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Signing day roundup

Bob Putnam



Academy of the Holy Names


Grace Cronen: West Virginia

Jessica Reynolds: North Carolina


INF Rachael Petrarca: Providence

P/INF Belle Sardja: Florida Southwestern

Berkeley Prep


P Will Parkinson: Columbia

P Evan Parmer: Virginia Military Institute


Justyce Barber: William and Mary


Amy Wotovich: Harvard


MB Camryn Carlo: Cornell

Bishop McLaughlin

Girls basketball

G Isabella Prada: Rollins


3B/C Emily Suchan: Enterprise State


OH Audrey Koenig: Florida State

DS/L Adrianna Lopez: Rollins

Calvary Christian


RHP Jack Cebert: USF

RHP/OF Tyler Dietz: USF

C/1B/OF Zach Ferlita: Covenant

OF/LHP Charles Stevens: Butler

1B/OF Jackson Unice: Eckerd


SS/C Leah Jarnac: Duke

C/SS Sam Leski: Florida Gulf Coast

Track and field

Meredith Adams: Texas



1B/3B Sarah Young: Rollins

Clearwater Central Catholic


F/MF Kendall Liermann: Towson


Ryan Boland: Loyola Maryland

Emma Fernald: William & Mary



OF/1B Marcus Brodil: South Florida

East Lake

Track and field

Anna Cincotta: Florida Atlantic



P Dominic Castellano: Central Florida

OF B.J. Graham: Tulane

INF Nick Rodriguez: Charleston Southern

INF/C Cole Russo: Central Florida

P Alden Segui: North Carolina

P Jackson Shembekar: Tampa

P Ryan Skelly: Charleston Southern

P Joey Volini: South Florida


Girls soccer

Asti Luff: Citadel



C Lydia Castro: South Florida

Olivia Dresser: McDaniel College

P/OF Kaitlyn Felton: Central Florida

1B Jadeyn Ruszkowski: Clemson



UTIL Jayla Brooks: Delaware


Girls basketball

G Kendal Cheesman: Vanderbilt

G Nyla Jean: Georgia State


OH Erin Morrissey: Maryland

River Ridge


SS Brooke Blankenship: Florida State

C/UTIL Giulia Desiderio: South Carolina



OF Kendra Falby: Florida

Tampa Bay Tech

Girls basketball

G Knisha Godfrey: Mississippi State

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No more fans at Pasco County sporting events after COVID spike

Bob Putnam



Stock football stadium

Pasco County has decided to limit all athletic activities to students and coaches due to the recent spike in coronavirus cases. 

That means no fans or media members in attendance. 

The new rule starts on Monday and will last until the positivity rate, which has climbed to nine percent, drops to below five percent for a rolling seven-day period. 

In the past two weeks, two county football teams — Wiregrass Ranch and Fivay — had to forfeit playoff games because of a player testing positive for coronavirus and multiple team members and coaches having to quarantine due to contact tracing. 

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No test score needed for high school athletes in Class of 2021 to be eligible at D-I or II

Bob Putnam



The NCAA Eligibility Center announced Monday that high school rising seniors will not be required to take a standardized test to be eligible to play at play at a Division I or II school.

Part of the reason is the difficulty in taking the SAT or ACT during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

”Given the continuing impact of COVID-19, the NCAA membership made this decision with the health and well-being of incoming students top of mind,” NCAA Eligibility Center Vice President Felicia Martin said in a news release. “We understand the uncertainty in the educational environment and believe these changes will help ensure students have a fair opportunity to meet the initial-eligibility standard.”

Here is what the NCAA is requiring at the each of the two levels for high-school athletes in the Class of 2021.

Division I academic eligibility.

Grade point average: 2.3 in 16 NCAA-approved core courses, with 10 core courses (seven in English, math and science) completed by the start of their seventh semester in high school (prior to senior year).

Division II academic eligibility

Grade point average: a 2.2 grade-point average in 16 NCAA-approved core courses.

* International students-athletes enrolling in a Division I or II school during the 2021-22 academic year will be academically eligible if they complete 16 core-course units with at least a 2.3 (DI) or 2.2 (DII) grade-point average in those courses.

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Say hello to the Hollins Royals

Bob Putnam



First, Dixie M. Hollins High eliminated any symbolism tied to the Confederacy, including the removal of the Colonel character as a mascot. Then the school redesigned its logo, eliminating any full reference to the Rebels nickname. 

Last week, school administrators, in response to student advocacy, took their most dramatic step, dropping Dixie from the name and retiring the Rebels moniker. 

The official name of the school still is Dixie M. Hollins High, but administrators and district officials are referring to it as Hollins High. The makeover includes a new nickname with Royals replacing Rebels as the official mascot. 

The faculty was notified of the decisions this past week. A formal announcement will be made once students start classes on Aug. 24.

Still, the school wasted little time in remaking the school’s image with signage, social media pages and athletic uniforms already being modified to reflect the changes.

These latest moves come a month after students at the school started a petition asking principal Robert Florio, Pinellas County superintendent Michael Grego and the Pinellas County School Board to change the name and the mascot of the school. The petition has more than 800 signatures. 

Florio acknowledged the request and a pair of meetings with student leaders at the school to discuss what moves could be made.

“This was something that was always at the forefront for me,” Florio said. “We had already eradicated most of the Confederate symbols, including many that belonged with the Rebels mascot, so there was not much for the students to rally around.

“I just felt with all the social unrest that was happening and with so many young people being active, the time was now to make this happen. I wanted to make sure this was student-led and they were unanimous with wanting to move forward with the changes.”

There also was plenty of alumni who wanted the name and the mascot to remain. Last month, an online poll done by Prime Time Preps showed overwhelming support of keeping things status quo with 858 voting for no changes and 98 voting in favor of making them.

“I’m sure there was some reticence, some reluctance among alumni, many of whom grew up with the name and the mascot,” Florio said. “We were never on board with eliminating the school name. It’s still there and people with yearbooks and other memories can still call the school by whatever name makes them feel comfortable.

“But as long as Dixie and Rebels were still tied to the school it was always going to be linked to the Confederacy no matter how many changes we made. So we had to move forward, for our current and future students.”

The school, which opened in 1959, was initially called Northwest High but was soon changed to honor Dixie Martin Hollins, the first superintendent of Pinellas County Schools. He championed the rights of Black students and his estate still contributes to the school’s music program. 

In the 1970s, the school was embroiled in civil unrest because of integration and a school ban on the use of the confederate flag. For years, locals referred to the school as Dixie and the athletic teams as the Dixie Rebels. 

Jen Cox, the great-granddaughter of Dixie Hollins, supported the name change and talked Florio, as well as the school board, about ways the family can help.

The petition, which has more than 800 signatures, asked to get rid of the first name as “a way to still honor the man the school is named after while still cutting off the deep-rooted hatred attached to the symbols the school currently uses.”

Florio also stressed the changes help highlight the legacy of Dixie M. Hollins rather than diminish it.

“We want to accentuate the positives of our founder, who was a very progressive, forward-thinking leader,” Florio said.

Dixie Hollins is one of just two public high schools in Pinellas County named after someone. In nearly every local and national instance where schools are named after an individual, the references are to the last name. Take Gibbs High, which is named Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs, a black man who was Superintendent of Public Instruction and Secretary of State in Florida during the Reconstruction era.

The students also wanted a different nickname, something “with less controversial tones (that) would help push the school in the right direction. All of this is an attempt to portray our school in the best light possible and to acknowledge the current activist movements.” 

The recent changes at Dixie Hollins reflected a wholesale rejection of Confederate iconography.

The only things that remained were “Dixie” and “Rebels”.

The references are gone, too, from a school that now calls itself the Hollins Royals.

“I think the changes give the school some new life,” Florio said. “Hollins Royals sounds more like an academy or a boarding school you would find in Connecticut. There’s some sophistication to it.”

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