Zephyrhills High School – 2001-2002


Highlights of 2001-2002

Top of the Class, St. Petersburg Times, May 29, 2002

Zephyrhills High School’s Kristen Benedini was named Pasco County’s Outstanding Senior of the Year. School winners were: Jamie Lynn Lamb, Gulf High; Antonette DeVito, Hudson High; Margaret Ann Ciadella, Mitchell High; Elizabeth Ann Sheridan, Ridgewood High; Cassidy Paige Bell, River Ridge High; Meagan Small, Land O’ Lakes High; Lauren Jeanette Dillard, Pasco High; and Miranda Besse, Wesley Chapel High.

Top of the Class, St. Petersburg Times, November 21, 2001

The faculty at Zephyrhills High School has named the following seniors as “Very Important Teens,” based on their academics, citizenship, athletic ability and talent: Kristin Benedini, Katie Cimorelli, Lindsay Davis, Mickey Davis, Mark Dunn, Richard Kazbour, Tony Mercer, Amara Monbarren, Shaun Oudit, Travis TenBrink, Trevor TenBrink and Aaron Young. National Honor Society officers are: President: Jennifer Krebiehl, Vice president: Kim Flaherty, Treasurer/Secretary: Johnny Douglas.

Zephyrhills High School Senior Standouts, St. Petersburg Times, May 1, 2002

Valedictorian is Kristen Benedini with a GPA 4.44 weighted.

Plans: Attend the University of Florida and major in chemical engineering.

Ideal career: Working in a laboratory where the main focus is researching medicines that would aid in the treatment of terminal diseases.

Clubs and Extracurricular: Varsity cross county, varsity soccer, varsity track, calculus team, Interact Club (president), National Honor Society, Brain Bowl Team.

Favorite Book: A Tree Grows in the Brooklyn, by Bette Green.

Favorite Place on Campus: Activity Center.

Most Inspirational Person: My mom and dad – they taught me to believe in myself.

What kind of legacy would you like to leave in this world? I would like to discover new medicines that will cure all types of disease.

Salutatorian is Tiffany Stanley with a GPA of 4.25 weighted.

Plans: I will be attending the University of South Florida in the fall as part of the Honors program. I plan on double-majoring in International Business or Finance and Japanese Studies.

Ideal Career: Working for a company in business relations between Japan and America.

Clubs, Extracurricular: Student Church, volunteer at Wilson Youth Academy, volunteer at the Tampa Bay Dream Center, varsity soccer, tennis, golf, National Honor Society, First Priority, Real Life, reading, writing, working out.

Favorite Book: This Present Darkness, by Frank Peretti.

Favorite place on campus: The soccer field and library.

Most inspirational person: My mother; she is very strong both in character and faith, has worked very hard to take care of me and my sister, is unrelenting in her love and support and is constantly sacrificing for those she loves.

What kind of legacy would you like to leave in this world? That of everything in the world, a relationship with Jesus Christ is the only thing that will sustain you through the good and bad times and the single most precious thing that can be had; Jesus is my everything, but I don’t want my legacy to be remembered as much as I want people to know Him.

Tucker Right on Track, St. Petersburg Times, by Jamal Thalji April 21, 2002

Tiffany Tucker didn’t know where she had misplaced them. She didn’t know where she lost them, or when, or if she would ever get them back. The thought of competing in last week’s Class 2A, District 9 meet without them frightened her. After all, whatever would a jumper do without her steps? The precise steps the Sunshine Athletic Conference and district champion long jumper takes before hurling herself into the sand pit and toward the school-record of 17 feet, 1 inch, that is. “I didn’t know what happened to my steps,” the Zephyrhills senior said. “It just seemed like they disappeared. I guess I was thinking too much about them. It had me worried, too. I was wondering why I couldn’t jump like I used to.” Tucker rediscovered her steps just days before last week’s district meet, and at today’s Class 2A, Region 3 meet at Wesley Chapel, she’ll continue her pursuit of the school record and a new goal: a trip to the state meet May 4 at Coral Springs High’s Jim Caldwell Field. The senior has never been to state before, but then Tucker has opened up a whole new world for herself since she got serious about athletics and academics as a junior. It was her first season in varsity track, and Tucker proved she was one of the county’s most versatile talents.  This season, she’s been even better, and her hard work is paying even more dividends. Tucker competed in the 100 meters, 200, 4×100 relay and the long and triple jumps to score 30 of Zephyrhills’ 143 points in last week’s district meet, helping the revitalized girl’s team finish second. “She’s really improved in the jumping,” Bulldogs coach Mike Stanton said. ”But of course, jumping takes speed, strength and ability, and she has all three of those.”

The team’s success is a big change from last season, when Tucker remembers she had only a handful of teammates while Zephyrhills competed against the crowded rosters of Gulf, River Ridge and Ridgewood. “Yeah, everybody else had their big teams, and we had like seven or eight people,” Tucker said. “We always felt left out. But now, everybody is working hard to cut their times down.”

The Bulldogs don’t feel left out anymore, and Tucker has done more than her share. She leads the team with 146 points scored this season. Her fastest 100 is 12.6 seconds, her fastest 200 27.9, her best triple jump is 31-9 and her best long jump 16-10.

“She’s a major contributor,” Stanton said. “We actually have a very well-balanced team, we scored in almost every event (at districts), but of course she was our No. 1 scorer.”

And perhaps the team’s best all-around athlete, one whose speed and leaping ability are best exemplified by the triple jump, an event she barely worked on this season but still took second in at the district meet.

“That just demonstrated what kind of a natural athlete she is,” Stanton said.

This season has been a continuation of the work Tucker began last season. That was when she decided she wanted to be the first grandchild in her family (don’t ask how many that is: “There’s a lot,” she said) to attend college. She improved her grades and put her athletic talents to good use after a two-year hiatus from her middle school track days. The daughter of former Zephyrhills football legend Teddy Wilson, Tucker has her sights set on attending and competing for either South Florida or Bethune-Cookman College. “I guess I just grew up,” she said. “I really don’t know what the difference in me was. All of a sudden I just started to get good grades, and it just went on from there.”

Top of the Class, St. Petersburg Times, March 16, 2002

The awards have been handed out, but there’s still time to check out Art Beat 2002, a juried, mixed media high school art show that is on exhibit through March at the Pasco Arts Council, 5744 Moog Road, Holiday. Here are this year’s winners. First place ($100): “Yanni,” acrylic, by Iannis Athansassious of Mitchell High. Second place ($75): “Opposition,” clay/glass, by Kimberly Flaherty of Zephyrhills High. Third place ($50): “The inevitable,” colored pencil, by Jonathan Sale of Mitchell High. Most Creative ($35): “Mi Familia,” two-dimensional acrylic, by Marcy Shapiro of Ridgewood High. Best Photograph ($35): “The Chain, “by Curtis Cooper of Gulf High. Merit Awards ($25): “Drag Racer,” two-dimensional colored pencil, by Andrew Higgens of Land O’ Lakes High. “Bamboo and Rafia Raku Pot,” three-dimensional clay, by Ryan Whitmer of Zephyrhills High. “This Old House,” mixed media, by Jennifer Howard of Ridgewood High. Honorable Mentions: Batter Up,” pencil drawing, by Torre Salvator of Gulf High. “Self Portrait,” pen and ink, by Josh Paulin of Mitchell High. “Love Never Ends,” ink/crayon, by Vanessa Anderson of Land O’ Lakes High.”Sadistic Love,” plaster, by Michelle Mondello of Zephyrhills High. “Flying High,” two dimensional print, by Tara Huff of Ridgewood High. “African Figure,” three dimensional clay, by Ryan Shumann of Ridgewood High. “Nick and Nicole,” photo, by Michele Windgasser of Gulf High. “Where Next,” photo, by Ashley Nessler of Gulf High

Top of the Class, St. Petersburg Times, March 13, 2002

When it comes to writing, 16-year-old Nikki Dittler typically saves her words for her journal.

“Usually I stick to poetry,” she said. “Usually I write for myself.”

But a student playwright contest held in the fall at Zephyrhills High School had the high school junior thinking she might just want to put her out there and test the waters.

The result? Some 40 pages of dialogue and a one act play called Lost and Found on Poker Night that earned her a $150 for the rights to produce the play.

Last week, drama students at Zephyrhills High performed Nikki’s play. It was a culmination of some six months of hard work that included careful character building and plenty of painful whittling.

Nikki’s play, about five characters that are each approaching a crossroads of sorts, is an honest portrayal of what teenagers go through, said Theater/Arts Director Greg Burdick.

“I love it,” he said. “The reason I love it is because it speaks to the issues of teenagers. That’s our audience here and who better to write about the teenage experience than a teenager.”

Nikki, who got hooked on drama after attending a workshop on Sophocles’ play Antigone, said she pulled snippets of personality traits from people she knew to help create her characters. “They’re roughly based on a few people I know, but I mixed up all their characteristics so they wouldn’t be recognized,” she said.

The play centers on a tight-knit foursome that gets together every Friday night to play poker. The fifth character, a lovelorn interloper who has disrupted what will be the group’s last poker game, sets the stage for some meaty dialogue as the group confronts one another.

“They’re all in different stages. They’re all realizing how things are changing and the choices their going to have to make,” said Nikki. “One has a year left in school; one’s a success freak with a huge ego who graduated a semester early; two are about to graduate and one is out of school, but he’s a bum – an alcoholic. He can’t hold a job or anything.”Getting it all down on paper was a definite eye opener for Nikki, who learned how tough it can be for a writer to discard words that they’ve become fond of.

Monica Bishop Steele, a local professional actor/playwright who offered to work with the contest winner, helped with that.

“I sent her my script and it came back with all these notes in red ink saying things like “you don’t need this,” and “get to the point or you’re going to lose you’re audience.”

The process of having someone edit your work can be an ego bruiser. Still, said Nikki, “I was grateful for the time she spent on this. She helped me a lot.” After Steele’s input Nikki was able to lop off roughly 20 pages from the original script.

Watching what happened to her words after the actors and director Greg Burdick put their own spin on her play was another lesson altogether.

“I didn’t have anything to do with how they (the actors) said their lines so it changed some,” said Nikki, who at the director’s insistence, sat in on every rehearsal. “Mr. Burdick’s interpretation is much different than what I thought – what I had in my own head,” she said. “It adds a new twist to it which was okay. I enjoyed that because it doesn’t take anything away from the play.”

That’s why the contest was called “The Playwright’s Process,” said Burdick, “It’s all collaborative and everybody brings something to it.” With the performances over, Nikki is no doubt breathing a sigh of relief. She is thinking of entering her work in a couple of student playwright contests – “I’d like to see what another director might do with it” and her play is in the running for a “Zephi” – Zephyrhills High School’s take on the Grammy Awards, which will be held on April 26 at the school.

But Nikki, like her characters, is directing her attention to her own future. Her dream school would be the University of Southern California. But with Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarship program, it looks like she’ll be attending the University of South Florida and majoring in psychology, a field she says is closely related with drama – “they both involve “getting into the emotions of everything.”.

“I want to be a psychologist,” said Nikki, “I like drama but it’s a hobby. Right now that’s what I call it – a hobby.”

– Note: Sophomore student Jason Herndon earned an honorable mention and $50 for submitting his play. Picture Caption features students, Nikki Dittler, Mark Nolan, Matt Henning, Chloe Estep, Erika Jarvi who practice the play;

Fine Arts Competition Names East Pasco Award Winners, St. Petersburg Times, February 25, 2002

The following Zephyrhills Art Club members and Zephyrhills High School students are winners of the fine art competition this month:

High school winners are first place, Kristine Heim; second place, Yessie Martinez; third place, Jennifer Krebiehl; honorable mention, Kim Flaherty.

Top of the Class, St. Petersburg Times, February 13, 2002

Kristen Benedini was named December Student of the Month at Zephyrhills High School. Daniel Huffman was named Chamber of Commerce Student of the Month.

Artistic Recreations, St. Petersburg Times, February 7, 2002

A work titled Gaia’s Love, Terra’s Hate by student Wilma Naber of Zephyrhills High School captures the interest of Richard Halbig, who holds 4-month-old daughter, Trinity, as he looks over entries in the Pasco Art of Recycling show at the West Pasco Government Center in New Port Richey on Wednesday. High school and college students produce works for the show using recycled materials

Top of the Class, St. Petersburg Times, March 13, 2002

Marie Risavalto has been named Student of the Month at Zephyrhills High School. Stacy Cox was named Chamber of Commerce Student of the Month. Conley Nash was selected as Musician of the Month. Custodial Staff Member Daniel Spriggs was selected as the School Related Personnel of the Month. Jose Olmo was commended as Teacher of the Month. A Top Dog referral was earned by Sandi Ciabattoni. These students were named winners in the recent Future Business Leaders of America District 11 Leadership Conference. First place Public Speaking: Tyashia Black. Second place Accounting 1: Alex DelRosario. Second place Introduction to Business Communications: Brooke Reisman. Third Place Public Speaking: Suneal Bedi. Third place Computer Applications: Erika Jarvi. Third place Computer Concepts: Michael Chin. Third place Introduction to Business: Terri Graddy. Fourth place Introduction to Business Communication: Lindsay Morrison. Fourth place Job Interview: Mellisa Zandy.

Opportunity Knocks, St. Petersburg Times, March 3, 2002, by Michelle Miller

For 18-year-old Anna Merlak, it all began with a wistful thought uttered to her sister seven years ago while the two were registering for middle school. “I saw this poster for the school band and I said, ‘I wish I was in band,’ ” said Anna, “I guess the registrar overheard me, and she signed me up.”

Now, seven years later, Anna appears to be well on her way to realizing her dream of becoming a professional musician. The Zephyrhills High School senior has long excelled with the oboe in her schools’ bands. After two years of playing with the Tampa Bay Youth Orchestra, she was honored to be asked to substitute for three performances in November for the Florida Orchestra. There are the upcoming auditions she has scheduled for Juilliard as well as the Manhattan School of Music, along with the one recently completed for Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.

In June, Anna, along with Pasco teens Nick Demasky, a flute and piccolo player from Port Richey, and Alexandra Ramos, an oboe and English horn player from New Port Richey, will perform in what many consider one of the best concert halls in the world. Carnegie Hall is the upcoming venue for the Tampa Bay Youth Orchestra – the culminating performance of a year of hard work for some 63 young musicians throughout the Tampa Bay area. This year’s busy schedule has included various concerts, practice sessions with visiting conductors such as Anton Coppolla and an outreach program with Metropolitan Ministries. The Tampa Bay Youth Orchestra, which will be featured along with the Etowah Youth Orchestra from Gadsden, Ala., and the New England Symphonic Ensemble, was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall by MidAmerican Productions, a company that brings musicians together to perform at various venues throughout the world. The invitation to Carnegie Hall was based on recommendations from other directors, said Denise Travers, executive director of the Tampa Bay Youth Orchestra. “It’s a great undertaking – it’s a big project,” said Travers, adding that while a few backed out of the trip after the Sept. 11 attacks, most members will be making the trip to New York City along with chaperones and their conductor, William Wiedrich.

“We’ve had to deal with the concerns of some parents not wanting to go because of Sept. 11,” Travers said. “I think as time goes on, the kids are feeling more courageous. It seems even more important to go now. “The kids are really looking forward to it,” said Travers, adding that some are wanting to pay a visit to ground zero. “We’ll be bringing a lot of kids who have never flown before or been out of the state – a lot of kids haven’t been to a big city. That alone is something, but playing at the most famous concert hall at their age is really extraordinary.”

And how. “I’m very excited,” said Anna, “It’s something I’ll probably never get to do again.”

“Carnegie Hall – wow,” said Nick Demasky, “Basically this is like my high point right now – it’s like the most important thing I’ve done so far.” Nick chose to play the flute as a third-grader because “it was one of the last instruments they had available.” Like Anna, the Gulf High School sophomore is striving toward a career as a performance musician. “I’d like to perform in orchestras – perhaps conduct in orchestras,” he said. For Alexandra Ramos, the Carnegie Hall concert will be the highlight of her senior year. She’s been struggling with balancing her five advanced placement classes at Ridgewood High School, her upcoming graduation and college applications. She wants to be a cinematographer. “This,” said Alexandra, “is what I’ve been looking forward to most this year.”

Orchestra conductor Wiedrich, shares his young musicians’ enthusiasm. His day job has him conducting the orchestra at the University of South Florida, but the Tuesday night rehearsals and concert performances with these youngsters at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center help revitalize him. “I get to work with a group of some of the most special young people in this area. It’s a supreme joy for me to come to work with them,” Dietrich said. Among the pieces his young orchestra will play at Carnegie Hall are, Bolero, The William Tell Overture, West Side Story and three dances from On the Town. “If anyone thinks the arts in this area are dying with the youth – they should come sit in Ferguson Hall some Tuesday night or on a Sunday afternoon,” said Wiedrich.

Or go to Carnegie Hall on June 10. To play, or to help.  Auditions for the Tampa Bay Youth Orchestra will be held after spring break. Also, the Tampa Bay Youth Orchestra is a few thousand dollars short in its quest to pay for the trip to Carnegie Hall. Those wishing to donate or inquire about auditioning may call Denise Travers at (813) 222-1073.

Top of the Class, St. Petersburg Times, May 1, 2002

At Zephyrhills High School Kevin Mathis was named Student of the Month. Terry Gutierrez was name Chamber of Commerce Student of the Month. Teacher assistant, Mrs. Tammy Hochstetler was selected as the School Related Personnel of the Month. Sergeant Major Terry Mears, co-leader of Zephyrhills High’s JROTC was commended as the Teacher of the Month. Boy’s State candidates are Michael Hogard and Greg Mathis with Kyle Pierson serving as alternate. Girl’s State representatives Renee Yonkof with Kassidy Chauncey serving as an alternate. Shaun Oudit was the National Winner of the Essay Competition for juniors in High School for the Society of the Descendants of Washington’s Army at Valley Forge.

Zephyrhills High art students exhibited more than 70 pieces of two-dimensional and three-dimensional art at the Pasco County Fair. Winners included: First place: Ryan Whitmer. Second place: Wilma Naber. Honorable mention: Kristine Heim, Amber Yates, Sabryna Jacquez, Maeghan Lucas, Maggie Mead, Jennifer Krebiehl, Ashley Millim. Pasco County Choral Festival members were: Erica Braun, Angelina English, Tony Ford, Michael Johnson, Denise Quenneville, and Cassie Seekins. Top Dog Referrals were earned by: Robert Masciarelli, Travis TenBrink, Jeremy Young, Heather Bracknell, Marie Zackschewski, Josh Gainey, Craig Ruchti, Casey Spears, Ricky Valentine and Zach Zeigler.

Celebration Greets Driver After High Finish, St. Petersburg Times, May 11, 2002

When David Reutimann got home Saturday night and pulled into his racing team’s garage off Wire Road, he found a true hometown welcome.

Messages from friends were chalked in all colors on the garage walls. Confetti sparkled in the dirt path leading to his door; streamers hung from the roof, and he was greeted by helium balloons reading “Congratulations” and “Sweet 16.” Above all of that, an impressive array of toilet paper was draped from the large trees whose branches hang over the garage.

“It was a mess,” said Reutimann, a 32-year-old Zephyrhills native. “I can’t believe they got it that high in some of the trees.”

The balloons’ “16” was a nod to Reutimann’s 16th-place showing in his NASCAR Busch series stock car debut, a strong showing for a driver who started the race in the 34th position. Entering the weekend unsure if he’d qualify for the race and hoping he wouldn’t wreck the only car he had, the rookie far exceeded his expectations with his finish.

“My crew chief, his basic goal was to go there, make the race, stay out of trouble and try to finish in the top 20,” Reutimann said. “That was realistic. That was doable. It really went well. I would have liked to run in the top 10, but you have to be realistic. Last year, I was watching this race on TV, and this is a lot better than that.”

A rainout of the qualifying round assured him a spot in the 43- car field Friday night in Richmond, Va., but it wasn’t until race officials gave the command to start engines that he allowed himself a smile at the realization of what he had been able to accomplish.

“In racing, nothing’s ever certain until you’re really there and running,” he said. “Then, you’re like, ‘In the very least, I was able to start this race.’ ”

What he also started was the prospect of a real career in one of NASCAR’s top circuits. The opportunity was made possible through a longtime friend and fellow Zephyrhills High School graduate, 27- year-old Brian Pattie, who had been his crew chief when the two were racing local tracks as teenagers.

Pattie has found success as crew chief for driver Joe Nemechek’s team and helped get Reutimann in touch with Nemechek about filling in with a one-race contract.

Having a familiar voice on the headsets to guide him around the three-quarter-mile oval in Richmond did wonders for Reutimann’s comfort level in an otherwise unfamiliar environment.

“It makes you feel like when you’re young, just a bunch of kids racing and winning a lot of races,” he said. “When I go up there and work out of Joe’s shop (in North Carolina), I stay at Brian’s house. He’s just like family.”

Reutimann had to buy a stock car from Nemechek’s team to get the one-race deal, and now the blue-and-white No. 87 car sits in his garage alongside the black-and-yellow No. 00 he drives in NASCAR’s Hills Bros. All-Pro touring series.

Reutimann sits atop the smaller circuit’s point’s standings with a victory and second-place showing in two races this season, but Friday’s 250 miles of Busch racing reiterated to him that while the two cars look very comparable, the similarities end with the chassis.

“There’s nothing close, except that you sit in the left side to drive them both,” he said. “It’s a completely different breed of animal. Its weight, tires, suspension, body, horsepower, everything.”

Friday’s 16th-place showing earned him $10,860, but the debut could pay off in a larger sense. He’s already talking about a contract for a few more races this season, particularly the second Busch race in Richmond this fall, where Virginia-based Geico Direct auto insurance might sponsor his car again. For now, he heads to Birmingham, Ala., where he’ll race Saturday in All-Pro series.

After two decades of local-hero status for his driving at local and regional racetracks, Reutimann has attained a new level of celebrity after his nationally televised Busch run. He’s getting handshakes and pats on the back from strangers at restaurants, at the barber shop, all around Zephyrhills.

“The whole town’s been great,” he said. “It makes you feel good, because you really feel like the whole town’s behind you.

Sometimes you think people don’t even pay attention, don’t even know your name, so all of this has been neat.”

Couple his Busch series debut with the success he has had on the smaller circuit, then add in the birth of a first child for him and his wife, Lisa, in January, and it already has been a year worth celebrating.

“It’s been a great year. . . . I’ve been extremely blessed,” Reutimann said. “This race, it’s a confidence-builder, all the way around. I don’t know if it makes me any better of a driver, but it helps your confidence a lot, no doubt.”

Zephyrhills Seniors Realize Achievements, St. Petersburg Times by Kristen Leigh Porter, November 23, 2002

As Paul Maxwell headed to the locker room, he looked up at the Zephyrhills High School sign for one last time as a player before walking in.

The tight end came out a former Bulldog standout after the 41-14 loss to Jesuit in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs.

But the sense of what Maxwell and the other 10 Bulldog seniors accomplished during a 10-2 season will not be soon forgotten. It just was not meant to happen against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs for the second year in a row.

“We were outmanned and outplayed. They scored two quick touchdowns, and that was that,” Maxwell said. “But we had one heck of a season.”

It was a season that almost wasn’t for Maxwell, who was in a car crash the Wednesday before the season opener and missed the first three games.

His 7-yard touchdown catch from James Adamo at the end of the first quarter was the first score for the Bulldogs, who were already down 17 points.

“This year was special,” Maxwell said. “It’s great I could do that in a playoff game and contribute to the team.”

Maxwell and the other seniors will remember this game, but the season’s accomplishments overshadow the loss. Senior Jamen Monbarren said making it to the second round for the first time since 1995was the way to go out.

“We’ve tied for the best team in school history and been the underdog all season,” Monbarren said.

With a 25-player roster (compared with 60 for Jesuit), the players were like family, according to senior running back Justin Cobb, who received a hug from senior Derek Wallace at the end of the game.

“We’ve got so little people, we stick together,” Cobb said. “We get closer instead having so many people we don’t know half of their names.”

In 59 seasons of Bulldog football, this group and their accomplishments will go down in history. “Let’s give it up for the seniors,” was the cry heard in the team huddle after the game.

“It’s a shame that it had to end this way for them,” coach Tom Fisher said. “They had a great year, and they deserve all the credit in the world.”

Getting Jazzed, St. Petersburg Times, by Michelle Miller, November 25, 2002

In years past, the All-County Symphonic Band Concert has been the premier event for the best of the best. But those who are into tackling those jazz licks will get their chance to audition for the first All-County Jazz Band in January, with a concert to be held in April.

“It’s going to be a first – hopefully the start of a new tradition for the county,” said Mary Harvey, band director at Wesley Chapel High. “It will be another outlet for the kids – kids who really like jazz band (on the school level). It’s a good way to pull all the talent in the county together.”

“The jazz, its good stuff,” said Joe Tiemann, 17, a trombone player from Wesley Chapel High School. In the past, Joe and others have gotten their kicks playing with the North End Jazz Ensemble, a group started by Patrick McDermott, the director of the Center of the Arts at Wesley Chapel. “The All-County Jazz Band is a good idea,” Joe said. “It’s about time.”

The prelude for Joe and other aspiring jazz musicians came last week when the Dan McMillion Jazz Orchestra made its second appearance at the Pasco Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel High School.

Last year, jazz trumpet artist Dan McMillion and his 16-piece orchestra were on hand to celebrate the opening of the Pasco Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel High.

Before this year’s concert, which featured an improvisational number that included some students, members of the band worked with the young musicians during a special jazz workshop.

Ninety students from schools throughout Pasco County signed up for the workshop, McDermott said.

“Part of the mission of the Center for the Arts is providing educational opportunities for the students,” he said. “I can’t think of anything better than this.”

While a pelting rain and a traffic-snarling automobile accident likely kept some away, others made the trek.

“It took us an hour to get here from Land O’ Lakes, but I’m glad we made it,” said Elaine Grunewald. She brought her two sons, Jeremy and Zachary, who are both sixth-graders at Pine View Middle School. “It’s just wonderful for them to be here,” Mrs. Grunewald said. “To see all this is such good opportunity.”

No doubt being able to sit in with a band that has received a Grammy nomination for the CD Got the Spirit and was nominated for Jazz Recording of the Year by the European publication Jazz Europe was a big draw for students.

“We’ve started to do more workshops with the band. We’re getting into it more,” McMillion said. “I think it’s good for the kids. I wish I had something like this when I was in high school.”

Of course it helps to have a captive audience: kids who are into jazz.

Like 17-year-old John O’Leary, who was tickling the ivories and loving it under the watchful eyes of the orchestra’s pianist, Richard Drexler. John has been playing piano, “mostly classical,” since he was 4

“Then I heard some good jazz, like Oscar Peterson.”

That was it for the Zephyrhills High senior, who got an added thrill when Drexler gave him his phone number and said, “Give me a call sometime.”

While John was working it out with the percussion section, Brian Schmidt, 16, and four other trumpet players were getting some help toiling through a four-bar phrase while the sound of a lone saxophone playing Birdland drifted in from another room.

“If you’re going to make a mistake, make a big one, a loud one,” Chad Shoopman, 29, told the group. “Don’t play into the stand. Keep your bells up.”

“The lip is not the main thing,” said McMillion, who advised the students to sit up straight so they could breathe correctly. “If you’re all hunched over, there’s no way you can get a breath. It’s the air that makes the high notes come out. It’s the air that makes your sound.”

“It’s great that they came out to work with us younger people and tell us how they got good so we can get good,” said Brian, a junior at Zephyrhills High School.

Coming out a little early for the kids wasn’t a problem for trombone player Keith Oshiro. “It’s good to share with the kids. It’s good for them to get the experience of working with a professional,” said Oshiro, 36, who spent a little time reflecting on his own high school years in Mountain View, Calif.

“I was lucky. My school had a strong jazz program. I’ll never forget our band director. Outside of my mother and father, she’s been the most inspirational person in my life.”

For Raul Magras, 18, an alto sax player from Wesley Chapel High, the highlight of his night was getting up on stage with the orchestra to play Morgan’s Organ. His inspiration came with a little prodding from his music teacher, Valerie Gillespie, who also plays saxophone with the Dan McMillion Jazz Orchestra.

“Ms. Gillespie told me I had enough experience to do it. She said, ‘I have faith in you. You can do it.’ I was nervous going up,” Raul said, “but it was well worth it.”

Music lovers, take note

The All-County Chorus Concert will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Pasco Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel High School on Wells Road. The All-County Symphonic Band Concert will be 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1 at the Center for the Arts at River Ridge High School. The All- County Jazz Band Concert will be 7:30 p.m. April 5 at the Pasco Center for the Arts.

Aspiring Teen Singer Finds Opera Opportunity, St. Petersburg Times by Chase Squires, November 17, 2002

The lights are dim; the setting is an elegant Italian restaurant, and the sound of an operatic aria floats through the night. Its downtown Zephyrhills and its 15-year-old Kristi Beinhauer. For Beinhauer, it’s another night on the job. As a sophomore at Zephyrhills High School, she has launched a musical career she hopes will take her to the bright lights and big city. Already a veteran of professional musical productions in Tampa, she landed a regular gig Friday and Saturday nights at Manolo’s Italiano Ristorante. Weekend diners are treated to operatic selections as Beinhauer strolls through the restaurant, her soprano voice echoing off the high ceilings. “I was in dancing class when I was 3,” she said this week. “So I’ve always been around music. I was in chorus at school, and when I was about 12 or 13 I asked my mother for voice lessons.” Her mother said she was skeptical at first.

“I said I know I can sing,” Beinhauer said. “We were in the kitchen. I made her turn around so she wasn’t looking at me, and I said, ‘Listen.’ I sang Oh, Holy Night.”I said, ‘okay,’ her mother, Eileen, said.  That “okay” transformed both mother’s and daughter’s lives into a whirl of auditions, voice lessons, dance class, play rehearsals, appearances at civic events and work. Nightly practices send them hustling from school to the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center for evenings that keep them out until 1 a.m. Then it’s up early in the morning and back to school (where she is enrolled in honors classes) and some time for church. In those few spare moments, Beinhauer said she surfs the Internet and is learning to play the piano. Around the house, her musical tastes vary, from Christian punk music to Frank Sinatra classics. Obviously, she said, there’s not time for much else. Television pretty much ceased to exist for her. “I don’t think I’ve watched TV in months,” she said. “Maybe a few minutes here and there, but I don’t have time.” This weekend she’s off to a Fort Lauderdale audition for the Broadway version of the Lion King, and next week is a call-back for an audition for a musical film production in Orlando. If one of those jobs comes through, Beinhauer and her mother said they’ll do whatever they have to do – even if that means moving to New York City. For now, she’s a professional performer in that she’s getting paid, though not a lot. Most of what she earns goes into the bank for college or to pay her travel and other expenses, she said. Her father, Jerry, is a teacher at Stewart Middle School. He goes along to most late-night practices and said he would have to find a way to keep up with work while helping his daughter move ahead with her career. He said the family has always stood behind Kristi and her three older brothers but never insisted they do anything. “We didn’t push Kristi, but it was like with her brothers, we used to do all the Little League games. We didn’t drop them off; we went, and we’d stay with them. You’re there for them,” Jerry Beinhauer said. “But I’ve always said ‘enjoy it.’ When it’s not fun anymore, you’ve got to do something else.”

His daughter said she’s still having fun. “By the time I’m 22, I’d like to be at the Met,” she said, referring to New York’s Metropolitan Opera. But if Broadway comes calling instead, that’s okay too, she said. Either way, Beinhauer said the key is being persistent, open to new challenges and willing to try. “You can’t be shy, and you can’t be sensitive,” she said. “You’ll get your feelings hurt in a minute.”

Playoff Preparation, St. Petersburg Times, By Chris Auman, November 22, 2002

Chris Bounnell is exaggerating, but not by much. “They’ll have more coaches than we’ll have players,” said the Zephyrhills offensive coordinator, talking about tonight’s second- round playoff game between the Bulldogs and state-ranked Tampa Jesuit.

In truth, Jesuit lists only nine varsity coaches – with another five on the junior varsity staff – while Zephyrhills and its five varsity coaches will line up with 25 players tonight.

The Bulldogs have prided themselves on being outnumbered all season, as they will be tonight against the visiting Tigers.

State playoff guidelines state that teams must cap their rosters at 60, which means 16 players from Jesuit’s regular-season roster won’t suit up tonight. Zephyrhills doesn’t have to worry about who makes the cut.

“They’ll have five or six kickers, and we don’t have six offensive linemen,” said Bounnell, 45, who relishes the closeness the numbers crunch has forged among the Bulldogs.

That’s true among the players, but also among the Zephyrhills coaching staff, which has had the same five for three years. Head coach Tom Fisher is in his 14th season leading the orange and black, and Bounnell has been with him for the past 12.

“We work together – I don’t consider them working for me, but with me,” said Fisher, who turned 50 in March. “They’re hard workers; they do everything I ask of them. This is probably the closest team I’ve had, like an extended family.”

Bounnell read a newspaper article last month that detailed the demands on high school football coaches, the long hours and late nights at the office, and the Bulldog assistant coach realized he didn’t relate to the story as he once might have at other schools.

“At Escambia, driving home at night, I can remember almost falling asleep at the gate, before I even left the school,” Bounnell said. “And that was with a big staff. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to have a big staff, but here, we have guys who really work.”

It’s more than just calling plays. Before a game, they’re wrapping ankles, tossing rolls of tape across the locker room. They line the field during their planning period, and after a game, they line up for what Bounnell calls the “Hazel drill,” after the ’60s TV show. They line up with spray bottles, spot-cleaning uniforms before tossing them in the wash. Blood, sweat and tears go into winning football games, but somebody has to get all of that out so the jerseys look white next week.

Fisher made the decision this year not to bring his coaching staff in for meetings on weekends. After Friday’s game, he makes copies of game tapes. Each assistant breaks down the tape at home.

“We’ve normally met on Sundays, but with 22 (players), what can you meet about?” asked assistant coach Brian Matthews.

“If someone plays bad, who am I going to replace him with? We thought it was a waste of time, and it really hasn’t made a difference. Everybody does their homework with tape over the weekend, and we come in Monday and go to work.”

That leaves more time for coaches to be with their families, a luxury many high school coaches don’t have during football season. It’s a sacrifice Fisher decided shouldn’t have to be made, and it certainly hasn’t hurt the Bulldogs success. In 58 seasons before this year, Zephyrhills had one home playoff game, a total they will triple with tonight’s home game against Jesuit. And with football or family, coaches want to be at home as much as possible.

“I’ve never been jealous of football,” said Fisher’s wife of 18 years, Gail, who often has all the coaches over to watch area scores on the local news after games.

“Tom doesn’t watch a lot of college football, and he’s not an NFL fanatic, so it’s often me who has it on and winds up calling him into the room to see a big play. I suppose he gets his fill during the week.”

Gail Fisher knows her husband burns out a VCR every year, watching and rewinding, watching and rewinding, and the same four- head VCR costs $59.95 at Circuit City every fall and needs to be replaced by the end of summer. She’ll often watch tape with her husband, asking questions and picking up her own insights. Family is important for Fisher, who went to Thursday’s practice toting a clipboard bearing the name of one of his three daughters, Kelsey.

Fisher’s passion is football, and has been since he started coaching after graduating from Bowling Green State University in his native Ohio. He followed his high school coach to Bradenton in 1977 and moved to Pasco County two years later, getting his first head coaching job at Zephyrhills in 1989.

His football success both borrows from and contributes to success in other sports at Zephyrhills. Bounnell is the school’s weightlifting coach, and assistant coach Matt McDermott is an assistant in wrestling, where the Bulldogs will open the season ranked third in Class 3A.

Fisher likes to rotate his coaches to different positions every few years, which brings a fresh insight to the same challenges and gives all the coaches a better understanding of the game – and each other.

“We know each other in and out,” Bounnell said. “Matt’s been here seven years, Troy (Hochstetler) five, and since (Brian) Matthews came in three years ago, he hasn’t missed a beat.”

Matthews came up with the signaling system the Bulldogs use to call in offensive plays. While many teams shuffle in a player with a play on each down, Zephyrhills doesn’t have enough depth to use players solely as messengers.

That is the unique challenge facing the Bulldogs – get more wins with fewer players, which requires a commitment to conditioning and players who are ready to play every down if necessary.

“We have a lot of different personalities and coaching philosophies, but we somehow make it work,” McDermott said.

“Some are hardliners on discipline, some are not. As assistants, we’re listened to and our advice is taken, which makes you want to work hard. It doesn’t always look like we should get along, but we’ve got along great the past few years.”

Six Pasco Schools Make the Playoffs, St. Petersburg Times, by Jamal Thalji, November 11, 2002

More than 3,000 packed Gator Stadium on Friday night to watch the Gators of Land O’ Lakes High School pull off a last-minute 27-23 victory over the Wildcats of Wesley Chapel High in one of the biggest and most dramatic prep football games ever played in county history.

But it was just the beginning.

A record six Pasco County high schools – Land O’ Lakes, Mitchell, Pasco, Ridgewood, Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills – are in the state football playoffs, the most ever to represent the area.

“To have six teams in the playoffs in Pasco County says a lot about our county,” Pasco coach Ricky Thomas said. “It says a lot about our coaches and our players here and I’m just proud to be a part of it.”

The playoff pairings were announced by the Florida High School Activities Association on Sunday evening, and the first round will be played throughout the state at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.

Each of the two schools hosting playoff games in the county won its respective district championship. Land O’ Lakes, which finished the regular season, an undefeated 10-0 and won the county championship, will host Ocala Vanguard (6-4) at Gator Stadium. The Gators are ninth in the state Class 4A rankings and are making their 11th playoff appearance in coach John Benedetto’s 25-year career.

Zephyrhills (9-1) will host Bartow (4-6) at Bulldog Stadium. It is the fifth playoff appearance in coach Tom Fisher’s 14 years.

Top of the Class, St. Petersburg Times, November 14, 2001

Shaun Oudit has been named Student of the Month at Zephyrhills High School. Mrs. Ruthie Ashmore was named School Related Person of the Month. Language arts teacher, Mrs. Nanette Campbell was honored as Teacher of the Month. Freshman class officers: president, Whitney Blue; vice president, Becky Paul; secretary, Beverly Paul; treasurer, Christine Britt. Honor Society officers: president, Marie Risalvato; vice president, Lindsey Davis; secretary, Kassidy Chauncey; treasurer, Kelli Ryman. School Advisory Council members: Robert Benedini, Mariellen Blackstone, Whitney Blue, Phyllis Carroll, Bethany Coasts, Debbie Collura, James Davis, Virginia Doolittle, Dan Dwyer, June Herndon, Judy Hill, Dave Marshall, Carlotta Mathis, Greg Mathis, Lisa Moates, Gloria Mouw, Rachel Nash, David Pickerall, Tim Pierson, Kimberly Reese, Margo Scranton, Joe Sokol, Doris Stevens, Trevor TenBrink, Cindy Thompson, Brooke Tindale, Terry Turner and Ernest Wise.

Newsmakers, St. Petersburg Times, October 31, 2001

Desiree D’Alessandro, left, playing Rena Leslie, Brandon Butts, playing Newton Fuller, and Carol Retey, playing Annabelle Fuller, rehearse last week for the play George Washington Slept Here at the Zephyrhills High School theater.

Top of the Class, St. Petersburg Times, October 10, 2001

Top Dog recipients from Zephyrhills High School are: Kristen Benedini, Shaun Oudit, and Mickey Davis. Shaun Oudit.

Homecoming candidates: Freshmen: Sarah Johnson, Brian Phillips. Sophomores: Morgan Griffith, Tony Smiley. Junior princess candidates: Jamie Bair, Jessica Doss, Megan Simmons, and Amanda Wregg. Junior prince candidates: Kyle Briscoe, Josh Gainey, Dustin Hill, Jamen Monbarren. Senior queen candidates: Sara Messick, Amara Monbarren, Dezeree Moss, Sheena Rosenweig. Senior king candidates: Frank Fregoso, Edgardo Rivera, Augusta Smiley, Aaron Young.

Varsity Night Of Firsts, St. Petersburg Times, September 2, 2001, by John Cotey

There was no pomp or circumstance Friday night, when for the very first time the Mitchell Mustangs took the field for a varsity football game.

No pep rallies. No screaming fans. No painted faces hollering from the stands at their favorite players.

Pretty much just what Mitchell coach Scott Schmitz was hoping for.

And here’s something he wasn’t: a 35-13 loss to Zephyrhills in the school’s varsity football debut.

“We played hard,” Schmitz said. “We had a couple of tough breaks, but we played hard.”

Mitchell did not enter the high school football scene with a bang. Sure, there was the requisite charge-through-the-paper-banner beginning, but otherwise the Mustangs mirrored their coach, the towering Schmitz, and simply went about the business of playing a high school football game.

“That’s how we approach things,” said Schmitz, shortly after being welcomed back to the county coaching ranks by Zephyrhills athletic director Craig Milburn following the game.

“We really just look at this as an opportunity to win our first varsity game.”

Mitchell’s businesslike approach has an explanation – this wasn’t really the team’s first game. Last year, thanks to a schedule contract quirk that prohibited the team from being able to play enough games, Mitchell chose to field a junior varsity team instead.

Whereas Schmitz had to use a freshman- and sophomore-laden roster at River Ridge when he started that program in 1991 (and went 0-10), this time around he came in with a battle-tested group.

The differences were readily apparent. River Ridge lost its first game 53-0; Mitchell gave Zephyrhills all it could handle and had a chance to win it.

“We’ve played before, that’s the difference,” Schmitz said.

Mitchell did not look like a first-year school for much of the game, but, when it mattered most, it did.

Great runs were followed by great gaffes. Lineman who had delivered blocks that sprung the backs for big gains folded like paper beneath a sea of Zephyrhills orange. A nifty 14-yard touchdown run by Derek Shortz was tempered by repeated breakdowns that led to negative gains on many second half carries. A sensational tipped catch by Reggie Moise was negated by a sensational tipped interception that thwarted a Mustang rally.

But there were highlights, like Shortz gaining 30 yards on the Mustangs’ first touchdown drive, capped by his 14-yard run for the first Mitchell score (at 7:49 p.m., for those keeping track at home). Moise was impressive, leading the team with 84 yards. The defense, which played much better than the score indicates, allowed just 126 yards.

And there were plenty of firsts, like the first carry (7:33 p.m. by Moise), the first pass and catch by quarterback Sean Gillen and D.J. Santinoff (at 7:43 p.m.), the first big fourth down decision (at 8:02 p.m.; Mitchell went for it and failed).

The first fumble was at 8:23 p.m., which unfortunately marked the first injury as Spencer Brown dropped the ball after seriously injuring his knee. The first interception was thrown at 9:23 p.m., the first blocked field goal came at 9:28, and the first “Uh-Oh, I think we’re in trouble now” moment came at 9:35 p.m. when Gillen was picked off and the interception was returned for a touchdown marking the beginning of the end.

Through it all, the Mitchell coaching staff praised, prodded and pleaded with the players to hang in there, to fix the mistakes, to play like, well, they weren’t a first-year varsity team.

Because in Schmitz’s eyes, it isn’t. But it is special, he admitted, and if there was nothing there to mark the occasion in Zephyrhills, don’t worry, the home opener is next week against Pasco.

“I didn’t make a big deal out of this game,” Schmitz said. “We’ll probably save that for next week.”

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