Year in review in local sports
From reeling in big amberjack to hauling in blue marlins, getting new coaches and state championships, 2012 on the Emerald Coast saw it all in the wide world of sports and outdoors
JANUARY •Down by eight midway through the fourth quarter, the Freeport Bulldogs battled back to beat the Lakeshore Titans of Louisiana 78-70 in overtime for a fifth place finish in the 17th annual Hilton Sandestin Beach Basketball Blowout at Freeport High. •Destin’s Kay Biggers, 54, and her 28-year-old daughter Katie Thrasher finished the Walt Disney World Marathon and Half Marathon respectively the first weekend in January.
FEBRUARY •The Destin Area Chamber of Commerce and Shoreline Church joined forces for the 2nd annual Bayou, Bay & Back, 5K Run/Walk, 10K & Half Marathon. The event saw 427 total entries and a total of 19 states represented. •Destin’s Parks and Recreation Department formed a new softball league — Real Skills League — every player swings the same bat. •After a 48-day red snapper season last year, area charter boat captains were looking at the shortest season ever. At a Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meeting in Mobile, there was talk of shortening this year’s season to just 40 days. However, no decisions were made. •Angela Hayles, Andy Vaughn and Tim Broom were selected to fill the three empty slots on the board of directors for the Destin Fishing Rodeo during a general membership meeting at AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar. •The Fort Walton Beach High School cheer squad brought home the championship title from the UCA National Cheer Competition at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando. Just days earlier, the squad won the FHSAA Cheer Competition to take the Florida state championship for the second year in a row. •The Freeport Bulldogs lost to the Holmes County Blue Devils 61-52 in the semifinals of the District 2-1A boy’s basketball tournament in Freeport. •South Walton Seahawk girls basketball team lost 56-42 to the Ponce de Leon Pirates in the Region 2-1A finals in Ponce de Leon.
MARCH •The Destin Little League Association swung into action with games being played on all three fields at Dalton Threadgill Little League Park. The 2012 Destin League was made up of more than 400 kids spread out over 34 teams. •Earle Ady of Atlanta, who was fishing with his buddies Capt. Curt Gwin and mate Zach Wolfe on the Only Way, weighed in a 54-pound cobia to officially kick off the Destin Cobia Tournament at HarborWalk Marina. Earlier in the week, Capt. Joe “Rodeo” Lowery, who was not registered, weighed in a 65.4-pounder for the first cobia of the season to hit the docks, but he wasn’t entered in any of the tournaments. •More than 15 teams participated in Destin Rockets Lacrosse Jamboree at Morgan Sports Center in Destin. The Destin Rockets, with a perfect record of 3-0, won the high school flight knocking off Gulf Breeze in the championship 7-5. •Chris Raim hauled in a 98.2-pound cobia, while fishing with his dad Dr. Michael Raim and Kyle Ogle on the EYEced’Em, to take a top spot on the leaderboard of the Cobia World Championships at Harbor Docks.
APRIL •The World Fishing Network is once again hunting for the “Ultimate Fishing Town.” And Destin is in contention with the WFN describing the city as “a great example of Mother Nature at her best” — a place that boasts “more charters than you can shake a stick at.” The city picks up plenty of online votes, but after a close finish in 2011 before being beat out by two New York towns, it was hard to muster the momentum a second time. •Bubba Watson who won the 2012 Masters Tournament Sunday after defeating Louis Oosthuizen in a sudden death playoff, is no stranger to playing along the Emerald Coast. As a matter of fact the Milton area native played off and on in the Emerald Coast Golf Tour for about five years, according to Tour Director Geno Celano of Destin. •Thirty boats were in the hunt, but Surreel landed the big one. Gary Howard of Fort Walton Beach pulled in a 75.6-pound cobia while fishing aboard the Surreel with Capt. Jimmy Taylor to take top honors in the Hog’s Breath 12 annual Cobia Shootout. •Capt. Don Dineen and the crew aboard the Sure Lure hauled in a 93.7 and 77.9-pounder to take the top two spots on the leaderboard in both the Crab Cruncher at Harbor Docks and the Ling-a-Palooza at Destin Fishing Fleet Marina. •The Destin Middle School boy’s tennis team finished a perfect 9-0 season against their county opponents Meigs Middle School.
MAY •For the second year in a row, the Destin Middle School boys golf team captured the Okaloosa County Championship at The Pines in Fort Walton Beach with a decisive 150 to 168 victory over second place Ruckel Middle School, concluding another undefeated season. •By two strokes, the Destin Middle School girls golf team won the Okaloosa County Golf Tournament Monday at The Pines in Fort Walton Beach. •Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sets the 2012 season for recreational red snapper in Gulf of Mexico state waters June 1 through July 10, a total of 40 days. •Bill Arant of Birmingham, Ala., fishing aboard the Lucky 2 with Capt. Tommy Green at the helm, pulled in an 86.5-pound cobia to take first place and $5,642.50 in cash in the Red Stripe Final F’Ling Cobia tournament at AJ’s. •Thirteen athletes from Destin Middle School qualified for the Florida Youth Running Association Middle School State Track and Field Championship in Clearwater. •The Destin Marlins brought home 12 awards from the Florida Youth Running Association Middle School State Track and Field Championship in Clearwater.
JUNE •With the red snapper fishery closed since last July, captains and anglers were ready to get back at it as the season opened for the area’s signature fish. However, some trips were cut short due to rough seas. •Destin Little Leaguer Colt Buckingham left to play with the Stealth Bombers 12U team from Georgia in a tournament at Cooperstown Dreams Park in New York. •Sixteen boats and four kayaks weighed in 60 fish in the 2nd annual Big Mac Shoot Out on Okaloosa Island behind the Fort Walton Beach Elks Lodge No. 1795. The two-day tournament brought in $45,000, triple last year’s monies, to benefit the Ronald McDonald House of Northwest Florida. •With the smallest field ever — 38 boats — in the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic’s 10 years of existence, the 219 registered anglers pulled in some of the biggest fish ever. The crews, of at least 35 of the boats, braved the 7-to 9-foot seas for a share in the $575,550 purse. The big fish of the tournament came in on the Done Deal, a 783.6-pound blue marlin caught by Travis Dorland. •The 10-year-old Destin All Stars made it to the championship game, but lost 12-0 to Niceville-Valparaiso in the Florida District 1 Little League Tournament in DeFuniak Springs.
JULY •It took five games to do it, but the Destin No. 1 All Star 7-8 year old Machine Pitch Baseball team brought home the banner and title of Florida District 1 champions. •Even with high seas rolling, spear fishermen brought in 81 lionfish in the first-ever Emerald Coast Reef Association Lionfish Round Up at HarborWalk Marina. •Phil Tisa was introduced as the head football coach and athletic director at South Walton High School. The announcement comes just 10 days after the Walton County School Board officially accepted the resignation of Tisa’s predecessor Bill Wiles, who took a job at Santa Fe (Alachua) High School.
AUGUST • A new 8 foot by 11 foot dry aquarium exhibit was being constructed at the Destin History and Fishing Museum to complement the existing shark tank at the entrance to the museum. The new exhibit showcases the white sand Gulf floor, reef system, shells, and will be the home for mounts of local marine species. •The Paddle at the Porch saw 93 registered racers hit the water on their paddleboards. The event was put on by the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce and The Back Porch Seafood & Oyster House. •Armed with a spinning rod, a rope, a huge treble hook and a bang stick, Capt. Allen Staples and Chris Davis went gator hunting in Walton County and snatched a 702-pound alligator that measured out at 13-feet, 2 inches.
SEPTEMBER •More than 150 skiers from all over the world were gliding, jumping and flipping along the lakes at Pickos Ski and Wakeboard School on Slalom Way in Santa Rosa Beach trying to take home the gold in the Malibu Pan American Water Ski Championships.
OCTOBER •After a seven-hour wait, the first fish of the 64th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo finally hit the docks. Patti Cox of Tennessee who was fishing aboard the Don’t Hate with Capt. Scott Whitehurst hauled in a 4-pound trout to take first-fish honors of the rodeo. •After a slow start to the 64th Destin Fishing Rodeo things were rip roaring with fish flying everywhere. On Day 3 at 5 p.m., the count for fish entries was at 111 entries, but by the time the books were closed, the number was at 165. •On his first-ever saltwater fishing trip, Brian Lassiter of Boston, Mass., hauled in a 90-pound amberjack while fishing aboard the Strange Brew with Capt. Ken Nettles. His catch took over the top spot in the 25- and Under Private Boat Division of the rodeo as well as the AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar AJ Bonus Awards, worth $3,000. •It wasn’t his first race this year, but it was Martin Novak’s first time to run in the Rodeo Run 5K held in conjunction with the Destin Fishing Rodeo. Novak was the first out of a field of 173 runners to finish the Rodeo Run in 17 minutes and 58 seconds at Clement Taylor Park. •With the sun going down on Day 10 of the Destin Fishing Rodeo, Lance Moss of Niceville wowed the crowd when he came paddling up on a 12-foot paddleboard, straddling a 65.8-pound sailfish that was bungee cord strapped to the board. The sailfish that measured 68-inches long took him about 3 hours to land. •He might not be a weightlifter, but he can curl a 111.6-pound amberjack. Mark Underdahl set a Destin Fishing Rodeo record when he hauled in a 111.6-pound amberjack on the Strange Brew with Capt. Ken Nettles. •Although Destin held the Bruner Spartans scoreless for 18 minutes, it only took Spartan’s De’Ques Raine 18 seconds to return the opening kickoff of the second half 97 yards to break the deadlock. Bruner went on to win 14-0 that first round of the Okaloosa County Championship playoff game played at Viking Field in Fort Walton Beach.
NOVEMBER •The 64th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo’s final tally: 325 boats bringing in 1,067 fish for the month long tradition. •After 40 years of competing in the Destin Fishing Rodeo, Capt. Kelly Windes still has what it takes to reel in the “Captain of the Year” award. Windes was presented the Charter Boat Captain’s Award after accumulating 129 points for his catches during this year’s rodeo. Capt. Russell Stewart of the Gag Reflex was the private boat captain; Capt. Cliff Cox of the Sweet Jody took the party boat category; Capt. Scott Whitehurst won in the charter boat 25-foot and under category; and Capt. Richard Rogers of the Southern Charm won for private boat under-25 foot.
DECEMBER •Out of 285 competitors, the Destin Eight brought home 19 medals from the American Martial Arts Institute National Tournament in Kingsport, Tenn. •After manning the helm of the charter boat No Alibi for 16 years, Capt. Chuck Turbanic has a new and bigger boat, Fifth Amendment. •No more Daybreak, it is “Game On” from now on for Capt. Eric Thrasher. Capt. Thrasher’s new ride is a 41-foot Hatteras, which his wife Katie tagged “Game On.” •Out of five area soccer teams competing in a recent tournament at Morgan Sports Center in Destin, it came down to the two Destin All-Star teams playing for the championship.