"He’s Jaw-some": Destin High unveils replica of world-record mako shark as new mascot

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Just when you think it couldn’t be a “bigger deal” to open a new high school, Destin High School goes even bigger. 

On Tuesday afternoon, Destin High, which is set to open in August, had an unveiling of sorts of its mascot. With more than 100 people gathered near the entrance of the school, a blue tarp was pulled off a 15-foot mako shark in the reflecting water fountain. 

People get a close look at the new Destin High School entryway shark statue after a brief ceremony at the campus. Brian and Heidi LoCicero donated the statue to the school.

So, what’s the big deal? 

The shark is a replica of the current International Game Fish Association world record for the biggest short-fin mako. The shark was caught by Capt. Chris Peters off the coast of Massachusetts in 2001 after about a three-hour fight. Peters wound up winning the Oaks Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament with the 1,122-pound mako he hauled back with his 24-foot boat. 

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But getting a replica of the huge shark for Destin High didn’t just happen.  

After realizing the high school was going to be known as the Sharks, Capt. Mike Parker got online to start researching. 

“I just thought it would be cool if we could get the biggest one and the coolest one for the school,” said Parker, who will help with the fishing class to be offered at the school. 

Brian and Heidi LoCicero, along with Miss Destin 2021 Kaylie Sparks, unveiled the new Destin High School shark mascot during a brief ceremony at the campus. The LoCiceros donated the statue to the school.

He contacted Gray Taxidermy in Pompano Beach. Gray did the original mako shark mount of the record-breaker and was willing to do a replica for the school. 

Parker then presented the idea to the governing board of the school.  

“Their mouths just dropped … they jumped all over it,” he said. 

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Heidi LoCicero, who is member of the governing board, along with her husband Brian and family, generously paid for and donated the shark statue. 

Once Gray Taxidermy, the largest marine taxidermy company in the world, had the shark ready, Parker and Father Mike Hesse made the 1,200-mile trek to Pompano Beach to pick it up and bring it home. 

Brian and Heidi LoCicero and Miss Destin 2021 Kaylie Sparks, unveiled the new Destin High School's entryway shark statue during a brief ceremony Tuesday at the campus. The LoCiceros donated the statue to the school.

Parker said they brought it back on an open trailer. 

“People were stretching their necks and taking photos,” Parker said of the drive home. 

Once back to Destin, Parker and Hesse recruited help from the Destin Fishermen for Christ Bible Study to install the shark in the fountain and then cover it up until the unveiling Tuesday. 

Several people spoke at the gathering before the tarp was lifted. 

“This is tangible proof of what happens when community comes together,” said Prebble Ramswell, chairman of the governing board of DHS, as she looked out over the families and friends. 

Capt. Mike Parker, who was instrumental in getting the mako shark for the school, talks to the crowd about the mako.

After introductions of Mayor Gary Jarvis, Okaloosa County Commissioner Mel Ponder and Miss Destin Kaylie Sparks, Jarvis spoke to the crowd. 

"It’s a big deal,” Jarvis said speaking mainly to the prospective students. “It will be something that no one else can say … I was a member of the first graduating class of Destin High School.

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“The cool thing is, you get to set the tone and the legacy,” he added. 

Parker spoke to the crowd after introducing Principal Christine Cruickshank and the board members. 

Brian and Heidi LoCicero donated a replica of the world-record mako shark to Destin High School. A plaque will be placed on the school's entrance fountain to note the dedication from the LoCicero family. Also pictured is Miss Destin 2021 Kaylie Sparks and DHS Principal Christine Cruickshank.

He talked about the shark mount and what a big deal the mako is in the fish world. 

He explained five traits of a mako. It’s the smartest, fastest, jumps the highest, fights the hardest and is the best looking of the sharks, Parker said. 

Brian and Heidi LoCicero and Miss Destin 2021 Kaylie Sparks unveiled the new Destin High School's entryway shark statue during a brief ceremony at the campus. The LoCiceros donated the statue to the school.

Heidi LoCicero agreed that the five aspects make it the “perfect mascot” for the school. 

“Great things are happening in our little beach town,” she said.

A plaque will be placed on the fountain, noting the donation of the shark by the LoCicero family. 

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Another big deal Tuesday was the Church of Destin presenting a check for $5,000 to Principal Cruickshank. 

Before it was all said and done, Cruickshank turned and looked at the mako atop the fountain and said, “He’s Jaw-some.” 

She then thanked all donors for making the high school happen. 

Pastor John Skiles, far left, of the Church of Destin and Impact Church, presents Destin High School with a $5,000 check Tuesday at the unveiling of the mako shark mascot.

Cruickshank said she has filled all but two positions at the school and has openings for about 25 students. 

New hires present at the unveiling on Tuesday were Darby Blatt who will teach science; Emily Dean, English; Susan Rodrigues, physical education; Carli Sams, social studies; Peyton Schultz, science; Julie Worth, English; Bonnie Yu, computer science/Chinese; Camron Gregory, administrative assistant/registrar; Phil Dorn, athletic director; and Sierra Stevens, cheerleading coach.  

“They will have many hats to wear,” Cruickshank said. 

The school is located on Commons Drive in the old Grace Lutheran Church in Destin.