By Peter Vankevich
To say that Ocracoke School has been beleaguered with difficulties these past years due to severe budget problems would not be an understatement.
Yet, the school athletic programs, both middle school and varsity levels, have been enormously successful, beating teams from much larger schools.
The student athletes have trained hard and have been well-coached. There is excitement and good attendance in the gym when Lady Dolphin volleyball and all Dolphin basketball games are played.
In basketball last year, the girls’ varsity team advanced to the second round of the state championship and the boys’ middle school team finished with a record of 9-1.
The boys’ varsity team in spite of their record (6-18) played strong all year beating several conference rivals.
An amazing highlight of the season for the boys happened Jan. 24 when they upset First Flight High School of Kill Devil Hills (a division 2A team, Ocracoke is 1A), 52 to 41. To gain a perspective on this win, First Flight has 800 students in grades 9 to 12, compared to Ocracoke’s 44.
In cross country last year, the girls’ team finished as district and regional champs and placed tenth in the state. The boys’ team also finished as district champs as well as regional runners-up and thirteenth in the state.
The middle school baseball team ended the season with a 6 to 3 record.
These teams have been helped in no small part by the Ocracoke School Athletic Boosters Club whose roughly 150 members not only show up to cheer the teams on, but also provide major financial support through fundraising activities. The club, began in 2010, raises money primarily from the sale of banners displayed in the gym and through concession sales.
The club’s contributions have been appreciated by the school administration.
“In this current budget situation, the school would not be able to provide these resources to the students,” said Walt Padgett, principal, and long a fan of school athletics. “The Boosters have significantly improved all of our sports programs.”
Kari Styron, the club’s treasurer and whose daughter Samantha is a senior and captain of the volleyball team, highlighted a long list of the club’s contributions, among them: purchasing team uniforms and warm-up sweats for all sports; chairs for home and away teams; all of the volleyball equipment since the sport started in 2012; storage racks for basketball and volleyball equipment.
A big-ticket item was a Shoot-A-Way basketball practice shooting machine designed to help the teams improve their shooting techniques, and pitching machines and a batting cage for the baseball teams.
The club has also made significant infrastructure contributions, covering half of the costs to sod the school playground; a washer and dryer to launder uniforms; the equipment for the concession stand and a weatherproof rug for the entrance hallway to the new gym to help keep out sand and water.
It has also started a scholarship program: $1,000 for a girl and boy athlete each year, awarded on need and attitude, not performance.
Helping to sell Dolphin apparel are Debbie Jenkins in her boutique SheaBella in Community Square and the Variety Store.
The Ocracoke Pizza Company, run by Scott McNally and Daniela Gilbert, provide pizza to sell during the games.
Another major source of funding is the Ocracoke 5K/10K Run and Family Fun Run. In April it raised $10,500 for the boosters.
The school’s athletic director, Charles Temple, had nothing but praise for the club.
“Without the support of the boosters, we’d be where we were 10 years ago, struggling to schedule a 12-game season in basketball, and cross country as the only other sport available,” he said. “Thanks to the generosity of all those who donate to the boosters in a variety of ways, we are able to field nine teams out of middle and high school, and we compete at a level far above what our small size might usually allow.”
To join, individual membership is $25 and family $35. New banners are $250 and $150 per renewal. Checks can be sent to Ocracoke School PO Box 189 Ocracoke, NC 27960.