Thank you Jason Blakeney for recognizing the disadvantage Western Panhandle teams face when qualifying for the "final four" in high school athletics. My family took two cars full of people to watch Niceville play in the Softball playoffs. A thousand-plus miles round-trip gas for two cars, plus the cost of hotels, meals, etc. Multiply that by the number of families traveling (and virtually every player had family representation there).
There are three problems: First, the playoffs are not centralized within the state.
Second (and I am grateful for it) is the sparse population in the Panhandle creates a very large Region I (Pensacola thru Gainesville). Had the Gainesville High School team defeated Niceville, the travel issue would be moot, but in most years it seems the Panhandle teams dominate the region.
Third, the playoffs are too late in the year. Start the season a week earlier so graduating seniors aren't distracted by whether they will get home in time for graduation ceremonies. The three Niceville seniors’ families had to "fly low" to get their daughters home for ceremonies. They walked into the stadium 45 minutes after the ceremony started and were able to be placed at the back of the line so they could walk across the stage. Had there been one more rain delay, they would have missed one of the biggest events of their lives.
Finally, it is hard to complain about being in the state playoffs. Danny Hensley has taken Niceville to the state softball playoffs in five of the past nine years, winning it all once, and finishing second a number of times. I can't imagine any other coach having that kind of success. Thank you, Coach Hensley.
John Englert, Niceville
Trump missed mark on Memorial Day
"Happy Memorial Day!" Are you serious? It's as if it were Valentine's Day or somebody's birthday. And then a verbal pat on the back of dubious achievements, that went on and on. Our dead veterans deserve much better from their commander-in-chief. It is their day. Make sure their praise is on target.
Joe Murphy, Mary Esther