News Briefs for the Week of Nov. 17, 2023

Students learn about election process

It is never too early to learn about one of the cornerstones of a democracy, the opportunity for a free and open election. At St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, the first graders learned all about the election process and the importance of voting on Nov. 7, 2023. Students then conducted their own classroom vote, complete with election booths and banners promoting the two “candidates.” On the ballot was which cookie is best, chocolate chip or Oreo? The winner was the chocolate chip cookie with a vote of 13-8.

Students donate blood

More than 60 Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School students from Sarasota took part in a blood drive on Nov. 7, 2023, in support of the SunCoast Blood Centers. This opportunity to serve the community reinforced the goal of each student at Cardinal Mooney, which is to make a difference. Together, the students’ collective efforts can transform lives.

Athletes sign with colleges

There were 10 different student athletes from three Diocesan Catholic high schools who signed their letter of intent to pursue athletics at the collegiate level. Most of the signings took place on Nov. 8, 2023. From Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, Madison Duncan has signed with Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana, to pursue her passion for softball. At St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, two girls’ basketball stars have made their commitments. Sophia McCartney has accepted an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, while Sydney Martin will continue her career at Belmont Abbey College, Belmont, N.C. Meanwhile, Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers had seven athletes make commitments. They are, Jason Bello, baseball, University of South Florida, Tampa; Morgan Franklin, golf, Samford University, Homewood, Alabama; Maddix Simpson, baseball, Ohio State University; Owen Rodriguez, lacrosse, Wingate (N.C.) University; Zoe Vadas, rowing, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts; Curtis Couillard, baseball, Union College, Schenectady, N.Y.; and Marissa Peck, beach volleyball, Spring Hill College, Mobile, Alabama. Congratulations to all these athletes and prayers and best of luck in your college careers.


Two Diocesan swimmers repeat as State Champs

Two swimmers from Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Venice repeated as Class 1A State Champions Nov. 15, 2020 at Sailfish Splash Park and Aquatics Center in Stuart.

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School sophomore Michaela Mattes repeated as State Champ in the 500 Freestyle and took the title the 200 Individual Medley. Meanwhile, Conor Cranfield, a senior at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, repeated as State Champ in the 500 Freestyle.

Mooney’s Michaela took the 200 Individual Medley in 2:01.10, a time which earned her automatic All-American status with the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association (NISCA). This victory comes in the same event in which she took silver in 2019. She repeated her 2019 performance in the 500 Freestyle with a dominating time of 4:47.19. She won the event by 7 seconds, again in All-American time.

“I’m extremely grateful for this season and I honestly did not think it was going to happen,” Michaela said. “I’m so incredibly proud of my teammates for their hard work to get to States and it was all thanks to Coach Smithers. I’m so happy that I got the two wins this year and I have no words for how excited I am for next year. Hopefully there will be more medals to come in the future.”

Verot’s Conor won the same 500 Freestyle event as he did in 2019. He finished in 4:26.27, also earning All-American status. Teammate Ryan Staunch earned a 5th place medal in the same race. The Verot boys 200 Medley Relay team (with Conor, Ryan, Robert Flannery and Marcos Egri-Martin) finished third with a time of 1:36.83, a new school record.

“We went out and did exactly what we wanted to do, both in the relays and in our individual events,” Cranfield told the Fort Myers News-Press. “The top three (in the relay), that’s something we’ve been gunning for since the beginning of the season. Everyone had great swims throughout the day, and we couldn’t be happier as a team.”

The Verot boys team finished 5th overall in Class 1A out of 33 teams. To earn that ranking, the team and individuals also did well in other events. The team took fifth in the 400 Freestyle Relay and 12th in the 200 Freestyle Relay. Conor took a sixth in the 200 Freestyle, while Ryan was 13th in the same event. Marcos finished seventh in 100 Breaststroke and 11th in the 50 Freestyle, while Robert took 11th in the 100 Breaststroke and 200 Individual Medley.

The Cardinal Mooney boys team also did well. Henry Linehan finished 14th in the 50 freestyle. Linehan teamed up with fellow teammates Max Middleton, Collin McCracken and Zander Mitten in the 200 Medley Relay and 200 Freestyle Relay. Both relays finished in 12th place. The team finished 22nd overall.

Athletes return to high school fields

Other summer programs open with precautions in place

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School football players participate in a conditioning program in Sarasota on June 11, 2020, the first on campus program since March.

Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School welcomed back about 40 student-athletes for summer conditioning June 10, 2020, while following the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Guidelines and procedures set forth by the National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS) in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic.

The Cardinal Mooney conditioning program included both football and basketball players and will gradually expand to include more athletes and other sports. Similar summer conditioning programs also began at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers and St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples.

This drone shot is of Bishop Verot Catholic High School athletes participating in a conditioning program in Fort Myers on June 10, 2020, the first on campus program since March.

Ben Hopper, Diocese of Venice Interim Superintendent of Education, said the move to allow athletes and some summer programming at schools comes after extensive planning and coordination with the various schools, consultation with the Diocesan School Board.

“The health and safety of our students is, and will always be, of paramount concern,” Hopper said. “Following guidance from health experts, and in some cases even going beyond those recommendations, the Diocese is confident that the protocols set forth provide the necessary balance to ensure everyone is safe.”

A Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School football player participates in a conditioning program in Sarasota on June 11, 2020, the first on campus program since March.

To participate in the summer conditioning program, student-athletes were sent a packet of information about Phase One and the new procedures put in place to protect the student-athletes as well as the numerous guidelines they must follow, some of which include:

  • Temperature screening taken daily upon arrival;
  • Athletic clearance with a physical by a doctor;
  • Have a personal water bottle;
  • A COVID-19 liability form signed by parents;
  • Self-screening form signed and dated daily by a parent;
  • Social distance by remaining six-feet apart at all times;
  • Arrive and leave with a face mask.

New head coaches Jared Clark, football, and Clayton Slentz, basketball, were on hand to facilitate the workouts on the Cardinal Mooney Athletic Field. Summer conditioning started at 8 a.m. and lasted about an hour. Workouts are done without masks as health officials note that doing so could cause serious health issues unrelated to COVID-19.

“It feels good to have our student-athletes back on campus and I believe they were happy to be here too, even with the new procedures,” said Assistant Athletic Director Julie Santiago. “We are constantly assessing the situation to make sure we are following all the new guidelines.”

“It felt good to be with the team again and with the new coaches,” said Beau Christensen, a rising Cardinal Mooney Junior. “The energy out on the field was great and since we were outside, no one came in contact with each other, so I felt safe with the changes in place.”

The st. John Neumann Catholic High School Lady Celtic Volleyball Team returned to the Naples campus June 16, 2020, starting summer workouts and some conditioning.

Each sport will have its own guidelines to follow. Basics include no sharing of equipment, no contact with each other and extra sanitizing between usage of any equipment. As noted in the paperwork provided to parents, the guidelines are subject to change and will be reevaluated and adjusted accordingly so as to remain compliant with CDC, federal, state and local regulations. Daily temperature screenings will be done. In the event a student-athlete or coach tests positive for COVID-19 that individual will be required to remain off campus and quarantined for 14 days.

Bishop Verot Catholic High School incoming freshman participate in a summer reading program in Fort Myers on June 9, 2020, the first on campus learning program since March.

In addition to athletes, Bishop Verot welcomed incoming freshman for a summer reading program. The students were placed in the cafeteria and seated at least six-feet apart.

This young girl participates in a Summer Art Program at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers on June 10, 2020, the first on campus activity since March.

At St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, a summer art program started on June 8, 2020. Each blooming artist had their own table to work from and individual sets of supplies so as to draw, paint and build.

Having athletes back and a few summer camps going on are just the first step in the process of working toward opening for in-class instruction in August.

“Each step in this process will require extensive planning and flexibility from our faculty and staff as well as from our students and parents,” Hopper said. “This is all new for everyone, so prayers and patience are needed as everyone works together toward that common goal in just a few months.”