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County plans for rush of makeups

Pinellas County athletics is reeling and dealing with the aftermath of the fourth hurricane to hit Florida.

Public school classes, practices and competitions will resume today after being shut down Monday and Tuesday because of the damage, power loss and uncertainty after Hurricane Jeanne. With school will start new measures to get the fall season rolling again.

County athletic director Walter Weller also has ideas he believes will help cross country, football, golf, swimming and volleyball. But the Florida High School Athletic Association will have to decide on those.

But even if the FHSAA doesn't act, Weller said everyone, administrators, coaches, officials, are working together to get everything going yet again.

"I'm really happy and proud of Pinellas County," he said. "Everyone is doing what they can to help."

Athletes in all sports have a minimum number of contests they must participate in to be eligible for the postseason. So the challenge facing Pinellas County, like other school districts, is to find ways to quickly make up for lost time, games and meets.

To get volleyball rolling, Weller said matches will be "stacked." One school will host several varsity and junior varsity matches in one day. Countryside, which is equipped with dual nets, will host Clearwater-Countryside at 4 p.m. today and Tarpon Springs-Countryside afterward. Pinellas Park will have dual nets installed soon, and Weller expects it to hold multiple matches Friday.

"Once we get the dual nets installed at other schools," Weller said, "we'll be able to schedule even more games."

But weather-related chaos isn't easily fixed. The Tuesday-Saturday plan to play Week 5 football games Tuesday and the postponed Week 2 games Saturday was scrapped because of Jeanne. Now Week 5 will take place Friday and Week 2 games can be made up by nonplayoff teams after the season unless those schools come to another arrangement.

Weller said the only athletic facility damaged by Jeanne was Pinellas Park's Richard Allen Memorial Stadium, whose scoreboard was knocked down. And the St. Petersburg City Championships cross country meet at Crescent Lake Park was not run Tuesday because of the closed schools.

"The course is unusable," Weller said. "We're still trying to figure that one out."

Exams also have become an issue. The storms have pushed back exams for schools on 4x4 schedules, and athletic events can't be held on the new testing days.

Availability of officials is another concern. There might not be enough for the rescheduled contests.

But the FHSAA could make things easier on everyone, Weller said. For one, it could waive the number of minimum contests athletes must participate in.

"I'm hoping they will because some of these kids may not get enough meets in to quality for state competition," Weller said.

Or the FHSAA could reconsider adding a week to the fall season. That was the request Pinellas schools superintendent Howard Hinesley made for football after Hurricane Charley. Three hurricanes later, Weller is talking to FHSAA officials about giving an extra week to all fall sports.

"We asked for the extra week four weeks ago, and they said no," Weller said. "But now every single school district has been affected institutionally. What we hope is that the FHSAA will back up the season a week so we can finish out our schedules.

"There aren't enough days in the week to make up for how compact the season has become."

The FHSAA board of directors was scheduled to discuss the issue last weekend, but Jeanne interrupted that, too. Weller said the board will take it up at a meeting this weekend.

The FHSAA, whose Gainesville offices were shut down after Hurricane Frances because of flooding and fallen trees, could not be reached for comment.

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