The Florida High School Athletic Association has cleared Zephyrhills sophomore Jamal Roberts to resume his athletic career without penalty.
The school was concerned Roberts could be ineligible after a recruiting investigation that resulted in the removal of two coaches, including head coach Jerrell Cogmon.
Roberts transferred from Wesley Chapel after volunteer assistant Abel Robinson — his former coach at Wesley Chapel — joined the Zephyrhills staff. Robinson admitted to improper communication with former players.
Zephyrhills self-reported violations with guidance from Pasco County athletic director Phil Bell and the FHSAA. Bell helped request a hardship waiver from the FHSAA to restore Roberts' eligibility.
On Thursday, Zephyrhills athletic director Bruce Cimorelli met with Denarvise Thornton, the FHSAA's associate executive director for compliance and eligibility. Thornton informed Cimorelli of the decision.
"Due to the action the school has taken, they felt comfortable going with his full eligibility for this year restored," Zephyrhills principal Steve Van Gorden. "To me this is great; it was my biggest concern. Any time you jeopardize a student-athletes eligibility to play a sport they love, it's a tragedy. The fact Jamal has the eligibility restored I think it's important."
Cross country: One way to describe Wiregrass Ranch cross country coach Chris Loth: retro innovator.
Loth has concocted a way to hold a preseason meet, which he says he cannot host, without actually hosting a full-fledged meet.
Wiregrass Ranch coach Don Howard said the Bulls cannot host a true preseason meet. Instead, they will host a "postal meet" in which various teams will compete head-to-head in 2-mile races on tracks across Pasco County.
For example, Wiregrass will host Land O'Lakes. Zephyrhills and Pasco will race on another track, Gulf will be at Sunlake, and Mitchell will be at Ridgewood.
Howard said it's technically a time trial, and once the scores from each site are collected, they will be put together and scored as one big meet.
"It comes out of an old-style way of doing it," Howard said. "In the past, a team would run a 2-mile time trial and mail in the results to one place."
The races are tentatively scheduled for Sept. 3.