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Saluting Newsome’s softball seniors

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Newsome's softball seniors

This season was supposed to be about redemption. Newsome lost a 3-2 heartbreaker in eight innings to Park Vista in last season’s Class 9A state title game. The Wolves took solace in knowing they had a future together. Seven seniors returned, including five who have already signed with college programs. All the pieces were there for a title run. Through eight games, Newsome was 7-1 and ranked seventh in the state in 7A by MaxPreps. Now, the season — and the Wolves’ chance at redemption — remains in limbo until at least May 3 when the Florida High School Athletic Association will be able to determine whether spring sports can resume. “Everyone wants to play their last game, especially the seniors. It would be crushing if this is the way the season ended for us,” senior shortstop Lindsey Harper said. 

Meet the seniors 


Newsome’s Claire Ginder

INF Claire Ginder

2020 stats: .500 avg., 7 RBIs

Career stats: .354 avg., 24 RBIs

College: Furman

Senior memories: “It’s been everything to play with them and I’m thankful for my time at Newsome. My teammates are such a talented group of seniors and we’re all there to have fun, get better and win. It has been such a great and successful program, and I’m hoping we will get to finish what we started last year. If we don’t, I know we have an amazing group of girls in the grades below us that can pull through next year.”

Best career moment: “Going through the whole postseason last year, we had a great game against Palm Harbor to win districts and then cruised through regionals and the first round of the state tournament. Even though we lost in the finals, just the way the team was able to overcome injuries and sickness to play the last game as well as we did was just an amazing thing to experience. And then, in what might have been the last game of my high school career, I finally hit my first over-the-fence home run in high school ball. The support of my teammates when that happened was just the best feeling.”


Newsome’s Lindsey Harper

SS Lindsey Harper

2020 stats:  .333 avg., 8 RBIs

Career stats: .392, 50 RBIs, 96 runs

College: Tampa

Senior memories: “I knew it was a tough team to make. Only a select few get to be on the roster, so I was fortunate to be a part of that. There’s a strong bond just having so many seniors that are graduating at the same time and are going off to play in college. They definitely make you work harder. We push each other to get better.”

Best career moment: “The state final from last year. We got out to a lead and played our hardest, but we weren’t able to win. It was a teaching moment for us to leave it all on the field.” 


Newsome's Madison Hudson
Newsome’s Madison Hudson

OF Madison Hudson

2020 stats: .200 avg., 4 RBIs

Career stats: .325 avg., 19 runs

College: Coastal Carolina 

Senior memories: “It means a lot to me to be a part of this awesome program. My teammates and coaches mean the World to me. I love being on the field with them each and every day. We returned this year with one goal in mind and that was to get back to and win the State Championship.”

Best career moment: “The biggest moment of my high school career was when I was a freshman (in Texas) and we were down 8-7 in the top of the seventh with two outs and I hit a solo homer to keep us in the game.”


Newsome’s Brianna Langlois

2B Brianna Langlois

2020 stats: N/A (injured)

Career stats: .250 avg., 13 runs

College: Undecided

Senior memories: “It was an amazing opportunity to be a part of this team. I had a shoulder injury that kept me out and everyone continued to make me feel welcome and still be a part of the team.”

Best career moment: “Just being there everyday with my teammates. That’s what made me feel happy.” 


Newsome's Jada Smallwood
Newsome’s Jada Smallwood

UTIL Jada Smallwood

2020 stats: .538 avg., 10 RBIs, 2 HRs

Career stats: .441 avg., 83 RBIs, 12 HRs

College: Maryland

Senior memories: “Honestly it’s been such a blessing to play for Newsome softball the past four years, and I’ve loved every second of it. I’ve made so many memories on and off the field with these amazing girls and this senior class is truly something special. I really hope we get the chance to finish out our season.”

Best career moment: “Favorite memory is definitely going to states and playing in the state championship despite having the flu that game. But my favorite moment by far though was the homerun I hit in the semifinal game with a full count on a change up into the middle of the water behind the field.”


Newsome's McKayla Timmons
Newsome’s McKayla Timmons

1B McKayla Timmons

2020 stats: .500 avg., 8 RBIs

Career stats: .503 avg., 70 RBIs, 13 HRs

College: Ball State

Senior memories: “We’re pretty talented and to be around this amazing group of girls is special. I came here as a sophomore and they were very accepting and helped me make new friends.”

Best career moment: “When we knew we were going to the state semifinals last year was the best feeling. We were trying to make it all the way and came pretty close.”


Newsome's Daniela Waldron
Newsome’s Daniela Waldron

OF Daniela Waldron

2020 stats: .278, 2 RBIs

Career stats: .322 avg., 27 runs, 15 RBIs

College: Undecided

Senior memories: “I moved here from New York three years ago. Being a part of this team and with these seniors changed my softball and high school experience. They were very open and became family to me.”

Best career moment: “The experience of going to states last year and just having that experience and knowing how well we played to get there.”

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FHSAA releases softball class and district assignments

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The Florida High School Athletic Association released the classifications, districts and regions for softball this coming season. The assignments are based on student enrollment numbers from October 2020. This is a one-year cycle that the FHSAA board of directors voted on earlier this year. There likely will be a two-year cycle starting with the 2022-23 calendar year. Below is the list for area teams. For the full  boys softball list click here.

Class 7A, District 6

Durant

Newsome

Plant City

Riverview

Class 7A, District 7

Alonso

East Lake

Steinbrenner

Palm Harbor University

Plant

Class 6A, District 5

Gaither

Land O’ Lakes

Largo

Leto

Mitchell

Sickles

Class 6A, District 6

Armwood

Strawberry Crest

Tampa Bay Tech

Wharton

Wiregrass Ranch

Class 6A, District 7

Bloomingdale

Bradenton Manatee

Lennard

Palmetto

Class 5A, District 5

Fivay

Lecanto

River Ridge

Springstead

Sunlake

Class 5A, District 6

Auburndale

Groveland South Lake

Lakeland Kathleen

Pasco

Class 5A, District 9

Blake

Freedom

Hillsborough

Jefferson

King

Class 5A, District 10

Countryside

Osceola

Pinellas Park

Seminole

Class 5A, District 11

Boca Ciega

Hollins

Northeast

St. Petersburg

Class 5A, District 12

Braden River

Bradenton Southeast

Brandon

East Bay

Spoto

Class 4A, District 9

Cypress Creek

Hudson

Nature Coast

Wesley Chapel

Zephyrhills

Class 4A, District 10

Anclote

Clearwater

Dunedin

Gulf 

Tarpon Springs

Class 4A, District 11

Chamberlain

Lake Region

Middleton

Mulberry

Robinson

Class 3A, District 6

Central

Hernando

South Sumter

Weeki Wachee

Class 3A, District 9

Academy of the Holy Names

Berkeley Prep

Brooks DeBartolo

Lakeland McKeel

Tampa Catholic

Class 3A, District 11

Calvary Christian

Clearwater Central Catholic

Lakewood

Parrish

Sarasota Cardinal Mooney

Class 2A, District 6

Bishop McLaughlin

Hernando Christian

Mount Dora Christian

Ocala Trinity Catholic

Seven Rivers Christian

Class 2A, District 9

Academy at the Lakes

Cambridge Christian

Carrollwood Day

Foundation Christian

Lakeside Christian

Seffner Christian

Class 2A, District 10

Admiral Farragut

Canterbury

Indian Rocks Christian

Northside Christian

Shorecrest

St. Petersburg Catholic

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Former Largo and Illinois standout Bobby Roundtree dies

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Bobby Roundtree, the former Largo High and Illinois standout defensive lineman who became an inspiration for many by vowing to walk again after suffering a spinal cord injury, died Friday afternoon, the family confirmed. He was 23. 

No other details were provided. 

A candlelight vigil will be held Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Ridgecrest YMCA. Those in attendance are encouraged to wear their 97Strong apparel.

Roundtree’s death came two weeks after he received the Bruce Capel Award for Courage, an honor given annually by the Illinois football program. 

Less than 24 hours ago before he passed, Roundtree posted a message on his Twitter page.

More than two years ago, Rountree was in a hospital bed, the result of a swimming accident near the docks off John’s Pass that required spinal cord surgery. It left him in a wheelchair. 

Before the accident, the goals were all related to football. A former two-sport star, Roundtree developed into a ferocious pass-rusher, first at Largo, then at Illinois. As a sophomore in 2018, he won the Dick Butkus Outstanding Defensive Player award after leading the Illini in tackles for loss (12.5), sacks (7.5) and pass breakups (7). His play made him a viable NFL draft pick.

Photos courtesy of Illinois Athletics

Since then, the ambitions have been different. 

Roundtree wanted to be independent. He wanted to travel. He wanted to coach, maybe even start his own rehabilitation center. 

Most of all, he wanted to walk again. 

“I just want to show everybody that anything’s possible,” Roundtree recently said last year in his first interview (via Zoom) with reporters since the accident. “You can be on top of the world and something happens, things might not go as planned, but there’s something out there for everybody.

“This injury isn’t going to overcome me. I’m going to beat this and be successful.”

After the accident, once the surgery was over, Roundtree woke up to machines beeping in every corner of the room. His mother, Jacqueline Hearns, kept saying he was special, that he was beating the odds. 

Friends and teammates were there, too, including former East Lake standout Jake Hansen, now a starting linebacker with the Illini. 

The coaching staff also came to the Tampa Bay area to be by Roundtree’s side. Illinois head coach Lovie Smith practically lived at the hospital, even while preparing for the 2019 season. 

The bond between the player and coach has always been strong. After all, Roundtree was one of the marquee names in Smith’s first recruiting classes. 

“Everything that Lovie said during the recruiting process, about being a family, he stuck by,” Packers coach Marcus Paschal said last year. “You could see it during Bobby’s injury and hospital stay. I don’t know of too many other college coaches who would have done what he did. That was big.”

In June of 2019, Rountree was transported to a rehabilitation center in Chicago. He had lost 70 pounds. He could barely raise his right hand, much less do push ups, after the surgery. 

Roundtree ignored conservative prescriptions for recovery, continuingly defying odds. Before long, he was manually pushing himself in a wheelchair. His triceps muscles were developing.

None of this came as a surprise to Jeremy Busch, the head athletic trainer for Illinois football. 

“After this injury you watched a person that eventually was at the worst point in his life, and yet he doesn’t acknowledge that to where it beats him, but he acknowledges it to motivate him,” Busch said last year of Roundtree. “He’s truly your idea of hope and inspiration on a daily basis. He’s gone from the simplest of struggles to absolutely overcoming everything that you put in front of him.”

Roundtree also was determined not to stay in football exile. He kept in contact with teammates. The coaching staff included him in meetings, virtually. 

The grit Roundtree showed through the grueling stages gave the Illini inspiration. A sign was displayed on the top of a tunnel that the players would touch before heading out to Memorial Stadium. It read: 97 Strong (referring to Roundtree’s number).

Illinois became the feel-good team of college football in 2019. The wins kept coming, often in dramatic ways. 

A field goal as time expired was the difference when the Illini handed the Badgers, ranked No. 6 at the time, their first loss in October of last season. It was the Illini’s first win over a ranked opponent since 2011. Afterward, Illinois players recorded videos of their celebration and sent them to Roundtree.

Three weeks later, the Illini rallied from a 21-point third quarter deficit to beat Michigan State 37-34. 

“I would do anything for the kid,” Hansen said last year of Roundtree. “He’s been a huge inspiration.”

Roundtree attended the 2019 regular season finale, his first game at Memorial Stadium since the injury. He led the team in a pregame prayer. 

And Roundtree remained part of the team. His locker was untouched. 

“Having the team I have now I wouldn’t trade them for anything,” Roundtree said last year. “They’ve been very supportive. They know I’m going to work. I know they’re going to work. We’ve got each other’s backs.”

The Illini faithful have shown financial support, too, pledging money to help offset some of Roundtree’s medical expenses. 

“With everybody so behind me and pushing me, that makes me want to go harder,” Roundtree said last year. “The support of everybody fundraising and everybody donating that means a lot having that support. I don’t have a million dollars to help me through this all. People are giving their last pennies to help me out. That’s just a lot of love right there, and I appreciate everybody for that.”

Roundtree spent the past year at home in Largo rehabilitating. He kept posting video messages of his progress. He bench pressed. He did core work. He rolled on to his side, even tried to stand up with the aid of athletic trainers.  

The final steps Roundtree wanted to take were on his own. 

“When somebody tells me I can’t do something I’m going to prove them wrong and show that I’ll be able to do it,” Roundtree said last year. “It might take me a couple of tries, but I’m going to do it.

“I want to show everybody that anything is possible, no matter the situation.”

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College Football

Lakewood’s Amari Niblack commits to Alabama

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Lakewood’s Amari Niblack had offers from 15 schools entering this week, including Florida, Florida State, Georgia and LSU. 

Then Niblack went to a camp at Alabama and picked up an offer from the Crimson Tide. 

That was all the three-star prospect needed to make up his mind. 

On Thursday, Niblack announced on social media that he committed to Alabama. 

A 6-foot-4 pass catching target, Niblack can play receiver or tight end. This past season, he had seven receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns according to the stats listed on MaxPreps. 

This is the second straight season Alabama has landed an area receiver and the third time in the past five seasons the Crimson Tide has picked a local skill player.

Agiye Hall, who starred at Armwood and Bloomingdale, was part of the 2021 class. He was an early enrollee and has already made an impact with several highlight-worthy catches in the spring game. 

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