The Decade of the 1990’s at ZHS
1994-1995 | 1995-1996 | 1996-1997 | 1997-1998 | 1998-1999
The World Wide Web was born in 1992, launching Americans to communicate via email and use the web for work and leisure. By 1994, 3 million people were online. The 1990s were also known as the Merger Decade with changes in how the country did business. Issues of interest were health care, social security reform, and gun control which were debated during the whole decade. The community of Zephyrhills celebrated its fifth new school, Chester Taylor Elementary in 1997—that served to continue the tradition which was started in 1910.
At ZHS there was a great deal of debate over a variety of issues. News archives show some particular protest debate topics: the location of ZHS graduation in 1990, a petition and walk-out by 600 students on the use of polystyrene by the ZHS lunchroom and its effect on the environment and more world awareness with college-level courses at the school.
The 1990 graduation-debate centered on the
graduating class wishing to have an outdoor commencement in the
football stadium. The principal, Larry Robison, had given a decree that
this would not be considered and in response, the Valedictorian (and
Class President), Tommy Gregory spearheaded a response that included
Tampa Tribune editorials and debate which overshadowed the graduation
itself. Tommy spoke to the school board on behalf of the class,
and the Tribune said of his presentation, “his articulate
presentation must have given School Board members satisfaction. Now
school officials ought to give him and the other 214 graduating seniors
at Zephyrhills High some satisfaction—honor their request to have
graduation ceremonies at the football stadium.”
Another ZHS protest in June 1990 led by student, Derek Harmeson, illustrates a growing concern for the environment. Some 180 ZHS students gathered at the ZHS flagpole to protest the use of polystyrene lunch trays in the ZHS cafeteria…and the organizer, Derek, pointed out with pride the diversity of the ZHS protesters and their cause…
The News reported that some ZHS teachers who
grew up in the civil disobedience days of the 60s backed the
protest…and rescheduled tests in support of the student’s
efforts as well.
A particular innovation in clubs was the institution of a formal mock trial program, Teen Court, initiated with the Pasco County State’s Attorney’s Office in which ZHS students were trained on the judicial system and actually made recommendations on the client’s volunteer basis for sentencing/consequences of actual juvenile cases in the court system. The first mock trial group in 1999 was composed of ZHS students, Sumico Austin, Jackie Butler, June Dawson, Matt McLaughlin, Josh Proctor, Princess Roshell, Lakia Stewart and Danny Wenhold. The then State Attorney Ms. Babb spear-headed the training and advocated with county agencies for funding; she later became Judge Linda Babb, and continued to be an activist for youth issues.
Ryan Pickett was without a doubt the central figure of the decade at ZHS in Sports. The 1998 All-Sun Coast Defensive Player of The Year, Ryan was selected for the USA Today’s High School All-American Football Team which earned him the right to play in their Florida-Georgia All-Star Game. The USA Today and Parade Magazine predicted he would dominate his opponents at this 14th annual Florida-Georgia game on June 20th at the Georgia Dome and he in fact did just that—with nine tackles, a sack, two quarterback pressures and a fumble recovery. Ryan was rated by some recruiting services as the best defensive linemen in the country. He was also well-thought-of by his graduating class and when his name was announced at the 1998 graduation, the entire senior class did a “wave” to honor him when he was presented his diploma. Ryan chose to become an Ohio State Buckeye out of ZHS, and after playing for Ohio State, Ryan joined the Green Bay Packers and then the St. Louis Rams. ZHS was thrilled when the ZHS protégé, Ryan Pickett played in the Super Bowl in 2002.
Some other ZHS football stars of the decade were
Mike Barber, running back, who was a two time All-Sunshine Athletic
Conference Selection who signed with North Dakota in 1997; Brett
Cimorelli, a star throughout his ZHS career who graduated in 2000 and
was a star on the FSU Seminole team throughout college and ZHS football
player, Tommy McLeod, recruited by Yale in 1992.
A near perfect season in ZHS football in 1995 made school history. At the Gulf High game in November 1995, reporter Roger Mills said in the St. Pete Times,
By the 1990s, Title IX had made a true impact
on girl’s sports at ZHS and several girls made their mark.
Four outstanding ZHS girl’s golfers made state and national
headlines. Erin O’Neil dominated the golf arena all four years of
high school—second in the state golf tournament in May of 1991,
and starring consistently as a top player until her graduation
from ZHS in 1993 (she took advantage of the NCAA’s early
signing in November 1992 at University of Georgia, the
nations’ second ranked division 1 women’s golf
program). Erin qualified for the grand slam event of the US
Women’s Open in 1994. Other noteworthy ZHS girl golfers were
Tracy Negoshian and Robyn Rinaldo. Tracy was district runner up
in the All-Sunshine Conference Golf Match in 1998. Robyn Rinaldo who
was tied for the 21st place ranking in 1995 by Golf Week Magazine and
signed with Mississippi State. Tracy Negoshian, 1999, was also
widely acclaimed as a girl golfer.
In ZHS Soccer, Erin Dodd was named to the
Class 4A all state soccer team in 1997 and signed with the University
of Memphis. Erin scored a school record of 147 career goals while
at ZHS. ZHS Volleyball in 1998 was exceptional and boasted the 4A
District 8 Title. A ZHS athlete, Lisa Cherry, earned an
appointment to the Air Force Academy in 1992.
ZHS got its first swim team in 1997 with
teacher, Shannon Smith Mathews, a former ZHS grad, coaching the
swimmers and using the pool on the Hercules Aquatic Center area,
adjoining the school (once owned by the school board). The 1996
wrestling team was the district champion and played in the state meet.
By 1999, the swim team applauded Jeff Borders as the State Meet
Qualifier in the 100 Butterfly.
Intellectually ZHS seemed to be excelling in
science if stars were any indication. ZHS’s Christine Rinck went
to the 43rd fair and took fourth place in biochemistry in Nashville
(her project was on how plant hormones can counteract the effect of
reduced light.) Gregg Hilferding also qualified for the
International Science and Engineering Fair in May 1996 with his
project. The school newspaper, now the Bulldogger, was named the best
high school newspaper in Pasco by the Pasco Times and the 1996
Valedictorian, Chut Sobutmai, praised the school publication that had
evolved through many namings and formats from the early days of ZHS.
Advanced Placement courses which began the
decade before were now mainstays for college bound students. The
ZHS pioneers were Don Woods, AP Biology; Dale Palmer, AP
Government/Economics; and Gail Reynolds, AP Literature; all three
teachers being revered by their students. State universities were
now requiring a formula-driven admittance in which a certain array of
AP courses had to be taken to be competitive for college admission, and
ZHS was rising to the occasion. AP classes, originated by the College
Board, were in fact, college-level courses taken during the school day
on campus. ZHS also entered into an agreement with Pasco Hernando
Community College for students to earn credit in a program known as
Vocational classes diminished in numbers
during the decade but some additional options such as auto-mechanics
and ROTC were added. Numerous business partnerships re-emerged in this
decade and manifested themselves in scholarship projects and
recognition programs such as the Chamber of Commerce Student of the
Month and others. ZHS guidance counselor, Elise Hanna, announced
that the 1997 graduating class had received over $800,000 in
scholarship monies with $300,000 coming from local clubs, organizations
This was the era of multiple valedictorians and salutatorians with numerous ties in the academic rankings at the top of the class. Noteworthy of these shared honors were the 1993 Vals who were identical twins, Monu Bedi and Sonu Bedi. Always witty, the two presented their graduation speech as a good natured debate of competitive qualifications at the June 1993 Commencement. The decade of exploring ideas and expressing viewpoints is certainly reflected in hometown Monu and Sonu. Monu become a JAG attorney and spoke at the 2005 ZHS honors ceremony as an alum about his experiences. Sonu, also an attorney, teaches law at Dartmouth; both speak of pride about their ZHS roots!