Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Author: Randy Dickson

Ryan Fleming aims to be pilot in Air Force

Fleming has done a little bit of everything at Baker while compiling a 4.25 grade point average.

He’s been a football player playing the 2020 state championship team. He’s also been a member of the soccer, weightlifting and track teams. And most importantly there have been the academics.

“My parents always put academics as the number one priority in my life,” Fleming said. “We know if you want to have a good career you have to have a good education to start. You don’t want to be working a 9-5 labor job.
“You want to get a good education so you can have fun and do something you like to do.”

Fleming didn’t start school at Baker, but he did arrive while still in elementary school.

“It’s pretty nice growing up with the same people because we are all like a community,” he said. “Like for school, we know each other well and work together for school. The people that are strong in one subject help those that aren’t strong in it.”

Fleming’s favorite subject has been engineering.

“To be a pilot you’ve got to basically be an engineer,” he said. “I want to fly for the Air Force and be a fighter pilot. I hope to be a pilot because that’s the top dog in the Air Force.”

One of the funnier things that he was a part of at Baker was passing around a petition to get one of the coaches fired while a member of the junior varsity football team. One of the teachers intercepted the petition and Fleming said those involved were afraid they would be made to do extra running, but nothing ever came of it.

His best memories revolve around sports.

“My best memories are of all the sports I played and the guys I got to be around,” he said. “All the winning, especially with football, we won a state championship and went to Doak Campbell Stadium (at Florida State) to play.
“That was one of the pretty cool things. Growing up play sports with all the guys.”

As a four-sport athlete, Fleming had to balance his time wisely between academics and athletics.

“It’s kind of tough because we are a small school everybody played every sport so there’s no off season,” he said. “There’s always another sport going on. In class I had to try not to talk so I could actually do my work and get done with my work so I wouldn’t have to do it for homework.
“If I didn’t do that, as soon as I get home from football practice, soccer practice, track practice anything like that I had to get my work done.”

And how does Fleming hope the faculty and staff at Baker will remember him?

“The one major thing is I don’t want to be known as that guy that was good at math or that was good at sports,” he said. “I want to be known as that nice guy that was there when you needed him. And that I always had people’s back.”

Baker valedictorian has a servant heart

Talking to Hurley it doesn’t take long to see her servant heart that is so important in the medical field.

Her passion for helping people bubbles through as she talks about packing weekend food for children that might not otherwise eat on the weekend or taking children to the mobile dental clinic when it comes to campus.

“I think most of that (desire to go into nursing) started from doing community service here at the school,” Hurley said. “From doing Backpack Buddies, where we pack weekend food bags where and give them to children that otherwise aren’t going to eat on the weekends and taking children to the (dental) bus where they are given a toothbrush and shown how to brush their teeth.
“I just want to come back to community and help them.”

As is the case with most Baker students, Hurley found time for athletics along with a busy academic schedule that included classes at Northwest Florida State College the last two years.
“I played volleyball my entire high school,” she said. “I played basketball until my junior year. I tried softball and track, but I wasn’t too good at that.”

There’s no real secret to how Hurley juggled her busy schedule.

“It definitely takes a lot of time management with clubs and sports and all that,” she said. “But honestly, I just spend a lot of time reading and studying and talking to professors and teachers and spending time doing my assignments.
“Luckily at Baker School lots of people are willing to help and that has been very helpful.”

Hurley is thankful for her experience at Baker and the opportunity to attend a school with elementary, middle and high school students all in the same building.

“I think what’s great about going to a K-12 school is the people that are in your class end up being like family more than anything else,” she said. “You find your friend group and they are with you for the long run. Just having people that you know and trust in all your classes with you.
“Going through the same circumstances and studies that you are also working on really helps with your study habits and makes it a fun experience that is more than just going to class and doing your job and leaving.”

Another thing Hurley loves about being in K-12 school is the generations of students that share the same building.

“You get to interact with kindergartners, elementary schoolers and middle schoolers every single day,” she said. “When you are at high school you are with people your same age. You don’t get to volunteer in a teacher’s classroom or get to tutor someone younger than you. You don’t get see the impact on you have on people beneath you. They are watching you and following in your exact footsteps. You don’t get that same experience in just a high school.”

She has a lifetime of memories at Baker School from field days on the track to all the clubs and playing sports. But her best memory happened earlier this spring.

“This year I was honored to be the prom queen,” she said. “It was totally unexpected. Just knowing over any accomplishments that I’ve had that I’ve got people who are my friends and love me and would choose me for something like that means a lot.”

Hurley said she thinks Covid discouraged some students in her class from getting involved. Or that they started out in an activity and once Covid hit and they did classes from home, they just started toing their own thing.

She was able to find a silver lining in the cloud that was Covid. During Coivd she was able to think about what she wants to do with her life and learned to prioritize her time and friendships.

What advice would she give a freshman entering any high school?

“Just to be involved and just to find what their passion is and to be a leader in their school,” Hurley said. “There are so many opportunities through clubs and sports and activities. A lot of times people don’t get involved in some things (that would enhance their high school experience).”

Bulldogs set to host baseball camp

Cost is $75 and includes a tee shirt, Gatorade, a pizza party and admission to the Justin Richards Scholarship Baseball Tournament June 16-18.

Covid forced cancellation of the 2020 camp, but it returned last year with resounding success.

“Last year was great,” Bulldog baseball coach Tim Gillis said. “We had a big crowd of kids. People were eager to get out because everything started opening up again and we had a good turnout.”

Gillis said he could tell players were hurt in their baseball development by the pandemic year when they played very little or didn’t play at all. He said that was at the high school level as well as younger age groups.

“That’s a full year of development that kind of goes down the tubes and you know we missed,” he said. “You can only drill so much, you know. And again, I like some drills. You get better looking at competition and competing against other people is even better.”

The camp will allow kids to compete against others their own age.

The focal points of the camp are teaching the fundamentals and having fun.

“Obviously, you work on fundamentals (of pitching, throwing, hitting and fielding) and get something out of that,” Gillis said. “But if they’re not enjoying it and not having fun, I think then you’re missing the boat. I’ve been doing this a long time now and the guys that are performed the best or the ones that enjoy the games. They enjoy the work and the grind. “You know you just got to develop a love for the sport.”

Many past and current Bulldog baseball players have attended the camp. And once they make the high school team they have become camp coaches.

“Hopefully this kind of strikes a fire under a couple of these kids,” Gillis said. “A lot of the kids I’ve got now all came up through the camp when they were that age. I just think enjoying what you do on a daily basis is the key to success in life. And this is another time for us to have fun playing games.”

The camp runs from 9 a.m. until noon each day. Registration starts at 8 a.m. May 31. The registration fee can be paid by cash or check. Checks should be made payable to Crestview High School.

Randy’s Report

Summer is a chance for kids to be kids and stay up late at night and sleep even later in the morning. By the time kids reach high school, many of them are getting jobs to pay for a car or the one that has smitten their heart. Those things are universal and have been a way of life since my parents were growing up.

Things have changed in a lot of ways in the 50 years since the summer before my freshman year in high school.

Back then, we spent a large part of our summer days outside playing baseball, building forts, riding our bicycles or exploring the woods in a still developing Gulf Breeze. We found ways to pass the time exercising our brains by coming up with our own games or playing a board game or card game and exercising our bodies through hours of play.

A computer was something major corporations and universities had. The cost made them too expensive for the average person. Children now play on cell phones, which are, in fact, small computers that are more powerful than the ones that powered the space program.

When the school year ended, high school athletes hung up the cleats or sneakers until their sport rolled around the next school year. Travel ball had yet to come into being. And it would be several years before the idea of summer workouts trickled down to the high school ranks.

Most coaches had some sort of open gym or weight room policy, that is if the school had a weight room, but it was strictly voluntary, and if the kid that was going to be the starting linebacker didn’t show up for any lifting sessions, he didn’t worry about losing his starting spot.

There were athletes that took advantage of open weight rooms and gyms. Those were the guys that most often had college coaches talking to them. I’m not forgetting the young women when I say guys, but Title IV, which gave women athletes a more level playing field, was still in its infancy and nobody really focused on women’s athletics.

I miss those days, not because I’m now in my 60s, but because I believe it let high school kids enjoy the final years of youth before being hit with all the responsibilities of adulthood.

I worry that having year-round workouts for whatever the sport might be, makes the sport more of a job than a game. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in workouts and getting stronger and faster. I just think there needs to be some sort of line to be drawn that gives teenagers a chance to enjoy those precious summers that pass too quickly.

Who knows, in 50 years there will probably be a sports writer sitting down with similar thoughts for a column. They may lament that high school athletes are missing out on summers of fun and relaxation.
They will probably come to my same conclusion that things are never the same as we remembered and change isn’t always so bad.

Gators wrap up spring practice with scrimmage

“It’s very positive,” he said. “We have a lot of heart. And we have a lot of good efforts with a lot of kids.
“We’ve got to fix the mental mistakes because a lot of the young kids haven’t been here long enough,” Gardner continued. We only had nine practices and today makes 10. We just don’t have enough reps to do everything how we are supposed to do it at the speed we have to do it at to compete.”

Baker had a shortened spring because of the school’s graduation on Friday. The team also
missed practice days as the Gator baseball and track teams competed.

Gardner’s biggest concern was fixing mental issues and getting players lined up in the right spots on defense. He said the team also needs to develop depth behind the starters on both sides of the ball.

“Our first defense looked very good,” Gardner said. “Our second defense we have seven kids that have never played varsity before. Our first team defense I feel comfortable with minus a couple of issues of getting lined up. Our second team, the younger guys, our backups, we have to get them where the first team is. The concern is the second team right now.”

Rising senior running back Kayleb Wagner returns to spearhead the Gator offense. As a junior, Wagner rushed for 1,949 yards in just eight games. He also scored 21 touchdowns last year.

Wagner’s presence in the Gator offense is a luxury any coach would welcome.

“It makes me feel a little better because he takes pressure off the other kids,” Gardner said. “When you see Colton (Weekley) run a touchdown, that’s because of Kaleb. You don’t stay away from Kayleb and Colton housed it (ran for a long touchdown). That’s important because he’s going to make defenses adjust to him so we can open holes everywhere else. And our line’s not bad.”

The Gators will get a few weeks off before starting summer practice as they finish up the school year and get a chance for many of the players, that are three or four-sport athletes, to rest their bodies for a short time.

“We start the second week in June,” Gardner said. “We always give them two weeks off because we will be playing (in the playoffs) in November.”

Gardner has big plans for the summer.

“The plan for the summer is to get stronger and faster and then we will watch film on all the things we messed up on. Every day we are going to lift weights, run and offense and defense when we come to work out.”

Gardner’s goals for the summer is to get everybody on the same page and instill in the younger players what it takes to compete at the highest level in Class A football.

“Our kids are going hard,” he said, “but they are not used to playing at the speed you have to play at to compete against Blountstown, Madison and Pahokee. You’ve got to play fast and hard against people like that. You can’t play slow. You’ve got to play fast.”

Bulldogs perform well in spring jamboree

“I asked them to play hard and have fun, and they did that,” Grant said. “I thought we made some mistakes but I thought we competed with some of the best teams in the Panhandle tonight.”

When asked about the play of his running backs, Grant was quick to compliment all of Bulldog ball carriers as well as the quarterbacks.

“All of them had good runs at point tonight,” he said. “Jason Jones, Ja’Terion Hart, Lazarius Parks and Randy Thomas, all of them had some good runs. Simeon White had some big plays.
“I thought our quarterback play (Jerome Brazen and Nathaniel Nocher) was really consistent. They made really good reads. With our offense, our RPO (run pass option), we have to have a quarterback that makes good decisions.”

Issac Thomas probably had the catch of the night for the Bulldogs, an acrobatic grab. Grant is expecting big things from him as a junior at receiver and cornerback.

Grant also named several defenders as making a strong showing.

“Marion Hawthorne and Jalen Knox, I thought set the tone with the physicality of coming off the edge,” he said. “Brandon Hunter, he was in the backfield almost the whole series before hurt.
“Our linebacker play Jake Edwards, Darryl Lowe, I thought, played really, really well. Cecil Purdue at linebacker played well. Jaden Appleby at safety and Ahmad Thomas flying around.”

The Bulldogs will be off until the first week in June before getting back to work, starting with a youth clinic.

“We’re gonna take two weeks off and then June 2nd, 3rd or 4th, I have a youth clinic for the two youth programs at Crestview Pop Warner and CAYA (Crestview Area Youth Association,” Grant said. “We have some local high school coaches that will come and talk. We want to continue to help and give back to the community.”

Summer workouts will officially start June 6. The Bulldogs will work Monday-Thursday each week.

Tran never accepted anything less than the best

Tran started kindergarten at Riverside Elementary and was at Shoal River Middle School before arriving at CHS her freshman year.

“It’s been kind of weird because a lot of my friends from the military community they’ve all had to move around, and they talk about that a lot, but I’ve never had to do that,” she said. “It’s an interesting situation where I’ve bee here all 13 years. I remember kids in my kindergarten class that I’m graduating with now.
“I think, ‘Do I wish I had moved and been at cool places? Yes.’ But at the same time I love that I’ve had the same community around me my whole entire life and I’ve made friends along the way of people moving away and back. But I also have that same group of kids that I started kindergarten with, which is special.”

She admits she feels cheated by having her high school years marred by Covid.

“It hurt a lot because I had just watched my sister finish four perfect years of high school,” Tran said. “She graduated in 2019 when she was a senior I was a freshman. And I was excited to get the same high school experience as her.
“As soon as she leaves, I get a semester of normal school without her and then here comes Covid. Nothing has been the same since then, so I’ve felt robbed in that way. But at the same time I’m grateful because I feel like the group of kids that are graduating this year have experienced so much more struggles throughout their high school careers than any other class.”

Tran said her favorite classes have been in the health science program because those classes challenge her and she good at them. Her career goal is to be a doctor, but she’s unsure of the specialty she will pursue in the medical field. She will do her undergraduate work at the University of Florida.

Dexter Day was the principal at Crestview through Tran’s first three years retiring at the end of last year.

With the Day’s retirement came more changes as Jay Sanders stepped in as the CHS principal. That was yet another change for Tran to process. Perhaps the worst experience for her was the death of science teacher Greg Myers in September.

“The hardest part was going through all these changes and then losing our science teacher when Mr. Myers passed away,” she said. “Throughout high school he was always the one we could go to and vent and he would tell is everything will be OK. And he would tell us this is what you are going to do and you’re capable of doing all these things.
“Ever since we met him, he told us when we graduated he was going to graduate with us because he was going to retire with us and to get to our senior year. To not have him, and then go through all of these changes was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through.”

Her favorite part of the high school experience was being a leader of the Dog Pound student section at Crestview football games.

Her funniest experience involved being a part of the Dog Pound.

“I think it was against Choctaw, I was in a blow up alien costume and it was eight-feet tall,” Tran said. As I was running off the field everything started falling off, all the battery packs. I made it to the box and I got on the box and I was standing on the box.

And somewhere in the news there was a picture of Hatten (former head football coach Tim) screaming on the field and in the background, you could see me in an alien costume standing on a box.”

How would she like to be remembered?

“As a kind kid that always wanted to help and never accepted less than the best for herself and her peers and everyone around her,” Tran said.

Taking care of our mental health

Licensed Mental Health Counselor Rebecca Bortnyik of Addison Professional Counseling and Mediation said that even in 2022 there remains a stigma associated with associated with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

“It’s a typical experience and don’t have to be ashamed,” she said. “You don’t have to live with that. It’s safe to talk.

“Yes, there’s always been a long-time stigma on mental health and talking about it. But we’re trying to make it real and let everybody know it’s OK. It’s a typical experience.”

Bortnyik stressed that Mental Health Awareness Month is not only to let those suffering know that they aren’t alone and there are people they can talk to, but also to highlight the professionals that work in the field that are there to support and care.

She said anxiety and depression are the two primary issues she has seen as people come out of the pandemic as they have often been isolated during Covid.

“People were going through a lot of life changes, which also led to anxiety, worry and the unknown,” she said. “And then also there was a level of just things being different with social isolation. The younger population had a harder time with it because the school social settings were different.
“They weren’t getting out as much. We are readjusting, but I would have to say depression and anxiety (were the biggest problems), especially coming off the pandemic.”

It might not be true that men are from Mars and women from Venus, but Bortnyik points out, as a rule, they deal with mental health issues differently and that starts at an early age.
We live in a world when little Suzie falls and skins her knee, we are, ‘What’s wrong? It’s OK. Let’s talk about it,’’ she said. “But when little Johnny falls they say, ‘Pick yourself up and some dirt in it. Move on, you’ll be OK.’
“So when kids are little, we teach, especially males, ‘Hold down your feelings, push through it,’ and not to talk about their emotions. For mental health, for both genders it is hard to talk about our difficult stuff. We’re supposed to keep that, quote, private.”

She went on to say that as a results of how boys are taught to deal with things, they grow into men with problems having an ability to emotionally understand themselves, express themselves how they feel.

“I’m not trying to be stereotypical,” Bortnyik said. “Men and women both can have shame and a hard time discussing emotions. So you’re asking me this specifically with her male? Yes, but I have found that males do have a hard time to say (what they feel).
“They’re used to taking the punches. They are supposed to take the hurts and the pains and not talk about it and push through it. So it is that cycle of physiological pain and psychological pain.”

Men might try to mask their pain more, but women are more likely to attempt suicide. Men might have a lower rate of suicide attempts, but the rate of males accomplishing the suicide is higher.

Bortnyik said men are more lethal in their means of suicide.

“They typically use more things like guns and hanging, and more violent ways in which they attempt suicide,” she said. “With women, most of the time, it’s things like pills or some of the more easier or not so violent ways. And, unfortunately, the more violent attempted suicide with firearms are usually more successful.”

If you have a relative or friend that you think might be dealing with depression, anxiety or some other form of mental illness, Bortnyik offered some signs to look for.

“Social withdrawal,” she said. “Somebody just kind of seem like they’re going through the motions, especially if they’re depressed. You’ll see them not maybe engaging activities like they would have.
“Maybe they’re not smiling as much, or when they do smile, it seems pressured. Also, you might want to just kind of look at their life, is there a lot of tough stuff going on at you would maybe think, ‘This might be hard for this person.’”

She said maybe the person isn’t talking about or sharing their problem and that could be a time to ask questions.

“You can explore and ask questions, ‘Hey, are you OK? Is there something going on? Is there a way I can help?’” Bortnyik said. “Because sometimes you can notice someone is going through a tough time maybe by how they’re acting. But maybe just knowing a lot of they’re going through a tough situation.
“Sometimes by saying it’s a safe place share, that could make a difference.”
She offered these clues for signs of anxiety.
“Some of the things you can typically tell because they worry,” Bortynik said. “They sometimes might do a lot of checking. They limit things like where they go.
“And a lot of times they’ll verbalize it too by saying, ‘I’m just really nervous.’ And they might even isolate.”

Mental health professionals are on the front line of fighting the myriad of issues facing those facing mental health issues. However, sometimes a caring friend, especially one that has dealt with the same mental health issue can make that person feel more accepted and perhaps making it easier to talk about their issue.

“If somebody has gone through depression themselves it’s very likely that they’re going to be more understanding,” Bortnyik said. “They’re going to get where you’re coming from and that of course, creates more openness to share.”

At one time or another everyone will battle some form of mental illness. Many people might never need to see a professional for their problems. But a large number of people will face situations that require professional help and Bortnyik again stressed that it is nothing to be ashamed of.

“The first thing is to know that It doesn’t matter socioeconomic status, gender, age, we all have periods of depression,” she said. “It is a normal human experience and that they don’t have to feel ashamed about it.

It’s OK to talk about it. Find somebody you can trust.

“If you notice that somebody around you that might be having a mental health issue, make them feel safe. Start to create the environment for everybody in our culture, especially in our communities, that it’s OK to share how you’re feeling.”

Access to mental health is more readily available than ever before with financial help available. Insurance companies now cover visits to mental health professionals. And government and private agencies offer help for those without insurance.

“If you think somebody is having maybe even suicidal thoughts,” Bortnyik said, “or they’re in a really deep depression or having super serious mental health issues, there’s experts who are professionals. At school, there’s guidance counselors that they can reach out to.

“In the community there are pastors that would be more than happy to help and talk and connect these professionals and counseling agencies like ours. There’s such a broad spectrum now because we are reducing the stigma and making it more aware.”

If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact the Mental Health Hotline at 866-903-3787. If you fear someone you know might be in suicidal crisis, call 911.

Crestview valedictorian headed to BYU

She has two brothers in the Provo area. One is in school at BYU and another has graduated from the school so she will have some familiar faces in the new world she enters.

“I’m a little bit nervous to leave home, but I’m excited to see new places,” she said. “I tend to get overwhelmed by the schoolwork and forget to go out and see new things. I think going out there, there will be a lot of new things I can go out and see.”

As is the case with every member of the Class of 2022, Covid in some ways defined their high school experience.

“Our freshman year was semi-normal, as normal as a freshman year can be,” she said. “And then we got sent home (as sophomores). Most of it (the high school experience) has been adjusting and adjusting some more because you get to come back, but you don’t get to come back fully so you have to blend in back to that.

“It’s been crazy, but it’s been fun. It’s been stressful. Sometimes we didn’t get to do everything as expected, but we got a new experience that other people didn’t get to have.”

Tew’s favorite part of high school was taking an engineering class that was mostly made up of male students and showing them she could do as well as they could.

Her best memory comes from her first year in high school.

My freshman year with my brother (Weston), we had fun together,” Tew said. “My first year here was my most lonely year so far. He was a senior and we got to hang out together.
“He drove me everywhere. He played football and I cheered for him on the sidelines. We had so much fun together.”

Her funniest memory involves a wrong turn on the way home from a basketball game.

“We went to a boys basketball game at Tate,” Tew said. “I was driving and it was dark and on the way back I had Hongloan (Tran) give me directions and I went to where she told me to. She turned off the directions a little early and we ended up in Alabama.
“We didn’t notice until we saw the big, ‘Thank you for Visiting Florida,’ sign.”

As her time at Crestview comes to an end Tew doesn’t care if people remember her academic success so much as something that, to her, is far more important.

“I just want to be remembered as nice,” she said. “Sometimes we get overwhelmed and we’re not nice to each other. I just want to be remembered as nice.”

Crestview students out to catch big fish

“I was invited by David Driggers and I will be fishing alongside T.J. Davis on the MLF (Major League Fishing) series and the Bass College series,” he said.

Before heading south for college, Paxton has one more tournament to fish next month with his high school partner, Trace Mathews.

“We got involved together when I had started the bass fishing team in in the high school series,” Paxton said. “I knew from (church) youth group. We both needed a partner and so we just partnered up because we had known each other and ended up working out pretty well.”

Paxton and Mathews fished 15 tournaments together and accumulated enough points to qualify for the state tournament.

Like his fishing partner Paxton, Mathews also is a senior, but he doesn’t have plans to fish at the college level.

Mathews has enjoyed his time fishing with Paxton and said having a teammate on the boat makes things better.

“It’s just more competitive,” he said. “And I enjoy fishing competitively. When you have a big fish up on stage it’s just so much fun. It’s always been fun.”

Mathews said that before each tournament the team will pre fish the body of water to determine the spots they are most likely to catch big fish. From there they agree on the areas to fish during the tournament.

Reese Kilian is finishing his freshman year on the team. He’ll be fishing in the state championship in October as a member of a pro-am team with a professional fisherman.

“He owns the boat, and he runs the trolling motor,” Kilian said. “He’s got amateur on the back and that’s what I am. I just fish wherever the pro fishes.”

Kilian will try to learn as much as he can while fishing with the professional.

“It’s a really good learning process,” he said. “You’re just trying to take in everything he’s telling you.”

Crestview High School outdoors education teacher Ernie Martin has been an ambassador for fishing and all things outdoors in the community for years. Martin helped officially form the bass fishing team for a team at the high school.

“The administration and school district thought it best if they wanted to keep the team that we needed to take it out of the school and make it a club so the parents and students could decide if they were going to fish or not,” Martin said. “I can’t express to you enough how proud I am of all of them that competed. We’re fortunate to have another round of state competitors. We’ve been in existence for three years and we’ve been to the state every year.”

Martin praised the parents, not only for picking the ball up and keeping things going with the team, but for the young people they raised.

“They’ve worked behind the scenes,” he said. “Every time they go to the tournament, somebody’s got to foot the bill and it costs money. You’ve got to pay for gas in the boats and find hotel rooms and eats.”

error: Content is protected !!