Ocracoke Update:  Life without a highway
February 24, 2008


Beach detour affects movement of Dolphins

By JAMIE TUNNELL

You might be surprised to learn that the Ocracoke Dolphins were affected by the beach detour this winter. Then again, it was also their first year with the opportunity to play in an area conference and be recognized on the all-conference teams.
 
Yes, I'm talking about the Ocracoke Dolphins – the boys' and girls' high school basketball teams that just finished up their season this week. While the end results were less than desired, the teams came out of the season with confidence and the support of their families and the community.

“There was a higher level of sportsmanship from our players this year,” said Principal George Ortman. “I’m very proud of them and their effort this year. We didn’t get to play any games outside of their conference games this year with the bridges but maybe next year.”

The Dolphins first half of the season, in 2007, were all home games to cut down on the inconvenience to opposing teams of having to deal with the road closure and beach detour for the replacement of seven bridges on the island. Every game since Jan. 2 has been played on the road.

Instead of a traditional school bus trip, the school depended on parents and volunteers to drive the players to the away games. The original plan was to transport players through the beach detour in four-wheel-drive vehicles and then load a bus for the rest of the trip. Once school officials and parents factored in unloading time and the speed restrictions of the bus, it was a better plan to stick with the vehicles.
 
“That plan just wasn’t practical,” said Ortman. “All of the parents were informed at the beginning of the second half of the season that our idea was to transport by vehicle and everyone was in agreement and even donated their own time and vehicles for transportation.”

Several parents made the regular trips with loads of basketball players, equipment, late-night dinners, coaches, and spirit.

“They played hard,” said Bob Chestnut, freshman parent and regular driver in the team caravan. “You don’t want to be in the cab of a truck with sweaty boys and sweaty shoes for the ride home.”

Their shortest trip, to Hatteras, is about an hour and half one way with the Hatteras ferry ride and extra time added to successfully navigate the beach detour.
 
For the first time ever, Ocracoke School was a member of the 1-A Tideland Athletic Conference with Cape Hatteras, Mattamuskeet, Creswell, Columbia, Bear Grass, and Jamesville.

 “The kids are fortunate to have this opportunity to play in a conference this year,” said Paula Schramel, senior parent and regular driver in the team’s caravan. “I was impressed by the generosity of the teams we were visiting. We had hot dog suppers provided for the ride home, a treat at Andy’s in Columbia, and pizzas in Creswell. When it turned out that the girls’ team had grabbed too many pizzas, some of our boys were invited to their homecoming banquet to fix a plate for the ride home.”

Schramel commented that it was always a rush back to the ferry. They didn’t want to become separated or miss that last ferry that was being held for them in Hatteras.

The late-night driving on the beach was no fun. They always formed a caravan, and as anyone familiar with beach driving knows, if the person in front stops or slows down, you have to think quickly. After their away game to Columbia, they found themselves returning back at high tide. Luckily, Jarvis Williams, the island’s tow contractor in the beach detour area during the past few months, was always close behind.

“This year actually worked out better for students and for the travelers,” said Adam Burleson, Ocracoke School Athletic Director. “With the bus, it could be as late as 1 a.m. getting home. With the individual cars, we can go ahead and get back hours earlier, which is especially nice for our mid-week games. The latest we took the ferry was about 10:15.”

Burleson credits the cooperation and willingness of the parents that made this season happen.

“These guys stepped up for the first year in a conference,” said Burleson. “We had some young teams, but that just means they have more time and more growth ahead of them.”

Jordan Jones and Aaron Caswell are recognized as all-conference players for the Tideland Conference. Chelsea Markovich, Joe Chestnut, and Chase Garrish are runners-up.

“It’s really unexpected to be recognized,” said Garrish. “I’m proud since I’m just a freshman, and I have a lot more time to get even better. It’s good to be in the conference because without it, I never would have gotten this opportunity."

“It feels good that even though we didn’t win any games, we still got recognized for our effort,” said Chestnut.

Ocracoke’s homecoming game is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 29.

(Jamie Tunnell is the editor of The Ocracoke Observer and a freelance writer for The Island Free Press.)



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