Student Rush brings Lightning tickets to students for a fair price

Over the past few years, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Student Rush ticket program has gained popularity.

The program gives students with a valid high school or college ID the chance to purchase the best available tickets shortly before game time at a fair price.

“We think it’s a great program for both sides,” said Patrick Abts, the Lightning’s Digital Marketing Manager who oversees Student Rush. “It allows us to fill some of the last remaining seats with some of our best fans.”

Students are allowed to line up for Student Rush tickets as early as 7 a.m. on game days, and remain in line until two hours prior to game time to be given a wristband with their number in line.

Thirty minutes before game time, the students are led to the box office where they can purchase the best available tickets at a discounted rate. For the playoffs, any remaining lower level seats will be sold for $50, which normally ranges between $100 and $300. Standing room and upper level tickets will be sold for $25.

“Student Rush is amazing,” said Kristen Thomas, who arrived at 9 a.m. for tickets. “We do this all the time. It gives us a chance to root on the Bolts when we normally wouldn’t be able to afford playoff tickets. “

Organizers believe that if the Lightning continues through the playoffs, the demand will continue to grow and ultimately exceed the supply.

“We’re guaranteeing 100 tickets per game for the playoffs,” Abts said. “We don’t know until game time whether they are lower, upper, or standing room, but we’re guaranteeing 100 per game and may have more depending on the game.”

Abts and his colleagues agree that the best way students can guarantee themselves a Student Rush ticket is to arrive as close to 7 a.m. as possible.

Water sports fun and competition for the family

The Tampa Bay Water Ski Show Team hosts weekly shows on Saturday nights from April to October at its home location in Oldsmar in Tower Lake.

The team has been around since the 1960’s. It focuses on both the entertainment and competitive side of water skiing.

“Most of the families that join us, join us because they want to get their kids involved in something,” said Steve Sacone, the team president. “They’re not looking to get involved in typical youth sports, they’re looking for something a little bit different.”

Veteran skier and University of South Florida professor Dr. Larry Dunleavy is focusing on the upcoming Southern Regional Championship in Sarasota June 18-19.

“We’ve won a bunch of times, but the competition is getting better all the time,” Dr. Dunleavy said. “We’re always looking for fresh faces to help improve the team.”

The team is always looking for new members and there is never a limit on how many people can participate. Anyone looking to join can find more information on the the Tampa Bay Water Ski Show Team website or go to one of its many practices during the week.

Corolla Turned “Truckolla”

There are many reasons people in the United States love trucks.  They are great for driving off-road, hauling trailers and managing fuel economy.  Trucks are the kind of vehicle that can turn boys into men in a heartbeat.  However, can a car be like a truck or at least look like one?

“Turning cars into trucks can happen,” said Nikola Vlacic, a graduate from the University of South Florida.

On Feb. 26, with the help of his friends, he proved this to be true.  The car that Vlacic chose to get the job done was his beloved 2001 Toyota Corolla.  As a result, the car went from Corolla to “Truckolla” in a 12-hour conversion.  Sit back, relax and see the all new 2016 Toyota “Truckolla” come to life.

Tampa Coach Leads Students to Success Through Basketball

For Rychard Williams, being a basketball coach at Rey Park is more than just teaching kids how to score. It gives him the opportunity to help many students and keep them on the right path.

Williams started a nonprofit organization,“We Got Talent,” where he helps his students gain access to higher education by utilizing their athletic and academic abilities

“I was trying to figure out how I could do different things for my kids, to show them different things. I had students that didn’t receive college offers when I thought they should have,” said Williams.

Coach Williams trains his students with scholarship opportunities in mind, but to teach life lessons as well.

“I think I’ve learned how to be a part of a team better and how to carry myself better,” said Charles Dunn, a Blake High School freshman. “Knowing I’m a part of that foundation, coach has just helped me make better decisions and be a better person.”

He meets with his students every day after school to give them a place to be productive. This gives them an opportunity to do their homework, play games and workout.

Williams plans to take some of the kids on a trip to Atlanta, Georgia over spring break to keep them occupied. He will also take them to an Atlanta Hawks basketball game, which most of the students are excited about.

For more information, contact coach Williams at WGTINC4LIFE@GMAIL.COM.

A dedication to competition

More than 30,000 participants gathered in downtown Tampa last weekend for the 2016 Gasparilla Distance Classic. Leading the pack was Joey Gibbs, a young athlete who has overcome paralysis to keep racing.

Gibbs was one of four racers in the 15K wheelchair division. These athletes started the races just five minutes before the running participants.

“Oh, yeah, he’ll typically outrun everybody at an event like this,” said Matt Gibbs, Joey’s father, when asked about Gibbs’ exceptionally fast pace compared to the running participants.

This claim was proven when Gibbs crossed the finish line minutes before anyone else in the race with a time of 34:57.

Gibbs was paralyzed in a motocross accident when he was 11-years-old. After losing the use of his legs, he pursued racing in other ways like cart and RC-car racing.

“I always had that mentality, that drive or that determination and it just stuck with me,” said Gibbs.

Gibbs embraced wheelchair racing when he joined the track team during his sophomore year at Vanguard High School in Ocala, Florida.

Since then, Gibbs has competed at an elite level all over the country; earning 48 medals over his career, including six state and seven national championship titles. Gibbs simply wouldn’t let his condition stop him.

His current goal is to compete in the 2020 Paralympics in Japan.

USF Spring Game Introduces Block Party, Concert

 

Whether USF fans cheered on the White team or the Green team, a new experience was ushered in at this year’s spring football game.

Billed as the Bulls Block Party, the event started two hours before kickoff as 4,418 fans made their way through the Corbett Stadium gates.

“It’s creating the feel of the tailgate party we have in front of Raymond James stadium, but bringing it here to the spring game on campus,” said Leni Baga, USF Director of Event Marketing and Licensing.

The Bulls Block Party included bounce houses, food trucks, and a student tailgate section. Bulls Radio resident DJs provided music before the game. A student band performed during the post-game football autograph line.

“The spring game has been fun on campus,” said USF student, Taylor Sanchez. “But I think this is really the first year that they made it its own event.”

USF’s campus soccer stadium has hosted the football preview for three years, providing an opportunity for the athletics department to build new traditions.

According to Assistant Director of Athletics for Marketing Adam Schemm, one of those traditions was the Create Your Own T-shirt Station. Fans narrowed down 12 design options to three that they could choose to get printed on a T-shirt.

“The fans really like them,” Schemm said. “It’s something different from what you would be able to get at your normal retail store.”

Regular football season begins for the Bulls on Saturday, September 3 against Towson University at Raymond James Stadium.

NFL hopefuls show off their skills at USF pro day

Football is no longer just a game for a group of former Bulls turned NFL hopefuls, it’s a business. And these 14 prospects participated in their first job interview March 21 at the Frank Morsani Football Complex during USF’s annual pro day.

For this interview, a button-up shirt and tie were not required. Instead, skin-tight gray shirts with neon green lettering stretched over the bodies of these young, ambitious athletes as they attempted to leap, run and muscle their way into an NFL camp.

Photo by Jacob Hoag. Participants Eric Lee, Sean Price and Marlon Pope slip in a few jokes and memories before drills commence at Monday's pro day. This was the first time all of the 14 attendees had been together since their loss to Western Kentucky back in February.
Participants Eric Lee, Sean Price and Marlon Pope slip in a few jokes and memories before drills commence at USF’s pro day. This was the first time all of the 14 attendees had been together since their loss to Western Kentucky back in February.  Photo by Jacob Hoag.

 

Photo by Jacob Hoag. Former USF defensive end Eric Lee runs the cone drill at Monday's combine shortly after running the day's third-best 40-yard dash at 4.56 seconds. Lee weighed in at 254 pounds of solid muscle.
Former USF defensive end Eric Lee runs the cone drill at USF’s pro day shortly after running the day’s third-best 40-yard dash at 4.56 seconds. Lee weighed in at 254 pounds. Photo by Jacob Hoag.
Photo by Jacob Hoag Wincing in fatigue, son of a former 1986 first-round draft pick, guard Thor Jozwiak, has far more obstacles in his path to an NFL job. Jozwiak is slated to go undrafted in May's draft.
Wincing in fatigue, son of a former 1986 first-round draft pick, guard Thor Jozwiak, has far more obstacles in his path to an NFL job. Jozwiak is slated to go undrafted in the upcoming NFL draft. Photo by Jacob Hoag.
Photo by Jacob Hoag. Arguably USF's top NFL draft prospect, safety Jamie Byrd looks on as he was unable to participate in most of Monday's drills due to a nagging hamstring injury. Byrd will attend a local workout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on April 15th. His times and drills will be recorded there.
Arguably USF’s top NFL draft prospect, safety Jamie Byrd looks on as he was unable to participate in most of USF’s pro day drills due to a nagging hamstring injury. Byrd will attend a local workout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on April 15. His times and drills will be recorded there. Photo by Jacob Hoag.
Photo by Jacob Hoag Former USF defensive lineman James Hamilton lunges at the pads during a slew of positional drills. Weighing in at 308 pounds, Hamilton was one of the heaviest participants.
Former USF defensive lineman James Hamilton lunges at the pads during a slew of positional drills. Weighing in at 308 pounds, Hamilton was one of the heaviest participants. Photo by Jacob Hoag.
Photo by Jacob Hoag. Former backup quarterback for the Bulls Steven Bench throws a scripted sequence of passes for NFL and CFL scouts on hand. Bench had arguably the most impressive showing at Monday's pro day running a 4.55 40-yard dash and leading all participants with a 35 1/2-inch vertical jump.
Former backup quarterback for the Bulls, Steven Bench, throws a scripted sequence of passes for NFL and CFL scouts on hand. Bench had arguably the most impressive showing at USF’s pro day running a 4.55 40-yard dash and leading all participants with a 35 1/2-inch vertical jump. Photo by Jacob Hoag.
Photo by Jacob Hoag. Tight end Sean price shows athleticism after being medically cleared to resume physical activities three weeks ago afollowing a PCL injury in USF's February bowl game. He ran a 4.7 40-yard-dash in Monday's pro day.
Tight end Sean price shows athleticism after being medically cleared to resume physical activities three weeks prior following a PCL injury in USF’s February bowl game. He ran a 4.7 40-yard dash at USF’s pro day. Photo by Jacob Hoag.

From Bikes to Books

 

One clear evening last February, amid the crowd of screaming fans and the stench of race fuel permeating the stadium, Bodie Colangelo walked away from his professional motocross career to focus on a new dream.

Having been dropped from his sponsors earlier that year, Colangelo was considered a privateer racer. Privateers paid for the sport out of pocket. With endless medical bills and large sums of money contributing to his profession, the wrist injury he suffered at that Supercross Arena competition had been the last straw.

“I realized the risks outweighed the reward,” Colangelo said. “I was constantly getting hurt and the money just wasn’t there.”

His success throughout his career had left him unprepared of what steps to take if it had ended. Attending a university after graduation had not been a consideration. The goal had been to focus on riding but Colangelo was forced to reconsider school as option after his injury.

“I felt if I wasn’t going to race anymore that I would go to school and pursue a degree in business,” Colangelo said. “At that point I was just ready to take it easy.”

Colangelo enrolled at Hillsborough Community College in the spring and has been focusing on completing his degree. The slower paced lifestyle gave light on how years of riding have affected his health.

“I’ve broken so many bones they have my racing jersey hanging in USF’s Morsani Center,” Colangelo said. “When the weather changes my bones will ache and I have constant back pain.”

David Colangelo, who served as a father, coach, mechanic and trainer while his son was a racer had also benefited from the change of pace. There were no days off between working as a supervisor at a Water Treatment Plant and traveling for races.
“Every sacrifice I made was worth it to see his dream come true,” David Colangelo said. “The focus is to now see him through school.”

On nostalgic days, Colangelo will take his bike out for a spin. He isn’t a stranger to his old racing track where he spent much of his adolescent years. Unable to stay away from hobbies that bring him a thrill, he has since shown interest in muscle cars and racecars.

Brandi Colangelo, the racers mother, has a hard time seeing her son in any dangerous sport. Staying home with the youngest sibling while her husband and son were away at races gave her plenty of time to worry. Now that the racing days are behind them she now faces a new wave of fear with her son’s new obsession for muscle cars.

“The first thing he did after he stopped racing was buy muscle car,” Brandi Colangelo said. “I don’t know what’s worse, worrying about him on that bike or worrying about him in that car.”

With the continued support of his family, Colangelo is set to graduate in the spring of 2018. Unsure of where his life will go now that racing isn’t the dream he’s following, he was hopeful for a bright future.

“Things didn’t go as planned for me but I know that somehow I’ll end up back on that track,” Colangelo said.

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USF Tennis Club Attracts Novice and Veteran Players

 

 

Every week, dozens of students take a break from classes and come together to enjoy a sport they love.

The USF Tennis Club has been a part of the sports club program on campus for over 10 years and has reached thousands of students over their time on campus. Whether you have played your whole life, or just started the sport, the tennis club has both a fun and competitive atmosphere to reach all levels of players.

“I’ve played tennis my entire life and I really love the sport. But when high school ended I didn’t think I would be able to play anymore,” said Nicole Viera, a member of the club for 2 years. “But joining the tennis club gave me the opportunity to continue playing in a very competitive atmosphere.”

The club is a completely student-run organization on campus. Every year members vote for officers for the club and training is done by the members themselves, rather than by a coach.

“We strive to make a competitive and social atmosphere for people that enjoy tennis,” said Samad Loa, the Vice President of the club. “Just come out and have some fun, play some games and play some matches.”

The tennis club at USF is one of the school’s most competitive clubs on a national level. The club finished second in the state of Florida last year, and also finished 20th at the national tournament.

“We try to just come out and make some friends that will last a lifetime,” said Loa. “Just enjoy tennis, that’s kind of what our club is all about.”

Rays Begin Spring Training

Port Charlotte- Fans couldn’t have been more excited as the Tampa Bay Rays baseball season officially began in southwest Florida. After a loss in their spring opener against the Nationals, Rays’ fans came to Charlotte Sports Park looking for a win against the Orioles on Friday.

“These games matter to us!” said Cynthia Howard, a Rays’ fan from Sarasota. “We love baseball so much that we want wins even when they don’t count.”

Howard was joined by William Hall, her boyfriend, who happened to be an Orioles fan.

“The Orioles will win today. We lost yesterday too, so we came here looking to win,” Hall said.

Howard’s team came out on top as the Rays defeated the Orioles 10-3. The Rays first win of the spring was highlighted by newcomer Corey Dickerson’s long home run in the 2nd.

Acquired in a trade from the Rockies in the offseason, Dickerson drilled a towering shot over the Rays’ clubhouse in right field. The Rays have reported that the ball stopped rolling in the parking lot 569 feet from home plate.

It was quite the debut for Dickerson; something Rays’ fans hope is a sign of things to come.

USF Women’s Basketball Will Return to NCAA Tournament

The University of South Florida women’s basketball team is returning to the NCAA Tournament after earning a No. 6 seed during this year’s Selection Show on Monday.

The team joined fans at the USF Sun Dome for a selection show watch party. Players had front row seats to the screen, to watch the announcement was broadcasted nationally on ESPN.

“It was nerve-racking to think that you’ll be that next team called,” senior guard Courtney Williams said. “I’m excited that we finally got our name called and the teams that we’re playing.”

This year’s tournament begins for the Bulls in Los Angeles, where they will play a ranked Colorado State team currently on a 28-game winning streak. The winner of that matchup will go on to play either UCLA or Hawaii in the second round.

This group of seniors brings experience to the program’s twelfth post-season tournament appearance in 13 years. Three of the team’s four NCAA Tournament runs happened in the past four years.

“They’re a veteran team,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “They know what’s at stake. Your next game can be your last.”

USF opened the season with a victory over NCAA Tournament team Jacksonville before going on to eventually defeat top 50 rating percentage index teams Chattanooga and Oklahoma State. The Bulls maintained their AP top 25 ranking all season and finished the season with a No. 21 RPI.

The Bulls are scheduled to play Saturday.

Technology implementation helps Bulls batters to improve their performance

Hitting a round ball with a round bat might be the single most difficult thing to do in sports. Baseball players of the University of South Florida spend a lot of time in the film room before they step inside the batters box.

“We’re able to look at guys swings in practice, in games, and in intersquads,” Bulls Head Coach Mark Kingston said. “How we like to use video the most is get a good library of when a guy is really swinging it well, and when he may be struggling, and then what we can do is put those videos next to each other, and you see what the differences are.”

Assistant Coach Mike Current is the czar of the film room and helps to mold his players into complete hitters.

“I think video is a big part of the instruction process. Sometimes it’s difficult to explain something to a guy and him listen to what you’re saying and understand how to translate it into action,” Current said. “But when he can actually see what’s going on and see what you’re talking about it’s a lot easier to make adjustments.”

Technological advances have ensured that players like freshman Garrett Zech have advantages that generation before his did not.

“The work we do in the film with Coach Current has definitely helped my mechanics and ability to compete at this level,” Zech said.

When Kingston played baseball professionally, the ability to watch video was not as easy as it is today.

“They’d sometimes bring out a camera, and you could watch it or you’d see the highlights on the news that night and tape it,” Kingston said. “These days guys can get instant feedback. I think the instant feedback is really the key to how video is used these days.”

Inaugural Carolina Sled Hockey Classic

 

From Mar. 11 to Mar. 13, 2016, the Polar Ice House of Wake Forest in Wake Forest, North Carolina was home to The Inaugural Carolina Sled Hockey Classic. 

The Carolina Sled Classic featured 50 disabled athletes from five different teams from throughout the southeast United States. 

The teams featured in the photo essay are the Nashville Sled Preds and the Virginia Beach Hockey Club Sled Team. The game was dominated by the Sled Preds, who eventually went on to play in the championship game.

 

Rays Fan Fest 2016

Fans were given a chance to mingle with both players, coaches, and alumni. Autographs by some of the team favorites raised over $50,000 for charity. Carnival-style games and batting cages were enjoyed by fans of all ages.

After two decades of playing at Tropicana Field in St. Pete, word of the team seeking out a new stadium spread fast. With an official search for a site underway, fans were asked what they thought about the potential move.

Trevor Norman of Largo said, “I don’t think it’s really the whole far away factor…you hop on the interstate and you’re there. I think the biggest thing is probably parking. Kind of a shady area but, you know, I guess, I think if they could improve that they could definitely get more people to come.”

Key considerations of the new stadium include location, authenticity, and size. The Rays’ have suggested a site with at least 20 acres.

Season ticket holder Travis McManan isn’t going to let the relocation affect his loyalty to the Rays. “I’m a pretty hardcore baseball fan. If it’s Tampa, if it’s in St. Pete, if it’s in Orlando, as long as it’s a reasonable drive, I’m going to be right there,” McMahan said.

This year’s Fan Fest set a record attendance of over 17,000 people.

The first game of the season is scheduled for April 3rd. The Rays’ will take on the Toronto Blue Jays with a home field advantage.

Schoenfeld relieves with running

Running between the crowds of cheering families and friends at Epcot, Steven Schoenfeld kicked it into high gear as he approached the finish line, completing his second marathon this past January.

Schoenfeld, a sophomore at the University of South Florida, ran track competitively throughout high school, but was forced to stop before beginning college due to a minor knee injury which restricted his abilities.

With a desire to keep running, despite no longer competing, Schoenfeld signed up for a marathon and began to train himself.

“When I realized I couldn’t compete anymore, I just knew I had to do something that would keep me running,” said Schoenfeld. “Training for marathons gives me a reason to keep going and just makes me feel more connected to running.”

The marathon that Schoenfeld trains for is the Walt Disney World Marathon which is held every January. During this marathon, participants run 26.2 miles through all four Disney parks.

“I’ve been going to Disney all my life, so it’s awesome doing what I love at the parks I grew up going to,” said Schoenfeld. “It’s motivating seeing the different Disney characters cheering you on throughout the marathon.”

On top of training for marathons, Schoenfeld is an electrical engineering major at USF who is dedicated to his studies. He is also actively involved in band and Phi Mu Alpha, a social music fraternity.

“Ever since I can remember, I have been extremely involved in school,” said Schoenfeld.

Being involved in so many different activities and having a rigorous major tends to leave Schoenfeld feeling extremely stressed. Running is what Schoenfeld uses to disconnect from the strenuous lifestyle of academics and student life.

“There are days where I just know that I’ll be spending my night studying at the library,” said Schoenfeld. “I turn to running for stress relief because when I run, all I think about is the road ahead of me and not about any of my problems.”

When training for marathons, it is extremely crucial to have the support of both family and friends. Keegan Wertz, Schoenfeld’s little brother in Phi Mu Alpha, was extremely supportive during the training process and stood by to cheer Shcoenfeld during the marathon.

“I woke up at an ungodly hour of the morning to see Steven off on the day of his marathon and provide him with emotional support,” said Wertz. “I was also there to cheer him on from the sidelines as he crossed the finish line at Epcot. I couldn’t have been happier for him because I knew it was something he had been training and working extremely hard for.”

Schoenfeld also receives praise and respect for how well he manages to balance training, studying and staying involved.

His roommate, Justin Mouriz, has watched him grow as a person since he began college and admires his work ethic.

“The amount of work that Steven has put in for his marathons is unbelievable,” said Mouriz. “I can remember several days that he ran over 13 miles to keep his endurance up, and then took part in several activities for different organizations afterwards. All in all, Steven puts in a lot of work into all he does.”

School may be getting more rigorous and time consuming for Schoenfeld, but that is not stopping him from training for his next marathon in January 2017.

“It gets really hard to manage my time between training for a marathon and keeping up with school,” said Schoenfeld. “None of the struggles I go through before the marathon matter once I cross that finish line. It truly is the best feeling in the world.”

With the continued support of his friends and family, Schoenfeld eventually plans on running in a, iron man triathlon which consists of biking, swimming and running.

“Staying active is extremely important to me and I am always thinking of ways to challenge myself,” said Schoenfeld. “An iron man triathlon sounds like the ultimate challenge and I cannot wait to take that on.”

Getting social with the USF brand

Social media has never been more prevalent in college and professional sports than it is today. At the University of South Florida, Mike Farrell is the man behind the computer screen.

“A lot of it is one, developing a voice for our social channels and then two creating content that’s going to engage our fanbase,” Farrell said.

As the Director of Digital Content, Farrell is in charge of churning out vines, tweets, pictures and more across all of USF Athletics’ social media platforms every day.

“One of the things we want to do and want to push is to create stuff that is engaging, stuff that people want to consume, share, retweet and help spread the brand,” Farrell said.

One of the most important days for any athletic department each year is National Signing Day. Student athletes from all over the country officially sign with the school of their choosing. The content created by Farrell and his team made waves on a national level, including an appearance on Yahoo! Sports Dr. Saturday blog.

“This year in particular we had a couple national organizations, blogs, write about some of the things that we did,” Farrell said. “It was a lot of hard work, a lot of people put in a lot, a lot of hours for what’s really just a glorified morning. But I do think that it pays dividends in the end.”

The work Farrell puts in on a daily basis is critical to the growing online presence that is USF Athletics.

“For a large subset of our fans, if you don’t have that presence, you’re irrelevant,” Senior Associate Director of Athletics Andrew Goodrich said.

Even though Farrell is fully focused on the day-to-day task of enhancing USF Athletics’ presence online, he doesn’t lose sight of the big picture.

“When one person leaves, somebody else can come in and there’s no drop,” Farrell said. “That’s the USF brand. That’s the USF Athletics brand. That’s the USF football brand. There’s no change. That needs to be a constant.”

 

 

 

USF Oracle finds way to coexist with the online world

Print is not dying for The Oracle, USF’s independent student-run newspaper. It is evolving.

The paper has reduced their publication days from four times a week to two. Multimedia editor Adam Mathieu said the staff has to remain quick when delivering the news, but he felt relieved to print less frequently.

“We don’t have to worry about having a print product out by 12:30 (a.m.) four days a week,” Mathieu said.

Grace Hoyte, the editor-in-chief during the change, published a letter to the readers in December. In it, she wrote The Oracle “must accept” that readers are turning online for their news.

“The Oracle welcomes students from all majors to contribute,” she added, “and with a greater online presence, we will remain a forum for diverse voices and opinions.”

One of those areas includes social media. The newspaper’s sports section Twitter account conducted a poll in March to survey how their followers received from The Oracle. While print edged out the website option by five percentage points, 61 percent of those who responded said they received information through social media.

“We’re seeing more people comment and more posts shared. Just a very active Facebook account,” Mathieu said. “And then active hits on our website and more people heading to the website.”

While the new schedule reduces the quantity of newspapers circulated each week, Matthieu said the amount printed for each day remains unchanged at 8,000.

Not everyone settled in with the switch when they first found out. Sports editor Jacob Hoag said he liked being able to read the news on a physical copy.

“I wasn’t too happy with it,” Hoag said. “I thought it was going to hurt our production but it really hasn’t. We can do more feature stories in the paper and more hard news online.”

America’s Greatest Drag Racer 84-Years Strong

 

 

Ocala – An 84-year-old drag racing legend from Florida, has all the time in the world these days to tell his fans the story of his successful racing career and antique car museum.

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Don “Big Daddy” Garlits smiles with delight on a bright and sunny Friday afternoon, as he poses next to his 2011 Dodge Challenger Pro-Stock dragster.
  (Photo by Daniel S. Fisher)

 

Don “Big Daddy” Garlits is a retired American drag racing driver, and an automotive engineer for American drag racing.  Garlits is the all-time winning drag-racer with 144 national event victories, and a record 17 world drag racing championships, according to his online biography on garlits.com.  During a private tour at the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing, Garlits said he first earned the nickname “Big Daddy” from race announcer Bernie Partridge, after a dominant win at the 1962 U.S. Indianapolis Nationals in his famous Swamp Rat IV dragster.

“Back then, I was more of a top fuel driver because I like to build my cars light and fast,” Garlits said.  “When we first ran Swamp Rat IV at Indianapolis, the car kept breaking axles to a point where all the young drag racers started making fun of me.  Eventually, we got it fixed, and I set a new world record of 180.36 mph, and the announcer Bernie Partridge says, ‘Well, we’re gonna have to call him Big Daddy from now on, for he set a new world record folks.’ ”

Garlits eventually went on to break more quarter-mile speed records in his Swamp Rat dragsters, most notably for reaching a personal career best of 323.04 mph at the 2003 Gator-nationals in Gainesville, Florida with Swamp Rat 34.  In a 1985 Motorsport documentary by Steve Evans, Garlits said the Swamp Rat I was his favorite dragster.  In 1958, Garlits traveled to the Bakersfield quarter-mile in California with Swamp Rat I and became the first person to top 180 mph.

 

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To the right is Don Garlits’ Swamp Rat I, resting peacefully on a Friday afternoon in Swamp Rat Alley.  It was the first car back in 1958 to reach 180 mph on the quarter-mile.  (Photo by Daniel S. Fisher)

 

“Swamp Rat I is my favorite car in the whole world,” Garlits told Evans.  “It was the first car that I ran both nitro-methane gas, and the Chrysler Hemi engine.”

Even in retirement, Garlits still feels the need for speed, like a 5-year-old Ricky Bobby driving mama’s station wagon.  Garlits designed the world’s first and fastest all electric dragster in May 2014.  Garlits, who named the car Swamp Rat 37, set a 185.60 mph speed record at Bradenton Motorsports Park’s quarter-mile track.  Despite Garlits’ SR-37 being short from the 200 mph mark, he said he believes that the race is still on.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  “Swamp Rat 37 is an all-electric dragster that I am experimenting with now,” Garlits said.  “Two years ago, I set a world record of 185.60 mph on batteries, and I am trying to make it go 200 mph.”

In 1984, during Garlits’ storybook career in drag racing, he and his wife, Pat, started preparing grounds for his famous antique car and drag racing museum.  Thirty-three years later, the Don Garlits Drag Racing Museum is still in business off of Interstate-75 in Ocala.

“In the opening year, we sold 27,000 tickets,” Garlits said.  “Since then, we have been averaging about 45,000 people a year, and have expanded the museum to about 65,000 feet of show area.  As you can tell, we are full up, so we’re going to need more space.”

Garlits was born in Tampa in 1932, and has remained a resident of the Sunshine State.  Today, he lives with his family in Ocala, on the same 16 acres of land near his museum.

Garlits has won the National Hot Rod Association U.S. Nationals eight times, and was the first to top 170, 180, 200, 240, 250, 260, and 270 mph, according to his online biography. For having such an illustrious career, it is no wonder that his name is synonymous in the Motorsports world.

Among the nine people who attended a private tour recently was Jim Morningstar from Dayton, Ohio.  Morningstar enjoyed his first time at the museum, which he said was part of his five-day Florida vacation.

“Recently, I have spent two days out of my five-day Florida vacation coming here,” Morningstar said.  “And I have enjoyed every minute of my time with Mr. Big Daddy.”

Twins Find Independence in College Basketball

Andrea and Andrell Smith weren’t like other twins.  No, together these girls achieved a district championship, a national junior college championship and being named to the all-big first and second team.  They had obvious basketball talent.

“We had fun and we knew it was serious and we wanted to be good, but never did I think I would play professionally,” said Andrell Smith.

A college athletic career became more of a reality for the dynamic duo in 12th grade. They graduated high school to go on to play at Gulf Coast Community College, then later transferred to the University of South Florida.

“We came to South Florida to make a name for South Florida and to also make a name for [ourselves],” said Andrea Smith.

As seniors, they led USF to the NCAA tournament.  A professional career became promising for the two guards.

“I always wanted to be a professional athlete. I always wanted to, you know, play basketball for my career,” said Andrea.

After being drafted in the third round, Andrea became just the second Polk County female to be drafted to the WNBA.  It’s something most college athletes dream about, but so few actually achieve.  However, the pros were a whole different court from college level basketball.

“That was probably the hardest basketball I’ve ever played, because that’s how physical it is.  That’s how different from Division 1, the best in collegiate sports Division 1, then you go pro and it’s just wow,” Andrea recounted.

Take it from two athletes that have “been there and done that” throughout their college play; an athletic career is not always a forever thing.

“Don’t take your education for granted, listen to your professors, listen to your academic advisors, because they want you to succeed.  You cannot always play a sport your entire life. You have to put the ball down at some point,” remarked Andrell.

So what is life like after being in the spotlight during college?

“I’m so happy with life, I couldn’t be in a better situation,” said Andrell.

“Yeah I absolutely agree with her.  It’s been awesome, it’s great, you know, I wouldn’t do anything different,” said Andrea.

 

Tennis threatens to make a splash at USF

While football and basketball may be the most prominent sports at most college campuses, tennis threatens to make a splash at the University of South Florida. The men’s tennis team has won back-to-back American Athletic Conference championships, and they’re led by a player who can walk around USF campus almost unnoticed. 

Roberto Cid, a tall, lanky senior who moved to Florida from the Dominican Republic when he was 13, received the honor of All-American following his sophomore campaign two years ago. 

“Since I came here, I had big goals with the coach (Matt Hill),” said Cid. “Hopefully I can continue to make history.” 

What gives Cid his edge over his rivals? His notorious competitive streak would be a good place to start. A favorite story among the tennis team is that Cid was playing the third ranked player in the country at a tournament this past season. The player did something that Cid was not happy with, and it showed in the results. Cid won, and his opponent walked off the court saying “I just can’t beat him.” 

Cid is the fifth ranked player in the country for men’s singles and 982nd in the entire world. He is trying to focus on the present, which includes winning a national championship as a Bull. 

“This year we have a really good team. We can definitely do something special at the end of the year,” Cid said.