wage increases for 2012-13. In addition, city staff will be reduced by three positions. Two will be through retirement, but one will be an involuntary reduction through consolidation, Wisgerhof said. “The budget maintains essential services during a persistent economic downturn,” Horwedel told commissioners. “We have managed to do so while maintaining our reserves above the required 15% level established by the commission, thereby preserving our ability to respond effectively to emergencies that may arise during the coming fiscal year.”

The commission will host its final public budget hearing at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 24, at the Sadye Gibbs Martin Auditorium at City Hall, 302. W. Reynolds St.

Fluoridation moves forward

Despite receiving only a single bid for Plant City’s water fluoridation project, commissioners agreed to spend an extra $78,000 to ensure it begins on time. Utilities Director Frank Coughenour told commissioners the single bid came in at $555,000 — $252,000 more than the city’s original budget of $303,000. Working through the proposal, Coughenour was able to find $174,000 in potential reductions that would not affect the functionality of the project. Although the bid was advertised both locally through the city’s website and nationally, be-

cause it requires such specialized and varied work, the project only garnered a single bid, Coughenour said. Furthermore, because the project also utilizes some federal funding, those regulations may have eliminated some potential bidders, he said. Horwedel said his staff has identified monies in the Water Utilities Fund the city can use to make up the $78,000 difference. Commissioners approved unanimously moving forward with the project. “This is something that is needed for the generation that is here and the generations to come,” Mathis said. Commissioner Rick Lott agreed. “Personally, I think this is long overdue,” he said. Contact Michael Eng at meng@ plantcityobserver.com.

IN OTHER NEWS • The commission approved a rezone request from R-1A (Single-Family) to R-2 (MultiFamily) for a four-acre parcel at 1109 W. Grant St. The approval also included a special approval for day care use on the parcel. Other uses (with special approval) could be a private school, religious institution or townhomes. • Plant City’s Patrick Murphy was named the Florida Rural Water Association 2012 Wastewater Plant Operator of the Year. Murphy received the award at the FRWA Annual Conference Aug. 14, in Daytona Beach. • A Polk Rail Study Workshop will be at 5 p.m. Sept. 13, at the Bartow Civic Center, 2250 S. Floral Ave.

under control

By Amber Jurgensen | Staff Writer

By Amber Jurgensen | Staff Writer

YMCA eliminates mold infestation The circus featured dozens of performers.

Calleigh Hail, 2, visited the circus with her greatgrandparents. Left: Achilles waited patiently for his stage call.

The show concluded with an elephant routine.

CIRCUS

The jugglers dazzled the Plant City audience. Left: A graceful girl performed high above the audience.

SPECTACLE

Circus Pages dazzled Plant City with two performances Sept. 11, at the Plant City Armory. First-time circus-goers and children of all ages packed the facility for the show. They also enjoyed munching on sno-cones and cotton candy and played with light-up swords, toy whips and clown noses. Big cats opened up the show with ferocious roars, rolling on

the ground and jumping over each other in a perfectly choreographed sequence. The show also featured a silly pack of dogs, two elephants, a herd of crazy camels and tiny ponies. A balancing act, graceful acrobats and fire jugglers performed in the ring. Motorcyclists rode inside a giant circular cage, dodging each other by mere inches.

The riders survived motorcycle madness.

The Plant City YMCA racquetball courts have been closed for three weeks because of mold. The Plant City YMCA is considering new uses for its racquetball courts following a mold outbreak that closed the courts for three weeks. While playing a game of racquetball, YMCA Director Eric Poe spotted what he thought was dirt on the walls. However, the spots turned out to be mold spores. The next day, ServPro, a damage restoration service, inspected the courts and discovered mold behind the walls. The company tore out several wall panels. It also installed anti-humidifiers and air scrubbers to prevent further mold infestations not only in the racquetball court but also in the child watch room and the neighboring group fitness room as precautions. Although the building is only 10 years old, excessive rain this summer caused several leaks in the YMCA’s roof, which may have led to the mold, Poe said. The temperature also is difficult to control in the racquetball courts, because they have their own airconditioning units. The group fitness room also was found to have some damage, but no mold. Following the outbreak, the YMCA is considering turning the racquetball courts into another group fitness room or expanding the popular group fitness room. “We’re looking for how we can better serve Plant City,” Poe said. The cost to convert the room is estimated to be about $30,000, which will come from capital dollars from an emergency situation fund set aside by the Tampa Metropolitan YMCA. Contact Amber Jurgensen at ajurgensen@plantcityobserver.com.


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Plant city observer

PlantCityObserver.com

update

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2012

By Michael Eng | Managing Editor

Arrest made in Springhead PTA theft Former PTA president and treasurer Lisa Shirah is charged with stealing more than $16,000 from the PTA bank account. The former president and treasurer of the Springhead Elementary School Parent-Teacher Association has been arrested for stealing money from the PTA’s bank account. Lisa Shirah, 34, turned herself into Lakeland Police Sept. 7. She faces 16 charges — including fraud, forgery and grand theft — for passing forged and unauthor- Shirah ized checks totaling $16,678.48 from the PTA bank account. According to police reports, Shirah served as PTA president from October 2011 to January 2012. At that time, she became PTA treasurer until July 26. As treasurer, Shirah had access to the PTA account and maintained control of the checkbook, bank

statements and billing statements. The problem surfaced when Springhead Elementary School began receiving notices of unpaid bills. According to police reports, Springhead Principal Ann Rushing asked Shirah repeatedly to bring in statements and the PTA’s books for verification; however, she didn’t comply until she was told police had been notified. In May, PTA officers learned the account had a balance of only $575; it had contained $25,033.26 before Shirah had access to the funds. The school’s financial institution, Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union, provided bank statements and copies of cashed checks. PTA checks require two signatures from authorized users; however,

detectives believe Shirah altered the checks after obtaining signatures. She also forged signatures, the reports stated. The bank documents — along with surveillance footage from Shirah’s bank, MidFlorida Credit Union — show the theft occurred through nine different checks passed from January to May: •  On Jan. 4, Shirah cashed a check for $625.99. The note portion of the check stated the funds were for teacher appreciation. However, PTA officials stated teacher appreciation was not done until the end of the year. • On Jan. 10, Shirah cashed a check for $2,500, allegedly for a barbecue dinner. The dinner never took place, but the funds were not returned. • On Feb. 6, Shirah deposited a check, payable to John Shirah, her husband, in the amount of $375.99, again for teacher appreciation.

• On Feb. 9, Shirah cashed a check for $3,500. The notes stated, “Stamps/spring fling money, reimbursement.” According to PTA officials, the check originally was written for $35 and only contained “Stamps” in the note field. • On March 12, Shirah cashed another check for $3,500 for Spring Fling food. However, there was no Spring Fling. • On April 19, Shirah cashed a third check for $3,500 for “reimbursement.” She is accused of forging one of the signatures on this check. • On May 11, Shirah cashed a check for $2,000 for “teacher appreciation week, for food.” She is accused of forging both signatures on this check. • On June 7, Shirah deposited a check, payable to her husband, for $325.65 for “reimbursement for teacher appreciation week.” Shirah did not have authorization to write a check to her husband. • On June 15, Shirah deposited another check, payable to her

The Bad Checks • $625.99: Authorized but altered • $2,500: Authorized for a school barbecue that never took place • $375.99: Authorized but altered • $3,500: Authorized but altered • $3,500: Forged document for a school function that never took place • $3,500: Forged document • $2,000: Forged document • $325.75: Not authorized • $350.75: Not authorized husband, for $350.75 for “reimbursement for fifth-grade banquet.” When asked, Shirah did not provide receipts or bills to account for the checks. Surveillance video from MidFlorida confirmed Shirah deposited the three checks written to her husband. Shirah was booked into the Polk County jail Sept. 7. Bond is set at $16,000. Contact Michael Eng at meng@ plantcityobserver.com.

With over 230 years of diversified business experience and leadership, Platinum

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Bank’s Plant City Advisory Board members are anchors in the local business

+ Boys and Girls Club to host BBQ

community and have experienced the advantages and challenges in the local

The Plant City Boys and Girls Club will hold a barbecue lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 14, at the Union Station Depot Welcome Center, 102 N. Palmer Street. Tickets are $10 and are available at the Boys and Girls Club, 901 Waller St., or at Myers Cleaners, 106 W. Grant St. or 1701 S. Alexander St. The Boys and Girls Club is a national organization with local chapters that provide after-school programs to youth.

RENOWNED LEADERS. GENUINE RELATIONSHIPS. VAST EXPERIENCE.

economy. The knowledge and understanding that has been gained through these experiences is what makes Platinum Bank your established business partner. As key leaders in the local community, they have a vested interest in ensuring the local economy succeeds.

+ Sheriff’s Office investigate homicide Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office detectives investigated what appeared to be a homicide Sept. 8, at 3220 Bruton Road, Plant City. According to Sheriff’s Office reports, at about 5:38 p.m., deputies responded to the address in reference to a male who had been shot in the leg. The male, later identified as Jose Luis Panamenochavarria, 49, was at the end of the driveway to the property and was discovered by a neighbor. Panamenochavarria resides at the Bruton Road address. Panamenochavarria was transported by EMS to a local hospital. Detectives have interviewed Panamenochavarria, but he has not been forthcoming with detectives with information. He told detectives his friend was at the residence, and he was deceased. While detectives were searching for the victim’s friend, they discovered a large marijuana grow operation on the property. The deceased male victim, later identified as Moises Alfaro-Ramos, 27, was found on the back porch area of the house. Detectives are now in the process of obtaining a search warrant to continue the investigation, and the medical examiner has been notified.

+ Weekend crash kills Lakeland man

CHARLES WHITE [40 YRS] . GAIL CALHOUN [28 YRS] . FRED JOHNSON [32 YRS] DAVID SULLIVAN [32 YRS] . RICK LOTT [32 YRS] . DAN RAULERSON [27 YRS] . JOHN PRAHL [42 YRS]

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A Lakeland man is dead following an early-morning collision Sept. 8, on Interstate 4 at the Branch Forbes Road exit. According to Florida Highway Patrol reports, Kiesha Lacole Montoya, 26, of Lakeland, was driving a 2007 Toyota Camry westbound in the outside lane of I-4. She was traveling faster than the 2004 Buick Rendezvous in front of her and collided with the vehicle. The Rendezvous was pushed forward and entered the north shoulder. It then overturned, and the rear-seat passenger, James Dennis Clyatt, 30, of Lakeland, was ejected. Montoya also traveled off the highway and onto the north shoulder and came to a final rest. Clyatt was taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center, where he died. The other three occupants of the Rendezvous, Norma Alicia Hunter, 28; Linda Garzoria, 27; and Jason Allen Hunter, 40, all of Lakeland, also were taken to Lakeland Regional. FHP investigators still are trying to determine who was driving.


Plant city observer

PlantCityObserver.com

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2012

5

M inimally Invasive Spine Surgery Relieves Pain and Speeds Recovery

Improve the quality of your life, be more active and live pain free. South Florida Baptist Hospital has been caring for our Plant City community for more than 50 years. We’ve created a warm, patient centered environment that combines technology with expertise in one hospital that’s right in your neighborhood. The Spine and Neck Surgery Services at South Florida Baptist Hospital are designed to get you to a pain-free life and include: • Surgical and non-surgical treatments for bulging discs, pinched nerves, Degenerative Disc Disease, Facet Joint Disease, Sciatica, herniated discs, Spinal Stenosis, spine fractures, Scoliosis, Coccydynia (tailbone pain), disc tears, slipped discs and carpal tunnel syndrome. • A highly-skilled team of orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons performing advanced, minimally invasive procedures, to alleviate back and neck pain. • Minimally invasive spine and neck procedures offer less scarring, quicker return to normal activities and pain alleviation. • Coordination of before and after, surgical needs including, insurance benefits, home health care and rehabilitation.

At South Florida Baptist Hospital, it’s also painless to request a physician referral with one of our Spine Surgery physicians: • Philip Henkin, MD Neurosurgery • Chukwuka Okafor, MD Orthopedic Spine Surgery • Donald Sachs, MD Neurosurgery

• Modern surgical suites and recovery units staffed by teams of caring, patient-focused experts in imaging, surgery and recovery.

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Plant city observer

PlantCityObserver.com

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2012

NEIGHBORS

Sandra Shea Sandra “Sandi” Shea is a natural entertainer. When she decided to buy Big Dog’s Patio in the Historic Downtown Plant City, it was an opportunity for her to “extend her living room.” “We want to have a familytype atmosphere, where you can come and hang out with friends, watch a game and have a drink,” Shea says. While working at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa, Shea’s boss owned the Plant City bar and was in the market to sell it. Big Dog’s is Shea’s first go at being a bar owner, and so far, although it has had its stressful moments, it has been a great experience. The bar reopened under the new ownership on June 18 and celebrated its grand opening Sept. 5. One of Shea’s first moves as owner was to join the Plant City

AT A GLANCE Big Dog’s Patio Address: 103 N. Palmer St. Hours: Noon to 2 a.m. daily Entertainment: Big Dogs features live entertainment at least four nights a week

Chamber of Commerce. “They have been great to us,” says Shea, a New Jersey native who has called Plant City home for the last three years. The next step was to change how the bar is perceived by the community, both on appearance and reputation. “We wanted to clean the place up and make it a friendly neighborhood bar,” Shea says. With the help of her staff and her entertainment manager/event planner David Brown, Shea has brought improvements and upgrades to the bar, including new flat-panel televisions, an upgraded patio complete with a stage and full bar, and an improved entertainment schedule that features live music or entertainment at least four nights a week. “Live music is a big thing for us,” Brown says. “There’s a ton of talent in this area, and we want to be able to feature it and give exposure to local talent.” With the help of popular local artist Anna Gavin, Big Dog’s has started an open mic night, during which performers from Plant City, as well as Orlando, Tampa and St. Petersburg, come to the bar to showcase their talents.

The new Big Dog’s Patio owner hopes to create a friendly environment, including live music and entertainment, in Historic Downtown Plant City.

In addition to live music, Big Dog’s features other weekly and monthly events, such as a trivia night, poker, beer pong and an improv comedy show on the second Thursday of every month. Shea also wants Big Dog’s to be a place where people can come watch their favorite teams play. They will have

access to NFL games nationwide on Sundays thanks to NFL Sunday Ticket and will be running drink specials for all college and professional football game days. Another focus for Shea is supporting other local businesses and the local community. She plans to hold fundraisers that will raise

money and supplies for local charities. Big Dog’s also offers a 25% military discount with a valid military I.D. Although Big Dog’s doesn’t offer a food menu, the bar does supply a variety of food options for free for customers on special nights, on a donation basis. — Matt Mauney

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Plant city observer

PlantCityObserver.com

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2012

Lions Club plans golf tourney Cops By Michael Eng | Managing Editor

This year’s tournament will be Oct. 13, at Walden Lake Golf and Country Club. The Plant City Lions Club is ready to hit the links for its annual Charity Golf Tournament. This year’s tournament will begin at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 13, at Walden Lake Golf and Country Club, 2001 Clubhouse Drive. The tournament will begin with a noon shotgun start, and an awards ceremony will follow at 5 p.m. Throughout the afternoon, participating restaurants also will offer food and drinks along the way at the tournament’s signature watering holes. “We’ve been doing this for more than 10 years,” said tournament chairman Tony Lee. “We anticipate 144 golfers, and there will be lots of fun stuff — giveaways, raffles, trophies.” According to Lions Club member Brian West, the Lions Club is the only local philanthropic organization that coordinates an annual golf tournament on its own. It’s the first of three major

fundraisers for each Lion year, he said, and money raised will benefit a variety of programs the Lions Club supports throughout the year. “Every dime is given back to the community,” he said. “(It will) support everything (we do) — eye exams and eye surgeries, college scholarships and other charitable organizations as well, the Pregnancy Care Center of Plant City, Plant City Little League, the Boys and Girls Club and more.” Lee said he hopes this year’s tournament nets at least $10,000. Opportunities for businesses to sponsor the tournament are still available. Sponsorship levels range from $600 to $5,000, and the club also is seeking donations for prizes. Individual teams can play for $400; single players are $100 each. Deadline to register is Oct. 5. Contact Michael Eng at meng@ plantcityobserver.com.

IF YOU GO

PLANT CITY

The following information was gathered from incident and arrest reports obtained from the Plant City Police Department.

Plant City Lion Club Charity Golf Tournament

SEPT. 1

WHEN: 10:30 a.m. Oct 13. Shotgun start is at noon, awards ceremony at 5 p.m. WHERE: Walden Lake Golf and Country Club, 2001 Clubhouse Drive COST: $400 per four-person team; $100 per individual player. Corporate sponsorships also available. Deadline to register is Oct. 5. REGISTRATION: Registration forms are available online at plantcitylions.org. INFORMATION: Tony Lee, (813) 7527202

SEPT. 4

HUGE LOSS

900 block of East Alsobrook Street. Residential Burglary. The victim advised unknown person(s) broke into his residence and stole a laptop computer, a television and six pieces of vintage jewelry, valued at $10,000. The power was cut to the house, as well.

Corner AUG. 20

TOILET TROUBLE

601 E. Laura St. Criminal Mischief. Unknown suspect(s) vandalized Mary B. Ellis Park. The suspect(s) broke the wooden walls around the toilet, causing about $100 in damage.

JUST PAY THE $6.88

2600 block of James L. Redman Parkway. Possession Of Methamphetamine/Shoplifting. The suspect was arrested for the petit retail theft ($6.88 in property) and also was found to be in possession of .01 grams of methamphetamine, .01 grams of cocaine and two items of drug paraphernalia. During the crime, the suspect was supervising her daughter. Because the child was present during the crime, the

P werful

suspect also was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

SEPT. 5

FIDO NEEDS FOOD, TOO

2600 block of James L. Redman Parkway. Shoplifting. The suspect stole Max EverStart vehicle battery, valued at $99.87, and three bags of dog food, valued at $18.98 each.

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8

Plant city observer

PlantCityObserver.com

Observer

PLANT CITY

“If we are to build a better world, we must remember that the guiding principle is this — a policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy.” Friedrich Hayek “Road to Serfdom,” 1944

Publisher / Felix Haynes, fhaynes@ PlantCityObserver.com Managing Editor / Michael Eng, meng@PlantCityObserver.com Assistant Managing Editor / Jess Eng, jeng@PlantCityObserver.com Staff Writers / Amber Jurgensen, ajurgensen@PlantCityObserver.com; Matt Mauney, mmauney@PlantCityObserver. com Advertising Executives / Veronica Prostko, vprostko@PlantCityObserver.com; Ronda Kyler, rkyler@PlantCityObserver.com Advertising Coordinator / Linda Lancaster, llancaster@PlantCityObserver.com Accounting Manager / Petra Kirkland, pkirkland@PlantCityObserver.com Advertising-Production Operations Manager / Kathy Payne, kpayne@ yourobserver.com Advertising-Production Coordinator / Brooke Schultheis, bschultheis@ yourobserver.com Advertising Graphic Designers / Monica DiMattei, mdimattei@yourobserver. com; Marjorie Holloway, mholloway@ yourobserver.com; Luis Trujillo, ltrujillo@ yourobserver.com; Chris Stolz, cstolz@ yourobserver.com

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The Plant City Observer is published once weekly, on Thursdays. It provides free home delivery to several neighborhoods in Plant City. The Plant City Observer also can be found in many commercial locations throughout Plant City and at our office, 110 E. Reynolds St., Suite 100-A. If you wish to discontinue home delivery or if you wish to suspend home delivery temporarily, call Linda Lancaster at 704-6850.

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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2012

update

By Amber Jurgensen | Staff Writer

Leaking pipe caused Silvermoon Drive damage The city opened the left side of Silvermoon Drive last week after it was completely closed during Hurricane Isaac because of a leaking pipe. A stormwater pipe on Silvermoon Drive in Walden Lake is leaking from high pond levels, causing the road to become saturated and distressed. Last week, three of the four barricades blocking both sides of the road were removed, leaving one remaining on the right side where the road is cracked. Residents in four homes now can drive on

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riorate until it is fixed. City staff is sending out letters to the four affected residents documenting a timeline and plan for the repair, said City Manager Greg Horwedel. The city has contacted VacVision to inspect the pipe, but it is estimated that it will be two weeks before the company can examine the road. The likely fix

OUR TOWN CONTINUED FROM 1

+ Plant City Sonic staff earns kudos The Sonic Drive-In on James L. Redman Parkway has been keeping customers happy since it opened. Now, it can lay claim to being one of the best Sonic locations in the nation. According to General Manager Thomas Neu, the Plant City location competed in a national competition with Sonic’s across the nation. Employees competed in seven different stations, including speedy food prep and car hop challenges. Although it was Plant City’s first time competing in the competition, the local staff made it all the way to the semifinal round, beating out more than 3,000 competing restaurants. Although Plant City did not make the final 12, which will compete for the honor of top Sonic in the nation later this month in San Antonio, Texas, Neu said the experience was still rewarding for his team. “The majority of our staff are teen-agers, so entering in this type of competition is a unique experience for them and gives them the chance to compete both individually and as a team and travel to places they might not ever get to go to otherwise,” Neu says. Neu said the local staff will be competing again next year.

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the left side of the road after being blocked from their driveways and having to battle for a parking space down the road for a week. “We’re just concerned, because now the city says it’s safe to drive on, but nothing was done to the road,” Phalen Redmond, a resident on Silvermoon Drive, said. City officials said the road is safe but will continue to dete-

will be to clean and seal the pipe. Once the water table lowers, the saturated section of the roadway will be excavated, compacted and resurfaced. Although the current budget for stormwater pipe rehabilitation is exhausted, some funds are available in the stormwater contractual account. The cost to repair Silvermoon Drive is expected to be under $20,000, Horwedel said. Contact Amber Jurgensen at ajurgensen@plantcityobserver.com.

+ Registration open for Twirlettes The Hillsborough County Twirlettes will be kicking off their 53rd year of classes with registration at two locations. Registration and classes will be from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. Wednesdays, at Shiloh Charter School, 905 W. Terrace Drive; and 4:45 to 5:15 p.m. Mondays, at The Foundation Christian Academy, 3955 Lithia Pinecrest Road, Valrico. All twirling classes are for all girls in kindergarten through middle school. The students will learn one-baton, two-baton and flag skills. The group will participate in area parades. Registration is $15. For more, call Charla Capps Kerwin, (813) 634-7988.

Courtesy photo

Bruce Shwedick and his son, Graham, love this endangered Tomistoma named Pip. Graham and Pip are both 12 years old.

GATORS/PAGE 1 ties full of crocs in central Florida? Shwedick got his start working with reptiles when he was just 12 years old. “I started out as just a kid staring at the crocs through the glass windows in the National Zoo’s reptile house alongside my older brother,” Shwedick says. “Eventually, they let me come inside. They helped me to receive training, to learn and to become a crocodile specialist and a zoo professional. For that, I am eternally grateful, and it is a debt that I am working hard to repay.” It was his older brother who first sparked the duo’s interest in these scaly creatures. His brother was allowed to keep reptiles in his teacher’s class. In the early 1970s, he began to travel to summer camps and do presentations. Shwedick started to tag along as an assistant. By 1975, other state programs were requesting the brothers’ presentations. So, Shwedick split off from his brother to take over his own educational programs for parks and schools. “Both my parents went through a lot of unnecessary stress,” Shwedick says, laughing. “But, they let us do what we loved.”

WORLD TRAVELER

Shwedick’s programs soon earned him international attention. In 1978, he received an invitation from the National Zoo to go to Africa for a meeting of crocodile biologists. He was the only person from outside of Southern Africa to attend. There, he trained as a crocodile specialist and was part of a discovery that found that egg collection doesn’t cause extinction as long as the nesting grounds are protected. Venturing to Africa again in 1982, he ended up in Victoria Falls, where biologists from all over the world met to discuss crocodiles.

He met Wolfgang Waitkuwait, who invited him to visit the Ivory Coast. Together, they worked at the National Zoo, moving more than 50 crocodiles. During one move, Shwedick sustained a bite. The crocodile had latched onto his finger. “Luckily, I had studied a little French before I went, because I had to explain to the other workers in French how to get my finger out,” Shwedick says. In total, Shwedick has been to Africa five times to seven different countries, including St. Lucia, Liberia and Kenya. His favorite location is a remote lake in the desert of Kenya, named Lake Turkana. “Africa has always been closest to my heart,” Shwedick said. “If I hadn’t ended up raising so many crocs in the United States, I would have gone to Africa.”

HOME SWEET HOME

In the U.S., Shwedick has managed to raise 60 crocodiles. He is currently taking care of 14 captive-born crocodiles at his Dover facility and a 44-year-old West African Dwarf Crocodile name Mzima, which is Kiswahili for “Alive.” Shwedick also has hatched eggs eight times. Since 1991, he’s been loaning crocodiles he has raised to the Portland Zoo, Philadelphia Zoo, Maryland Zoo and Zoo Miami. He also receives crocodiles from zoos. “Most zoos have a display area and then an extra holding space for other crocodiles,” Shwedick says. “When those area get full, they send the crocodiles to me.” Shwedick also travels from zoo to zoo to train aquarists, zookeepers and handlers about crocodiles, their care, husbandry and handling. One zoo employee once told him, “If you want to hang with us, you can’t be the barefoot bushman anymore.” “I have to do things safely when I train, and it’s boring,” Shwedick

says, laughing. “I have to handle the reptiles in a way zookeepers and aquarists could handle safely. I have to create a proper protocol.” In 1993, Shwedick moved to Plant City to work at Gator Jungle, which is now Dinosaur World. When Gator Jungle closed, he worked as a reptile curator at the Florida Cypress Gardens from 1996 to 2001. While at Cypress Gardens, Shwedick bought a nearly 14-foot alligator that trappers caught in Lake Talquin with a harpoon. The trappers had 48 hours to find someone to take the gator, or else, by law, it had to be destroyed. Shwedick displayed it at Cypress Gardens, naming it Mighty Mike. Since then, Mighty Mike has gained national attention and has been displayed at a variety of zoos during all seasons. Mighty Mike, whose head measures 23 inches, travels in a 430-pound box around the country. “He’s become a very popular ambassador for his species,” Shwedick says. At Cypress Gardens, Shwedick also hatched Tomistoma eggs. As part of the Tomistoma Task Force, Shwedick works to protect the slender snouted species which is found in Borneo, Sumatra and Malaysia. They are under threat because of the deforestation by palm oil companies. “We’re interested in crocodilians not for the value of their skin, but because we find them fascinating,” Shwedick says about the crocodilian groups. So what’s up next for this crocodilian master? “I have yet to be invited to participate in the Strawberry Festival,” Shwedick says. “I feel that I could make a contribution through the educational programs I do. I would love that.” Contact Amber Jurgensen at ajurgensen@plantcityobserver. com.


Plant city observer

PlantCityObserver.com

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2012

By Emilie Plants | Columnist

The Pajama Mama Hall of Fame I come from a long line of Pajama Mamas. My mom was one. Her mom was one. Her mom’s mom was one. You get my drift. Since I took the reins and joined the “pajamahood” in 2006, I quickly learned that being a Pajama Mama is a 24-hour-per-day, seven-day-per-week job that isn’t honored or thanked enough. Today, I would like to pay respect to two of the greats — my mother, Edra DuBois, and my late Courtesy photos granny, Elverta Parker. Emilie Plants with her mother, Edra DuBois (left photo) and with Granny Elverta Parker (right photo). Elverta Parker was simply DuBois and Parker are the first two inductees into The Pajama Mama Hall of Fame. Granny Parker to me. It took just a few steps to get to her house from my childhood home, and I your mouth. She would bottle it understand the pride she felt in a The apple didn’t fall far from walked that path for some 20-plus in milk jugs. We tried to get her to well-manicured yard. the tree when Edra DuBois years until she went home to be open her own business, but she She was a content person. became a mother to me, my two with Jesus. was content with making the tea She never had much money, but older sisters and my brother. She was a wise woman, who for free. I still love a glass of sweet what she had, she gladly gave My mom does it all. She makes took pride in being a stay-attea and the memories it evokes. away. She enjoyed being at home a mean bed, cleans, cooks, sews, home mom. She was quite the seamstress. and watching her grandkids. I’m builds, mows, gardens, babysits As a kid, I often would head My mother said they were poor finding in my own life that being her grandkids and loves the Lord. for her well-made bed to jump growing up, but Granny Parker content brings such peace to my To add to it, she is an amazing or sit, and she would tell me that made sure she and her twin sister life, and I have her to thank for an artist, who can create just about once you make your bed, you were dressed well. She couldn’t amazing example. anything her imagination can never lounge on it, because it will afford the store-bought dresses Granny Parker was good at a dream up. She painted a mural mess up the work that went into many of the girls wore, but she lot of things. What made her great in my daughter’s nursery and has making it. Now, every morning, made dresses that were as good as was her faith in God. There were made just about every one of my I religiously make the bed, and or better than the designer ones. countless times as a child that I children’s birthday cakes. my bottom never touches it until She could build anything. Even would come into her house and My mom was forever using her bedtime. if it was a man’s job, that didn’t she’d be sitting in her rocking talents to make things for me and Granny Parker was forever stop her. Although I didn’t inherit chair with her Bible open. Her my siblings. She never did it for cleaning something, and she the ability to sew or build, I did Christian example lives on in me. her own glory. Her life was and loved to rearrange her furniture. inherit her go-getter attitude. I There’s a famous quote by still is all about her kids. I must admit I keep a pretty tidy have run two half-marathons, Tenneva Jordan: “A mother is a I always knew I could count on house. My husband loves it, until and I continue to train. person who, seeing there are only her, like the time I announced at 9 he gets up in the middle of night She loved to garden and was four pieces of pie for five people, p.m. that we had to make chicken and stubs his toe on a piece of always mowing the yard, pullpromptly announces she never enchiladas for my Spanish class furniture in a new location. ing weeds or sweeping. Since my did care for pie.” That was my the next day. She went to the She was a great cook and made children started school this year, Granny. She was the most selfless store, bought the ingredients and the best sweet tea you ever put in I have taken on the yard work. I person I have ever known. helped me make them. She wasn’t

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thrilled, but that recipe has become one of our family favorites. Imagine that! I was involved in activities such as cheerleading, dance, gymnastics and track. I could always look up in the stands and know she’d be there cheering me on. She spent countless hours volunteering at my school and took on positions such as “room mom.” This year, I was named “room mom” for Cooper’s preschool class, as well as a volunteer parent in Scarlett’s kindergarten class. I know how much it meant to me to have my mom involved in my life, and I want to do the same for my children. My husband and I just signed Scarlett up for soccer and Cooper for tee ball. They always will be able to count me on being their biggest fans. As I take that seat in the bleachers, I realize I am just doing what I’ve been taught. I am the greatest role model my children will ever have. As I go about my daily life, I am teaching them. Every time I stoop over to pull a pesky weed, there’s a little bit of my hard-working Granny Parker coming out of me. Every time I wait in a long car line to pick up my sweet Scarlett, there’s a little bit of my selfless Mama shining through. I am thankful for the impact these two ladies made in my life, and I can only hope to make the same lasting impact on my own little girl. Perhaps she will be a Pajama Mama, too. Nothing would make me more proud. Emilie Plants, a Plant City native, is a stay-at-home mother of two, freelance journalist and a former Florida Strawberry Festival Queens Court member.

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Plant city observer

PlantCityObserver.com

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2012

OBSERVEROBITUARIES creative display Plant City celebrates Plant City’s leaders artist Ruby Williams honor Danny Wilkes

By Amber Jurgensen | Staff Writer

Family and friends packed St. Peter’s Episcopal Church for a memorial service Sept. 6, for Danny Wilkes. Danny Wilkes carefully carved the beautiful altar that has sat inside his equally beautiful church, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on Carey Street, for years. And although Mr. Wilkes died Aug. 31, at age 69, church members always will be reminded of his service every Sunday when they see the centerpiece. “He was very handy, mechanically,” said Robert Edison, a friend of Mr. Wilkes for more 40 years. “He built many things for the church. He was very dedicated to the church.” Family members and friends honored Mr. Wilkes during a packed memorial service Sept. 6, at the church. In addition to his work at St. Peter’s, Wilkes also was active in his native Plant City community. He served as associate director of the Florida Strawberry Festival and president of the Plant City Chamber of Commerce for two years. “He had a lot of respect and influence in the community,” colleague David Miller said. “He was a go-to guy, and when he got involved in it, he committed wholeheartedly. You knew he was going to be there for the long haul.” When Mr. Wilkes wasn’t escaping on vacation to his mountain home in Bat Cave, N.C., he was

working at Tampa Electric, where he spent four decades before retiring in 2005. “He was very grateful of his job and thankful for the opportunity to work with Tampa Electric,” Edison said. Mr. Wilkes also was a loving husband, father and grandfather. He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Jayne Polk Wilkes; daughters, Lisa Wilkes-Corbett (Billy) and Pam Malenfant (Bill); grandchildren, Carson and Katey Corbett, and Sydney and Benjamin Malenfant; aunts, Margaret Hobkirk and Rosa Miller; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. He was preceded in death by his parents, Claxton and Evelyn Wilkes. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Peter’s Church Memorial Fund or the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute. Checks should be made out to: USF Foundation Inc. and mailed to USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute, 12901 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., MDC70, Tampa FL 33612, Attention: Holly Lisle. The family wishes to thank the caregivers, Rafael and Dora Avecilla, Pilar, LifePath Hospice Teal Team and the continuous care nursing team. — Amber Jurgensen

Ruby Williams isn’t your traditional artist. She didn’t have classical training at some fancy art school. She doesn’t paint detailed landscapes or graceful portraits. In fact, you’re more likely to find Williams picking crops out in the field or selling produce out of her food stand off State Road 60 than see her painting in an artist’s studio downtown. Yet, Williams has flourished as a self-taught folk artist. Her paintings depict icons from her life: bold strawberries, cartoonish livestock, handwritten sayings, such as, “It will get better.” This weekend, Plant City will celebrate Williams’ work with a reception for “The Best of Ruby’s Art” from 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 16, at Bruton Memorial Library. Williams was first discovered

The Best of Ruby’s Art Reception WHEN: 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 16 WHERE: Bruton Memorial Library, 302 McLendon St. INFORMATION: (813) 7579215

in 1991, after local folk artist Rodney Hardee saw her paintings posted around her food stand. Since then, her paintings have graced the walls at the House of Blues restaurants; the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Museum and Center for African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.; the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore; and various local venues, such as the Polk Museum of Art. Despite her success, Williams never thought she would be a revered artist growing up. She is the great-great granddaughter of Mary Reddick, one of the 11 freed slaves that founded of Bealsville, the place Williams calls home. “My family knew I had some talent about me, but we just didn’t have the money,” Williams says. “I kept my desire to create art to myself.” Williams says her art hasn’t changed her. “I’m still the same person I was years ago,” she says. “Still the dirty, ragged woman walking up the street.” And although Williams remains unchanged, her art is always with her. Behind her food stand is a two-room walk-in gallery full of funky folk frames. Williams has worn many hats before chasing her dream of being an artist. She was a minister in New Jersey, who focused on helping children. After 25 years in the Garden State, she moved

Amber Jurgensen

Plant City’s Ruby Williams is a self-taught folk artist.

back to Bealsville to farm land that had been in her family for more than a century. Now, she still farms and shares the yield at her food stand. “You’ve got to work when you’re able to work,” Williams says. “I’ve worked so hard. I’ve been on my knees picking beans to buy me a car.” Williams’ ultimate goal is to keep seeing her art displayed in museums, but she says she needs help to keep her art alive. After the death of two of her children and the current failing health of her daughter, Williams needs the community’s encouragement more than ever. “This is the first time I’ve asked for this,” Williams says. “The ambition, determination and love of something keeps you doing it. But I need the community to come down and encourage me.” Contact Amber Jurgensen at ajurgensen@plantcityobserver. com.

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Sports

YOUTH | HIGH SCHOOL | GOLF | SENIORS | COMMUNITY | TENNIS

ATHLETE OF THE WEEK Macie Jones leads Cougars by example. 14

PLANTCITYObserver.com

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2012

GAME OF THE WEEK

show me the mauney

Durant playing like well-oiled machine

Gaither at Plant City | 7:30 P.M., Sept. 7

It’s still early in the high going — look out. The Cougars school football season, but a finished the game with 231 few things are beginning to rushing yards, led by running come into focus. backs Jamarlon Hamilton and Durant is coming off a state Chris Atkins. playoff appearance and a 7A The tandem is a nice one-two District 8 title, and the punch for the Cougars, Cougars — at least so far with Hamilton, the — look to be on pace to 5-foot-9, 215-pound match that, if not better. fullback powering Durant is 2-0 this seathrough the line, and son and has outscored Atkins finding holes to opponents 86-7, includuse his speed and eat ing a 29-0 shutout over up yards. Alonso last week. That Hamilton already has was a statement win for 260 yards this season, the Cougars, not just on while Atkins is nearing MATT paper, but in how they 200. MAUNEY won the game. The scariest thing Durant had several key about the Cougars’ penalties in the first half that offense is that it is doing most limited their offense to just one of the damage on the ground. sustained drive that resulted in Durant is no stranger to runa short touchdown run by quar- ning the football — the Cougars terback Trey VanDeGrift. rushed for 272 yards per game The Cougars got things rollin 2011 — but they have the ing in the second half, and when Durant’s offense gets SEE MAUNEY / PAGE 15

committed commuter

By Matt Mauney

Raider swimmer shows drive in pool, on road Plant City junior Bailey Bowden balances a rigorous workout schedule with school in hopes of swimming at the collegiate level. Two days each week, while most high school students are relishing the last few hours and minutes of sleep before school, Bailey Bowden is up and on her way to Valrico to train. “I wake up around 4 a.m. to come over here,” Bowden said about morning training on Tuesdays and Thursdays, at River Hills Golf and Country Club. From there, it’s back to Plant City, where she is a junior at Plant City High School, and then back to River Hills in the afternoon for a three-hour practice. “I get home around 7:15 p.m.,

and then it’s pretty much school work,” she said. Bowden also practices Saturdays at River Hills, where she has swum for the T-Bay Brandon Swim Club for the past two years under coach Dave Gesacion. She began swimming competitively at 10 years old and has gravitated to the water ever since, including competing for PCHS since she was a freshman. Although she practices separately from the Raiders swim program — which holds practic-

SEE BOWDEN / PAGE 15

Matt Mauney

Bailey Bowden keeps busy with a rigorous workout schedule, knowing that more time spent in the pool results in success in the future.

By Matt Mauney | Staff Writer Matt Mauney

Ervin Micheal may not have the intangibles at first glance, but the freshman has all the makings of being a great high school running back.

Following the

Footsteps

Plant City has gotten a spark offensively from its freshman tailback as he fills some big shoes at the position. At 5-foot-5, Ervin Micheal can get lost among his teammates in a room. On the field, the same thing is true when it comes to opposing teams, but that’s something he uses to his advantage. “We have a huge line, so it’s easy to find a hole. I just hide behind them, and, as soon as it comes open, I bust through,” said Plant City High’s freshman running back. Micheal already has rushed for nearly 300 yards and two scores through two games this season, a good sign for Raiders

head coach Wayne Ward, who lost 22 seniors to graduation last spring, including fouryear starting running back Daz’mond Patterson, now playing for Ohio University. “Honestly, it’s incredible,” Ward said. “I would have never thought that this young man would have came in and did the job that he’s done. He’s definitely a coach’s kid. He’s always asking questions and is very down to earth.” Even before the season kicked off, Ward made the comparison of Micheal to Pat-

terson. Those similarities have continued to grow after seeing the young running back perform under the lights on Fridays. “Anybody (who) can mold after (Patterson) is definitely in position to be very successful,” Ward said. Other than similarities in size — Patterson is listed at 5-8 on OhioBobcats.com — Micheal possesses all the qualities desired in a young running back.

SEE MICHEAL / PAGE 14


Plant city observer

PlantCityObserver.com

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2012

water world By Matt Mauney | Staff Writer

Tatianna Brewer, Jashua Cockream and Gigi Gibbs love competing for Strawberrt Crest High School.

Strawberry Crest swimmers make splash at YMCA meet The Strawberry Crest swim team took on Bloomingdale Sept. 10, at the Plant City YMCA. The SCHS girls’ team fell to Bloomingdale 139-63, while the boys’ team lost 124-78. Middleton only competed in the boys division, finishing with just seven points. Angelina Gallastegui took home first for the Lady Chargers in the 500

free, with a time of 5:34.23. The SCHS boys’ team was highlighted by first-place finishes in the 200 individual medley by Cole Wisecarver (2:11.03), the 100 butterfly by Zach Kitzis (1:00.64) and the 200 free relay team of Alonzo Biala, Kitzis, Maverick Mangosing and Wisecarver. Biala also took first in the 100 Breaststroke with a time of 1:11.18.

Angie Gallastegui started things off for her team with the backstroke in the 200 medley relay.

Jacob Lumsden sported a green-and-white cap Monday. This week’s Crossword answers

This week’s Cryptogram answers 1. Growing old is mandatory. Growing up is amusing and only optional. 2. A man claimed he was dying of fast women, slow horses, crooked cards and straight whisky.

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athlete of the week

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2012

MICHEAL/PAGE 11

By Matt Mauney | Staff Writer

“He reads blockers really well, and he’s tough and has really good balance,” Ward said. “At a young age, when you can combo all of those things and fine-tune them, you can develop into a pretty good back.” Although Micheal was in middle school at the time, he took in a lot of the varsity games last season. He looked up to Patterson and saw him as a mentor, along with other leaders on the Raiders, including Micheal’s stepbrother, Lamarlin Wiggins — a standout wide receiver playing in junior college as a 2012 commit to South Florida. “Watching Daz’mond throughout his four years here, I learned that nothing comes easy,” Micheal said. “In my spare time, I would always put in extra work at the gym with my brother or go run and do laps. I learned a lot from them and it just showed me the work I had to put in and what I had to do to be successful.” It’s safe to say Micheal is off to a great start, and the young back had confidence in making an impression early. “I never really doubted myself,” he said. “Still, coming up on varsity is a lot of work and is very time consuming.” For Ward, a position that may have had its fair share of question marks for some time seems to be in solid hands. According to Ward, who was a standout back at PCHS as

MACIE JONES

Macie Jones is a senior setter with the Durant High School volleyball team. Jones is just one of two seniors on the Lady Cougars and a captain. Through just two games this season, Jones has 70 assists and serves as a leader for a young Durant team looking to reclaim past success, including three state championships and two state runner-up finishes since the school opened in 1995.

This program has had a lot of success in the past, with your last state title coming in 2002. Where do you want to see this program move in the future? We hope to bring that back and hopefully restore that dynasty that we had in the early 2000s. The softball team at Durant is coming off winning a state title. Has that effected the motivation for the volleyball team? We have a lot of school pride here at Durant. We saw how excited they were and how amazing it was to win state, so we would love to be able to bring that to the volleyball program. What are some things the team has been working on so far this season? We’ve been working on growing as a team, because we are very young and inexperienced at times. We want to grow as a family and support each other, even though we may go through ups and downs. What has the experience of being a captain been like so far? It’s been pretty exciting just to

GAITHER at PLANT CITY

be able to lead such an amazing group of girls. Everybody is a captain in their own way. Being a senior leader is just about pushing through the hard times and keeping everyone focused.

What are some goals for this season? Our smaller goal would be to win districts. We’ve finished second the last couple of years, so it’s been kind of bittersweet. We really want to push through and get that district title under out belts on our way to state, which is our ultimate goal. Do you have a favorite movie? I really like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Do you have any hobbies? I’m in the show choir here at Durant, and I’m very active in my church at St. Andrews in Brandon.

Last week: Plant City (1-1) picked up its first win of the season in Week 2 as they hosted Freedom. The Raiders were plagued by mistakes and penalties throughout the game, but after a scoreless first half, they were able to come away with a 14-9 victory. Running back Ervin Micheal rushed for 110 yards and gave the Raiders a 7-0 lead in the third quarter on a 22-yard touchdown run. Gaither (2-0) is coming off a 69-0 blowout against Leto, a team that didn’t win a game on the field last season — the Falcons went 1-9 officially due to an Armwood forfeit. The Cowboys had four players with more than 40 rushing yards, with Vu Le leading the way with 108. Last meeting: Plant City beat the Cowboys 21-7 last season on the road.

well as a top recruit at Virginia Tech, backup tailback Sterling Day has a lot of promise at the position, as well. “He’s a backup and is just as good, if not better,” Ward said. “In regards to our running backs, we have an opportunity to make some serious noise going into district play.” Contact Matt Mauney at mmauney@ plantcityobserver.com.

OTHER AREA ACTION STRAWBERRY CREST at STEINBRENNER Last week: The Chargers (1-1) are coming off a heartbreaking 28-27 loss at Bloomingdale last week. Strawberry Crest held a 27-21 lead at the half but couldn’t hold on. The difference in the game came in the third quarter, when Bloomingdale quarterback Isaiah McIntyre completed a 24-yard pass to Favian Cartagena for the go-ahead score. Karel Hamilton had another solid game, finishing with seven catches for 142 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore quarterback Tristan Hyde finished 17-of-24 for 307 yards and one passing touchdown. Steinbrenner (1-1) is coming off its first win of the season, shutting out East Bay 23-0. The Warriors were led by Kendall Pearcey, who ran for 91 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown. Steinbrenner lost to Sickles 34-10 in their season opener. Last meeting: The 28-0 loss to Steinbrenner last season was one of four shut-out losses for Strawberry Crest in 2011.

How is it balancing volleyball and show choir? It’s really hectic at times. Usually, they are pretty accommodating, but it can get stressful at times. Did you do anything interesting this summer? I went on a mission trip with my church to Tennessee to help rebuild tornado victims houses. We do something like that every summer.

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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2012

ability to sling the ball around with VanDeGrift, a transfer that led the Strawberry Crest passing attack the last two seasons. VanDeGrift replaced Nick Fabrizio, now with the U.S. Naval Academy. Fabrizio was a big part of the Cougars’ ground attack last season, but VanDeGrift poses a new dimension to the offense, and so far, he has led successfully, despite having limited passing attempts. Up only eight going into the second half against Alonso — a team that beat the Cougars 26-5 last year — Durant built the lead to 29 points seemingly in the blink of an eye. The success of Durant can’t be addressed without giving credit to the defense and special teams. The Durant defense has allowed only seven points this year, which came in the season opener against Freedom with the game well in hand. They made some key stops last week against Alonso, and the pass defense did a solid job late in the game keeping the Ravens out of the end zone and preserving the shutout. Alonso finished with 177

yards through the air and 105 on the ground. The Durant special teams unit had another strong performance last week. Punter Sean Humphrey only had to punt three times but gave the Ravens a long field, averaging nearly 40 yards a kick, with a long of 46 yards. Three of four kickoffs from Daniel Bowers sailed into and through the end zone for touchbacks, eliminating any chance for a big play from Alonso’s return unit. Zach Hooper also did good job on kickoff and punt returns, with a long return out to midfield to open the game. Durant was coming off a 57-7 win over Freedom, where its special teams recovered two fumbles on kickoff returns and had a fake punt go for a touchdown. Durant has a bye this week as it prepares for an away game against Brandon Sept. 21. If the three phases of the game keep clicking and progressing the way they have for the Cougars, Atkins’ statement following the Alonso win may just come true. “I can see us going undefeated into the playoffs,” the sophomore said.

BOWDEN/PAGE 11 es and home meets at Walden Lake — Bowden said she wants her high school team to know that she is putting in the work to get better. “I try and tell them that I’m doing just as much work while I’m here,” she said. “When I’m there, I try to have a good friendship with them and really encourage them to do their best.” Bowden enters her junior season with the PCHS swim team after placing eighth at the Class 3A state meet in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:02.97. Bowden also has promise in the 200 freestyle. “I’ve really just been trying to make sure I’m where I need to be, because to achieve my goals at state, I have to be in a certain place here,” she said. “I’ve just been trying to keep my stroke and my times in a good place.” Swimming competitively at the club level in addition to high school has not only given Bowden more practice, competition and exposure but also has led to friendships, which became most apparent when she reached state as a sophomore at PCHS.

“I had friends there that swim for other high schools, so it was great,” she said about attending the state meet as the only representative from PCHS. Bowden hopes to have the feeling of being a state finalist again as a junior. She isn’t alone when it comes to current Raiders training and competing 30 minutes away in Valrico. Teammate and PCHS senior swimmer Kelsey Fry also practices and competes with the T-Bay team and was a key part in getting Bowden to practice for some time. “She would drive me here almost every day before I got my license,” she said. Bowden’s mom also played a large role in keeping her on track with her hectic schedule. “Even now, she has to get me up a lot of times just to make sure I don’t oversleep,” Bowden said. Now that Bowden drives, it makes it easier for her to go back and forth to school and practice, but it doesn’t come without it’s interesting stories, including running out of gas on the way to practice Monday. “One time, there was a turtle in the middle of the road, and I had to get out to save it in

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my suit,” she said of the many stories that have occurred throughout the past few years. Like most competitive swimmers, Bowden said her sport requires dedication and hard work. While this is needed in most sports, the amount of work put in the pool with swimming can make all the difference in whether an athlete obtains their goals. This message was shared by Gesacion at practice Monday. “Bailey’s been here for about two years now, and one of the things we stress is daily progress, and that’s something she has shown,” he said. “Being able to perform every day instead of having one or two good workouts here or there is something I think she has really embraced.” Bowden said she hopes to earn a spot in the top five this year in the 500 and reach the finals in the 200 at state, as well as have a good showing in travel meets with her swim club. “I think that would be pretty solid for my junior year,” she said. Contact Matt Mauney at mmauney@plantcityobserver. com.

90711

MAUNEY/PAGE 11

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129 Impudence 72 “My Way” 130 Bonnie young girl songwriter Paul and family 74 Person for whom dOwn something is 1 Cottontails’ tails named 2 Prying (var.) 3 Jimmy of the Daily 77 Merit Planet 81 “... ___ saw Elba” 4 Composer Bela 82 Company of 5 Last of Henry’s performers Catherines 84 Poetic pugilist 6 X marks the ___ 86 Plaintiff’s venue 7 Tropical pudding 87 Marked, as a box bases on a ballot 8 Liar’s undoing 9 King’s address 88 Tenant’s expense 10 Black-and-white 89 Annapolis bear freshman 11 Obstinate beast 91 Grafton’s “___ for 12 “She sells Corpse” seashells,” for 92 Khan man example 94 Yarns or whoppers 13 Ointment additive 98 Wallet bill 14 ___ down (frisks) 99 Tuition category 15 Once, once upon a time 100 ___ gin fizz (bar 18 Lockjaw order) 19 Nicknaming 101 Noted first name sportscaster Chris in jazz 20 Downhill travelers 103 Word on a striker’s 26 Fine-tune, as a placard, perhaps script 105 Andean pack 27 Washstand animal accessory 108 Horseshoe-shaped 28 Industriousness 32 “Good Will lab item Hunting” star Matt 112 Fire starters 34 Chum 115 Valuable 35 Kabob stick discoveries 37 Bygone Russian 119 Similar despots 120 Mob hoodlum 39 Sharp ridge 121 Skip the elaborate 40 Is fearless wedding 41 Protomatter of the universe 122 Goldberg and 42 An almanac lists its Field played them highs and lows 123 Heron or egret 43 Yemeni seaport 124 Jekyll’s counterpart 44 Bakery offering 125 Succubus 46 Fleecy female 126 On the less breezy 47 One of the Jackson side, at sea 5 127 Command to a 52 Reverse, e.g. 55 Speaking frankly dog 56 Square mileage, 128 Advanced in years e.g.

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CROSSWORD_091312


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