Veterinarian Dr. Christina Herejk Brings An Integrated Approach To Helping Local Animals

Veterinarian Dr. Christina Herejk Brings An Integrated Approach To Helping Local Animals

Sometimes human medicine’s loss is veterinary medicine’s gain. Such is the case with local veterinarian Dr. Christina Herejk of the Royal Palm Veterinary Center.

“As is the case with many veterinarians, I was completely in awe of animals and nature as a child,” Herejk recalled. “My mother was a nurse, so I grew up hearing great stories about medicine. I was considering working with humans, but my mother suggested that I might be better off going into animal medicine.”

It has been a passion she has followed ever since.

“Once I had my first dog, I fell in love with the profession,” Herejk said. “I loved the fact that I could work with both animals and people, the animals’ owners.”

She attended the University of Florida in Gainesville for both her undergraduate and veterinary degrees, graduating in 2005. She worked with Dr. Richard Ringler, who established the Royal Palm Animal Hospital more than 25 years ago, taking over his practice in 2013.

At the Royal Palm Veterinary Center, Herejk is continuing Ringler’s mission to help animals in the community.

“We are all about providing good care to our patients and clients, taking the reins from the late Dr. Ringler to continue his life’s work,” Herejk said.

Dogs and cats continue to be the center’s primary focus.

“In addition to annual wellness examinations and vaccinations, we treat a variety of problems,” Herejk said. “We deal with a number of geriatric problems, such as osteoarthritis and kidney disease, as well as skin problems. I love dermatology, and I have started to venture into integrated medicine — cold laser therapy, veterinary acupuncture.”

Integrated medicine is an alternative approach to treating the patient, taught at the Chi Institute just outside Gainesville, which specializes in traditional Chinese veterinary medicine.

“We’re taking what we’ve been trained to do in school and combining it with other modalities for the most optimal results for our patients’ health,” Herejk explained. “Sometimes western medicine is great, but it doesn’t hit it on the head. Being able to have another tool in my pocket is fantastic.”

And what advice would she give to other pet lovers considering life as a veterinarian?

“I would say, ‘Follow your dreams, follow your heart,’ because it is a lot of work,” Herejk said. “‘Study hard, do good in school and don’t be discouraged.”

She added that the cost of veterinary school is an obstacle that keeps many from following their dreams of becoming veterinarians.

“It’s a big topic being tackled by the American Veterinary Medical Association right now. Debt could be a deterrent,” she explained. “But if you want to make a difference in animals’ lives and their owners’ lives, just go for it.”

The Royal Palm Veterinary Center is located at 610 Royal Palm Beach Blvd. For more information, call (561) 793-7000 or visit


PMI Remodeling & Repairs A One-Stop Shop For All Projects, Big And Small

PMI Remodeling & Repairs A One-Stop Shop For All Projects, Big And Small

At PMI Remodeling & Repairs, “one call repairs it all.” The family business has been based in Wellington since it was founded by Paul Tonks in 1987.

After working at the old Wellington Club, Paul struck out his own when he saw the need for a remodeling and repair company in the growing community. He currently runs the business with his son, Phil, and the rest of their family.

“We’ve come from being a one-man company to now being a lot bigger than we were,” said Paul, who is originally from England.

Starting in Paul’s garage many moons ago, they have since moved to several different buildings in Wellington’s industrial centers, bringing them to the current office, where they have a showroom full of supplies and mock-ups for clients to come and pick out anything they want, ranging from kitchens and bathrooms to whole house renovations and repairs.

“I came to the business when fax machines and computers started coming onto the scene, so I brought those kinds of technology in, and built the software to run the company,” said Phil, who is destined to one day take over the business.

Though Paul said he is looking to retire soon, Phil pointed out that he has been saying that for the last five years.

Phil is ready and able to take over for his father. He has had his state building contractor’s license for more than 20 years and is devoted to the company.

PMI services include remodeling, commercial services, roofing, gutters, siding, windows, plumbing, electrical, heating, air conditioning, irrigation and painting. Their approach is different from other companies.

“We go out to their place, and we’re a little different because there’s no pressure,” Phil said. “We’ll go out and meet with the husband only, or the wife only, and go through their ideas, come back with a preliminary estimate, send it to them, and if it’s something they like, in the ballpark of what they’re thinking, they’ll come in here to the showroom.”

The showroom, which is more like a designer selection area, allows customers to peruse tiles, flooring, cabinets and other items, which, since PMI will already have the project’s measurements, allows clients to see what fits into their budget.

In addition to four different cabinet companies, with cabinetry at different price points, PMI also has a custom cabinet shop, giving them the ability to not only build custom cabinets for a project, but also the ability to modify cabinets to meet the needs of various projects.

Often people will come in asking for advice. On occasion, they’ll come in with their own decorators and already know what they want. All they need is an estimate from PMI and they’re ready.

Because PMI is able to do all of the work in-house, with electricians, plumbers, tile people, materials and labor, when clients get an estimate from them, it is complete, Paul said, explaining how that is something unique PMI offers clients.

“You can come in here, pick out everything you want, and we’ll make sure it works. That’s the beauty of working with PMI,” Paul said. “We’re not going to ask them to go out and find another company. We’d rather they didn’t; we’d rather use our own people.”

Because of how they work, Phil added, PMI has extensive resources and is able to quickly and efficiently work on a project. For example, where some companies might run into roadblocks that delay a project, PMI has contractors ready to take care of anything, which means the project isn’t delayed.

PMI has the ability to work with anything from appliance repair companies, cleaning companies, window cleaning, pressure cleaning, plumbers, electricians, roofers, and grout cleaning and staining.

PMI works with an architect who draws up plans, Paul added. “It’s a one-stop-shop. It can all be done in-house,” he said.

The entire team works together to accomplish a project that makes PMI proud and customers happy. “It’s important that our subcontractors care about the customers like we do,” Phil said. “We answer the phone every day — it doesn’t go to voicemail. We have an emergency phone after hours that goes to me. We’re here every day from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. We hold a customer’s hand through the project. Also, we decided about 10 years ago to start doing big remodeling projects through the summer months when many customers aren’t here.”

During the summer, they’ll send photo updates, and when the client comes back for the season, the job is done, the house is clean, and they can move right in.

For those looking to take on a remodeling project, Paul suggests that people know what they want and do their homework. “Start early, when you know what you want to do. Get your prices together and work with a company you want to work with,” he suggested. “People try to control the job; it’s very difficult. You have to really let it go to a contractor who can take it, run with it and do it.”

PMI Remodeling & Repairs is located at 3340 Fairlane Farms Road, Suite 6, in Wellington. For more
information, call (561) 798-5722 or visit


Renovation Brings An Open, Airy Feel To Village Walk Home

Renovation Brings An Open, Airy Feel To Village Walk Home

One of Wellington’s more established neighborhoods, Village Walk has become more desirable than ever thanks to beautiful renovations and interior design upgrades occurring under the homeowners’ direction. A perfect example is this home, where a bank of kitchen cabinets was removed to add to the open, airy feel to an interior that already featured dramatic 12-foot ceilings — standard fare when the home was built. The popular gated community is known for its walking bridges over waterways and inter-connected finger lakes, offering nearly every home a water view


Dining Area: Diners seated at the formal dining table, as well as casual brunchers at the island bar, all enjoy the view. The classic look of crown molding and a statement chandelier from Restoration Hardware define the space as both elegant and modern.


Kitchen: A ceiling that seems to float above the kitchen offers acoustical quiet to this well-appointed workspace, complete with new stainless steel appliances and the same polished travertine marble flooring that extends through all the high-traffic areas of the home.


Kitchen Detail: Light kitchens never go out of style. Here, granite countertops and a backsplash of white subway tile join forces to provide a sanitary food prep area with easy cleanup.


Great Room: Walls of sliding glass and the calm of a Sherwin-Williams paint color called Krypton work together to enhance this open great room, usually buzzing with activity. Frosted sliders let the sun shine in, but also provide convenient access to the side yard, while two sets of triple doors provide access to the back.


Master Bedroom: The newly carpeted master bedroom, located at the back of the home, offers another double-door entrance,

as well as a set of sliders allowing easy access to the outdoors. Inside, a central vacuum system makes morning chores a breeze.


Front Elevation: A coveted side entry from the windowed two-car garage sets this home’s design apart. Also featured are Spanish barrel tile, new carriage lights, a pristine paver driveway, butter yellow exterior and lush tropical landscaping.


Back Patio: With its overhead fan, rattan look sectional sofa, Pottery Barn drapes and defining area rug, the homeowners have everything they need to comfortably enjoy this back patio area. Off camera, a bar and television have been added to the space, and all the home’s lights are now on dimmers.


Linda And Harold Wellman Bring Unique Skills And Years Of Experience

Linda And Harold Wellman Bring Unique Skills
And Years Of Experience

Linda and Harold Wellman of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Realty didn’t start out as Floridians, but they both knew they would eventually settle here and begin their careers in real estate.

A New Jersey native, Linda majored in fashion design at Manhattan’s Fashion Institute of Technology while pursuing a career with United Airlines.

“Since I frequently traveled to Florida, I decided that’s where I wanted to make my roots,” she said. “In 1984, I took a buyout from United and moved to Boca Raton.”

Harold grew up in Michigan and got his degree in secondary education.

“My family spent all holiday vacations in Palm Beach County since 1968,” he recalled. “I was very honored to have met John D. McArthur, one of the largest land holders in Palm Beach County, which from a young age sparked my interest in real estate. I always knew that after I graduated from college, I would make Florida my home. So, I moved to Broward County in 1980 and through the years worked my way north, eventually settling in Wellington.”

The Wellmans married in 1986, the same year they both decided to get their real estate licenses. Their motto soon became “the husband and wife team that works for you.” The couple, who now have two college-age children, moved to Wellington in 2003.

“For the past 15 years, we have focused primarily on Wellington, selling family, active adult and luxury real estate, and Boynton Beach selling family and active adult,” Linda said. “There are so many choices in the adult market, and we are truly experts in that field. Our experience and knowledge is priceless, and we pride ourselves on always educating our buyers and sellers, and our video reviews speak for themselves.”

Their partnership not only highlights their individual strengths, but allows Linda and Harold to blend those strengths to provide the ultimate real estate experience.

“Linda and I have a fantastic working relationship,” Harold said. “She handles the marketing and customer relations, while I focus on contracts, appraisal issues, inspections and maintaining timelines. We are very easy-going and pride ourselves on maintaining a lasting relationship with our buyers and sellers.”

Linda’s background in fashion design has found its way into her real estate career. “There is a huge difference in listing a home and marketing a home, something that a majority of sellers don’t realize,” she said. “We truly offer the highest level of marketing out there and have no competition at our level. I am trained in feng shui and staging, so as an added benefit to our sellers, we offer complimentary staging. It is crucial when a buyer walks up to a home that their first impression is good.”

For Harold, the keys to continuing success lie in never resting on his laurels and a no-nonsense approach when it comes to getting the job done.

“I pride myself in continuing with education and always staying on top of local real estate trends,” he said. “Our efficiency makes all the difference when working on a real estate transaction. It is very important to both Linda and I that we maintain a professional image in this industry.”

For more info., call Harold Wellman at (561) 389-8356 or Linda Wellman at (561) 676-8886, or visit


Female Wrestler Hosanna Kropp Breaks Down Barriers At Wellington High School

Female Wrestler Hosanna Kropp Breaks Down Barriers At Wellington High School

Hosanna Kropp has come a long way in a short time. Two years ago, the Wellington High School wrestler could barely lift the 45-pound weightlifting bar and was unable to do one pull-up. Now the junior regularly benches 140 pounds with ease and does five pull-ups while wearing a 25-pound steel chain.

“Hosanna’s work ethic is really unmatched,” wrestling coach Travis Gray said. “I have been coaching for 15 years, and I have never coached someone as committed and determined as her. If she can find somewhere to work out seven days a week, she will do it. All summer long, she has been attending camps, competing in tournaments and training in the weight room.”

Kropp gained great experience by competing in several major tournaments over the summer, including the U.S. Marine Corps Junior and Cadet Nationals in Fargo, N.D., held July 15-22. She finished 2-2 in the individuals, highlighted by her second match, where she trailed 8-0 before rallying for a 15-14 victory.

“I wrestle all year long so colleges can look at me,” said Kropp, who was homeschooled before arriving at WHS as a freshman. “Eventually, I want to win an Olympic title — that’s my ultimate dream.”

The high school wrestling season begins in early November and ends with the state tournament in early March.

During the high school season, Kropp usually gets a run in before school and lifts four days a week through her wrestling class. Wrestling practice lasts between an hour and 90 minutes. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she is an assistant coach at a youth wrestling class, and then wrestles in another practice from 6:30 to 8 p.m. After practice on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, she trains at PAL boxing.

During the summer, Kropp lifts six days a week and wrestles six or seven days a week. She participates in high-level camps to improve her wrestling and train freestyle for national tournaments.

“I’d say I work way harder during the summer due to all the amazing national women wrestling opportunities that there are,” Kropp explained.

Kropp competed in other sports before focusing on wrestling. She was a competitive figure skater, a pole vaulter and boxed at the PAL, which was where she learned about the Wellington wrestling program.

“As a middle schooler, I was not very strong,” said Kropp, who turns 17 in November. “I wanted to learn how to fight so that I could get in shape and protect myself. I didn’t really know what wrestling was, but I really loved boxing and thought wrestling might be able to help me.”

When she arrived at WHS, she headed to a wrestling meeting to find a room full of boys staring right at her.

“Travis Gray asked me if I wanted to be a stat girl, I said, ‘No, I want to wrestle!’ It felt a little awkward that day being the only girl, but now my teammates are as close to me as family,” Kropp said.

The Wolverines have won the last four district championships and the last two county championships, and expect to have new wrestlers at eight of the 14 weight classes. Their top returnees are seniors Jared Abramson (126 pounds) and Eric Saber (170 pounds), along with Chris Difiore (106 pounds) and Cameryn Townsend (138 pounds).

“I know one of Hosanna’s biggest goals is to make our varsity lineup, and it has been and will continue to be difficult, because she is at the weight classes where we have our best wrestlers,” Gray said. “Right now, we are just focused on getting her better every day.”

Kropp wrestled at 126 pounds last season and is planning to compete for a varsity spot at 120 pounds. Whatever happens, she knows that the team fully supports her.

“We have a great group of kids at Wellington, and they really received her well from the beginning,” Gray said. “I know her father was very concerned about her wrestling with boys — and just wrestling in general. I had a long talk with her father before she began, and I actually thought that I may have unintentionally talked her dad out of letting her come out for the team by telling him that we haven’t had any other girls stay with the program. I recommended that maybe she could have a friend come out for the team with her so she felt more comfortable. She proved me wrong. Ever since her first day, she has fit in with the team, and she really has earned the respect of her coaches and teammates through all of her hard work.”

Kropp said she is known at school as “the girl wrestler” and wears it as a badge of honor. Wrestling has helped her develop character, which helps her in her everyday life.

“To be a quality wrestler, I have learned I must show excellence in not only wrestling, but everything I do,” Kropp said. “Whether it’s my grades, or taking out the trash, I always make sure I do the job to the best of my ability. Doing these things will all fall back to wrestling and give you good habits. I’ve also learned that nothing is ever given; you must work hard for everything you have. There is no luck in wrestling; you must earn every point you get.”

Kropp understands that she is a role model and encourages other young women to pursue wrestling.

“This sport requires physical strength, but the majority of it is mental,” she said. “When you’re out there on the mat, it’s a battle where you must exhibit 100 percent of your physical, mental and emotional strength. It seems nerve-wrecking, but I love the thrill of competition. As a girl, many see me as having a disadvantage on the mat, but I don’t see it this way. It’s not always the strongest or fastest opponent who wins, it’s the opponent who is mentally tougher and perseveres through the last second of the match.”


Unique Home-Style Dishes And More At Aroma Indian Cuisine

Unique Home-Style Dishes And More At Aroma Indian Cuisine

Aroma Indian Cuisine opened in February of this year on Village Blvd. in West Palm Beach. Executive Chef Clarence “Rence” Xavier is the creative mind and part owner of the new restaurant. His goal is to serve Indian cuisine that is also influenced by his culinary experience throughout his career as a professional chef.

Managing the new restaurant is a chance for Xavier to introduce something original to every plate that graces the tables at Aroma, and it is a chance for him to learn the flavors that people in the area enjoy.

“If you look at my menu, you’ll see many home-style dishes, and a lot of things that we are offering you may not see in any other restaurants here,” Xavier said. “Most of these things, which I introduced, normally we cook only at home. That is the difference between us and other places around the area.”

Xavier grinds and roasts all the spices that are used in the dishes on the Aroma menu. “I personally don’t like to use any of the powdered spices,” he said. “So, that makes a lot of difference. When you eat the food, then you understand that.”

This doesn’t mean that classic Indian dishes won’t show up on the Aroma menu.

“We do offer the popular dishes,” Xavier said. “At the same time, we have our specialty. That is the home style. That is what I believe will allow our business to stand out.”

A signature treat that Xavier offers under appetizers on the menu is a popular dish found in homes of people from Gujarat, a state in western India. It is called Farali Pattice — made of an outer layer of coconut, and mashed potatoes seasoned with fresh coriander, roasted cashew, cumin and black salt, with a dash of lime juice.

“This particular appetizer, it is made in people’s homes,” he said. “It has a bit of a spice and aroma. It has a very nutty flavor [from] the fresh coriander and the coconut. It has a light sweetness with a sour and tangy finish.”

The finished product comes out light and crispy because of the flash-fry technique Xavier uses with an Indian wok called a karahi.

“With a very high temperature oil, you just put it in and take it out,” Xavier said. “It won’t stay in the oil for too much time. It’s a matter of seconds.”

Unique items such as Farali Pattice are the center of the home-style dishes that Xavier likes to make for his customers. He is conscious of the ingredients and the cooking processes he uses to make the food at Aroma.

“Personally, I don’t like to use the deep-fryer,” Xavier said. “The first thing is that it is unhealthy, and normally the people don’t want it in the oil.”

The black salt that helps season the Farali Pattice is important to the flavor of the dish. “It is a rock salt, which gives it the pungent taste,” Xavier said.

Each fritter is accompanied with a fresh-made garlic chutney, which is seasoned with roasted cumin and coriander. “I borrowed the recipe from a customer who came here the second week when we opened this place,” Xavier said.

Xavier had been using his own kind of chutney, but this customer was from Gujarat and offered a recipe that is commonly paired with Farali Pattice.

Xavier began a catering business in 2008, implementing a fusion of different cultural cuisines in his food, adding Thai, Italian, Greek and Mexican elements to Indian cuisine.

Xavier was greatly influenced by his grandmother, who seemed to know that he would find a way in this world as a professional chef.

“She can make anything,” Xavier said. “She used to tell my mother, ‘You know what? You don’t need to worry about him. He’s going to become a cook. Don’t worry.’ She said that when I was young.”

Xavier became a professional chef at the age of 24. He went to school in India and earned a degree in food and hotel management. He worked in the kitchen for a large hotel chain in Southeast Asia. Then, he took his skills to Royal Caribbean, the Miami-based cruise line. From there he moved to Fairfield, Conn., where he managed several restaurants that were either Indian or Thai cuisine.

He embarked on his current endeavor to lead the kitchen at Aroma last year when his friends and co-owners of the restaurant presented him with the idea and the opportunity.

Xavier believes in combining the passion he feels for food into the food he serves every day.

“I love what I do, and I enjoy every moment, even when I cook,” Xavier said. “It is very important to have a happy heart, especially when you are cooking for somebody else. Whatever you do, there is an energy. If you have a happy heart, then that energy is going to the food as well.”

Aroma Indian Cuisine is located at 771 Village Blvd., Suite 110-111, in West Palm Beach. For more info., call (561) 619-6437 or visit


Dance Marathon Program Grows Into A Student Fundraising Tradition At WHS

Dance Marathon Program Grows Into A Student Fundraising Tradition At WHS

Over the course of the last five years, the students at Wellington High School have raised $164,829 to help the Children’s Miracle Network through the Dance Marathon program.

They started out slowly, raising $11,710.39 in 2013, the first year WHS participated in the program. They raised a bit more in 2014, bringing in $11,802.67, and raised the stakes further in 2015, bringing in an impressive $14,648.25.

In 2016, the goal was set at $25,000. The school surged through that goal, raising a record $42,223.52 and earning the recognition of raising the most money of any Florida high school, noted Student Government Association sponsor Melissa Varvarigos.

In 2017, following the previous years’ expectation, the students not only achieved their goal of raising $50,000, they soared past it, raising an astounding $82,444.17, including $3,450.40 contributed by students at Wellington Landings Middle School.

Dance Marathon started out as a college fundraiser through the University of Florida. They call the high school Dance Marathon events “mini marathons.” WHS now ranks as the No. 1 school in Florida, the No. 1 school in the southern United States, and the No. 5 school in the entire nation, Varvarigos said.

And it wouldn’t be possible without the passion and drive that her students have displayed, with two students in particular, Sam Weingart and Jake Anders, rallying the students and acting as the driving force behind the growth of the Dance Marathon program at WHS.

For the first three years, approximately 100 students attended the seven-hour event. Last year, the number doubled to 200, thanks to the efforts of Weingart. In 2017, there were 300 attendees, Varvarigos said.

Weingart ran the event in 2016, and Anders took over in 2017. He will once again be running it in 2018, during his senior year. “This is an organization that I love,” said Weingart, now a student at UF.

Dance Marathon, he added, was the deciding factor for him choosing UF over other schools he considered, such as Emory University. “I couldn’t give up Dance Marathon,” Weingart explained. “At the end of the day, it all came back to Dance Marathon.”

He hopes to become a captain, working marathon relations for high schools. “It all started freshman year when I was in the auditorium,” Weingart recalled.

He saw a video about Dance Marathon and the children impacted by the money raised. “It really sunk in to me, and when they turned on the lights, I was in tears,” Weingart said.

Weingart is confident that if everyone works together, following their passion, it is entirely possible for the school to raise $100,000 in 2018.

“You just need one person to ignite the flame — one person who is really passionate about something,” he said.

And that person is his successor, Anders, joined by the rest of the SGA team.

Anders is already setting up a busy calendar of events for Dance Marathon 2018.

Last year, the students held car washes, restaurant food nights, a carnival and the move-a-thon at Wellington Landings. This year, they’re looking at adding other events, perhaps even a golf tournament, he said.

“It’s a huge group effort, and it’s run through our Wellington High School student government,” Anders said. “We not only work with our student government and within our school, but we also work with the Wellington Chamber.”

Dance Marathon had a booth at the chamber’s Winterfest.

“There are a lot of people who come together to put on Dance Marathon, even if it’s not for the actual event on that exact day,” Anders said.

The day of Dance Marathon is special. “Miracle Children,” those who the fundraising is really for, come and take part. In 2017, three Miracle Children attended.

“One of the best parts for me is that everyone who walks in the room leaves saying it was the best night of their life,” Anders said.

It’s personal for Anders, as well. He has gone to the Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville, the nearest Children’s Miracle Network hospital, walked the halls and met with sick children. He has seen personally what they, and their families, go through, and how money from Dance Marathon helps.

“Being able to be someone who can advocate, and not only raise money, but raise awareness and support and comfort to these families, is a feeling that is like no other,” Anders said. “It has honestly changed the way I’ve thought about life, and changed the way I want to live my life. It has definitely given me what I want to do when I’m older — become a pediatric cardiologist and hopefully work at Shands.”

In the background, always supporting the SGA students, is Varvarigos.

“Mrs. Varvarigos is honestly amazing. She is a mother to two kids, a wife and our SGA sponsor, and basically a mother to all 28 kids in that room. She is incredible. She is there from the start of everything to the end of everything,” Anders said. “We couldn’t have done it without her.”

Varvarigos is proud of her students and their ability to engage others with their passion. This year, more than 25 students raised more than $1,000, earning them a spot in the “Comma Club.”

Their accomplishments, their passion and their drive, leave her proud of her students, current and former.

“There are so many things that the SGA does, whether it’s the $82,000 or bikes for Rosenwald [Elementary School] or the homecoming events, they put their all into it. You look at that, and you’re really proud,” she said. “They’re just awesome kids.”

The students display a special sense of selflessness working on SGA projects.

“The kids often say we’re like a little family, and it’s true,” she said. “We have different facets of personality, some crazy, some funny, some quiet. We have kids who run the gamut, but at the end of the day, they’re right. We are a family.”

To learn more about the children impacted by Dance Marathon, visit


Wellington’s Ahmmon Richards Making Waves At The University Of Miami

Wellington’s Ahmmon Richards Making Waves At The University Of Miami

Wellington High School graduate Ahmmon Richards wanted to make an impact as a freshman at the University of Miami. Mission accomplished.

Richards, the former superstar wide receiver for the Wolverines, produced an ascendant first season for the resurgent University of Miami football team. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder set a freshman record for receiving yards with 934, breaking Hall of Famer Michael Irvin’s mark that had stood for 31 years.

Richards started 11 of 13 games and caught 49 passes, averaging 19.1 yards per catch for the Hurricanes. His 934 receiving yards led all freshmen nationally and were the sixth most in a single season in UM history. His outstanding efforts earned Richards freshman All-American honors from numerous national organizations, including ESPN and the Football Writers Association of America.

Richards, who was heavily recruited and had more than 20 Division I offers before choosing Miami, has already put his record-setting freshman season behind him and looks to the future.

Along with his amazing athletic ability, Richards has received unwavering support from his parents.

“My dad always pushes me. Both my parents, actually, and they always pushed me to never settle,” said Richards, who turned 19 on May 20. “And that’s a big thing for me. I never settle. What happened last year, that’s last year.”

Richards enters the 2017 season as the Hurricanes primary receiver and expects more attention from defenses, similar to what he experienced during his standout career with the Wolverines. He has improved in numerous areas since arriving on the Coral Gables campus. His speed and catching ability give Miami a deep threat — a game-breaker that will help its inexperienced quarterback.

If Miami can balance Richards with elite running back Mark Walton, the Wellington native has a chance to overcome the inevitable double-teams and flourish. The Hurricanes open up their second season under head coach Mark Richt on Sept. 2 against Bethune-Cookman University, followed by road games at Arkansas State on Sept. 9 and rival Florida State on Sept. 16 at 8 p.m. in a nationally televised contest.

Richards is ready for the bright lights and top competition.

“When I got here, I was probably running around 4.4, and since I got here, I am running like 4.31,” said Richards, who also added about 20 pounds. “So, the strength staff has definitely gotten me faster and stronger.”

Richards has also adjusted to the transition between high school and the university setting, with the biggest difference being the speed of everything.

“College is just a different speed, different workouts, time with classes,” Richards said. “I have class right after this [interview]. It’s different from high school.”

Wellington head football coach Tom Abel strongly believes in Richards.

“He was probably the most dominant high school player I have ever coached,” Abel said. “He was the hardest-working player I have ever been around… When he got the ball, magic happened.”

Richards led the Wolverines in most offensive categories and finished his senior year with 73 catches for 1,278 yards and 14 touchdowns. He received the prestigious 2015 Palm Beach County High School Player of the Year award presented by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission. He was also named the Palm Beach Post All-Area Football Large Schools Offensive Player of the Year.

“My favorite memory of him is when he received a hit in a game, and I wanted to take him out because I thought he was injured,” Abel said. “After talking to him, he told me he was OK. We were on offense. I called his number right after his non-injury, and he caught a slant and took it to the house about 70 yards full speed, and then came off the sideline and asked if he could get the ball again to help his team out.”

Abel said Richards would do everything he could to contribute to the team and support his teammates.

“That mental attitude has carried with him to this day,” Abel said. “He is special, and we love him. He always stayed after practice every day to help the quarterbacks get timing. It worked out great for all of us.”

Richards said he enjoyed his time with the Wolverines, which included an 11-2 record and a trip to the Class 8A regional finals as a junior, the most successful season in school history.

“It’s a brotherhood,” said Richards, whose team lost in the first round of the playoffs in his senior season. “Most kids transfer to other schools, but I am from Wellington, and I just wanted to play with my brothers. And that is something that lasts a lifetime.”

Richards, who has a younger sister, as well as an older and younger brother, grew up playing in the Western Communities Football League, where players are on a different team each year. He started out as a running back, but a coach switched him to wide receiver several years before his final season. His brother, Mark-Anthony, is currently one of the top high school receivers in the county.

Abel said the elder Richards, as a person, is very humble, spiritual and thankful for everything.

“He is always willing to do the right thing for everyone,” Abel said. “He is a pleasure to be around. He always stays hungry and focused.”

Richards said that playing at UM has been everything he thought it would be.

“With the coaches and everything, I believed in them through recruiting, and everything they said is coming to life,” he said.

And, hopefully, that will continue as his sophomore season gets underway.


Cheerleading Dream Team Brings State Championship To Wellington High School

Cheerleading Dream Team Brings State Championship To Wellington High School

The Wellington High School cheerleading team’s journey to win the 2017 state championship was both magical and challenging.

The squad didn’t have a coach until former Wolverines cheerleader Dan Tyrie took over a few weeks before the start of the fall season. He stepped in to lead a team still reeling from the sudden passing of beloved cheerleading coach Matt Mounts in February 2016.

“At the beginning of the season, we were nervous and hesitant, but we were excited to meet our new coach,” recalled rising senior Jessica Pass, who has been on the team for two seasons. “Without coach Tyrie, we wouldn’t have a team. We were so thankful that he stepped up for us. We were already a difficult group to deal with and gave him a hard time. Coach Tyrie deserves a lot of credit.”

Tyrie was a member of Wellington’s 1995 co-ed state championship team before the sport was officially recognized and sanctioned by the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA). However, he had never coached before and didn’t intend to stay for more than one year.

“Coming in after the team had been selected and practices were already occurring was overwhelming,” recalled Tyrie, who was working two jobs before agreeing to lead the cheerleading squad. “Initially, I silently attended a few practices. I didn’t speak to the girls, but I’m sure they knew why I was there. I did not commit right away, as this was something that I had never even considered doing. It’s something that I never even could have seen myself doing. I was beyond hesitant. I was well-aware that it was a massive commitment, and once I agreed to do it, there was no turning back… The first football game was just weeks away.”

Although Tyrie knew it was a huge commitment, he didn’t realize how much time it really would take. He is very thankful for the help of the choreographers and parents.  

“I did not realize until a few weeks into the school year just how large a commitment it was,” he said. “The time commitment alone was more than double what I had anticipated.”

There are two seasons for cheerleaders — football season and competition season.

During football season, the team practices their cheers and band dances. New team members are coached by the veterans. They are also broken down into stunt groups and practice their basic stunts, which are performed after touchdowns and during timeouts.

The squad practiced as a team two afternoons each week for two hours, and some also attended private coaching sessions with Stephanie Brodbeck and Robbie Gregory of Pro Cheer International. There’s an occasional Saturday practice and some strength and conditioning workouts are included during practices.

During competition season, the same schedule is maintained, except instead of Friday night games there is a Friday afternoon practice.

“At that point, the intensity gets cranked up,” said Tyrie, referring to the road to the state championship. “Their routine is choreographed, and they begin practicing more advanced stunts, a fast-paced dance and routine transitions.”

Throughout the season, Tyrie said the girls talked about Mounts and honored him continuously.

“They loved that man, and I’ve never heard an ill word spoken about him,” said Tyrie, who had never met Mounts and didn’t raise the topic himself. “They had their own thoughts and feelings about him, and I respected it and left it alone, aside from telling them that he would have been extremely proud of them, as was I.”

Mounts’ initials were monogrammed into each of their matching team backpacks and practice T-shirts, as well as a stuffed cat that was the team’s personal mascot. His initials were also written on their white shoes in permanent marker.

In addition, the team had a special chant that they would do before each competition. It was a chant that Mounts did with them. One of the team captains, Courtney Kleino, led it. The competition music that was custom-prepared for them also centered on the late coach and referred to them as “Coach Mounts’ Dream Team.”

The love for Mounts goes beyond the cheerleaders. His famous “Rule No. 4” — “Love Each Other” — is painted high on the wall of the high school courtyard for all to see every day.

At the finals in Gainesville, the Wellington cheerleaders were excited and nervous. Tyrie told them that they were going to do great and to do their best to enjoy it. The Wolverines had finished second the year before.

“We knew it was going to be difficult [to win],” Pass said. “Hearing our name when they called first place was a relief and one of the best moments of my life as a cheerleader. I felt that all of our hard work and dedication for the team had finally paid off and that we had made coach Mounts proud.”

Jhona Navarrete was a senior and on the varsity squad for three years.  

“Coming together as a team definitely was what won it for us,” Navarrete said. “It wasn’t individuals on the floor, it was one team. Winning states meant the world to me with it being my senior year. All the work we put in throughout the season paid off, and it was a great way to end my last year with the team.”

The Wolverines scored 70.70 points and were crowned champions in Class 2A Medium Non-Tumbling Division. Ocoee High School placed second with 63.50 points. It was Wellington’s first competitive cheerleading championship sanctioned by the FHSAA, and Tyrie believes the Wolverines will win again.

“We all started screaming and crying as soon as we heard our name called,” Navarrete said. “Jessica [Pass] and I hugged immediately and didn’t stop crying. We were all hugging each other. Winning states was a major goal.”

Pass said all the work they put in was worth it.

“Competition season was stressful, but we were definitely rewarded for our hard work, and I wouldn’t trade this team for any other,” she said. “The past seasons have brought us closer as friends, and this team really does feel like a family.”

And Wellington High School’s cheerleading dream team honored Mounts in perpetuity by inscribing his initials on their state championship rings.


Wellington High School Basketball Celebrates A Stellar Season

Wellington High School Basketball Celebrates A Stellar Season

The Wellington High School boys basketball team claimed the regional championship for the 2016-17 school year, marking the team’s second regional championship in the past three years.

Head coach Matt Colin was on the sidelines for both achievements, but this year’s championship belonged to a strong team of young men, who slotted into roles that propelled the Wolverines to yet another championship banner.

The Wellington Wolverines defeated Coral Springs High School 82-62 in the finals to win the regional title.

“It makes the game so much easier when you’re able to control the game the way we were able to control it,” Colin said. “We always had four players out there who could handle the basketball. It made it so that we were the team that dictated what was going on, not the other team. Anytime you do that, you get the momentum.”

This latest accomplishment was all about the team working together and playing within the system that Colin and his assistant coaches set up for Wellington’s program. In years past, the game might have relied on the play of individuals, but this year was about everyone getting their hands on the ball to make plays for the team.

“That was something that we stressed. We always talk about team basketball,” Colin said. “Obviously, we have some good players on this team. But good players alone don’t win you championships. I think this group was mature enough to understand that.”

Trent Frazier, Miguel Peart and Sage Chen-Young were team captains this past year, and they fit right into their roles. They led by example, and therefore were able to be strong leaders for a young team.

“The years before, we were so used to winning. This year, we lost a lot of talent, so we had to work with what we had and play smaller,” Chen-Young said.

This year was about building off last year’s weaknesses. Coral Springs kept the Wolverines from repeating in the regional championship the year prior.

Chen-Young said the team took the loss hard last year, and the rematch was a must-win for the season and for pride.

“We were already state champs, and it was the game to go back to states, to go back-to-back, and they beat us,” Chen-Young said of the 2015-16 season-ender. “They ended up winning states.”

So, facing Coral Springs at the regional final, the Wellington boys came back and emerged victorious.

“My sophomore year is when we had a lot of talent. We were a good team,” Frazier said. “That’s what made us get our run into the state tournament and get our first ring, but this year was mostly off of everyone playing their roles.”

This was a year when Wellington basketball’s system worked.

“That’s what helped us out, because we were young and little,” Frazier said. “A lot of guys, we weren’t big. We didn’t have a lot of skill, but everyone played their role, and everyone trusted each other, so that’s how we did it.”

Peart agreed that roleplay was much more important for winning games than making plays for glory.

“I just felt good knowing that I was able to get out there and do everything I could,” Peart said. “That’s what I felt like I was, just the everything guy. If you needed a rebound, needed effort, I just went out and gave it my everything.”

A younger athlete on the team this past year was junior Bryan Williams. Colin saw room for growth and contribution from him on the varsity squad. He also looks to fill a captain’s role next year, helping the team continue to match the gameplay of the previous year.

“I felt like I was a good player, but the coach saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself,” Williams said. “The chemistry that we had — I want to continue to grow and keep leading on throughout the years because I’m going to miss my seniors, and I just want all that to stay. I hope nothing changes with it.”

The players embraced their coach and all that came with being a winning team.

“I think toward the second half of the season, as a team, every player, especially the starters, we all toughened up,” Peart said. “We stopped letting little things get to us. We kind of really started to just play.”

Colin finds power in preparation, and this season was about making strengths better and eliminating weaknesses, particularly in rebounding.

“I was always looking to find new rebounding drills, whether it was going online, whether it was calling former colleagues or college coaches,” he said. “Whatever it may be, throw at me a rebounding drill that you do in practice, so I can apply it to my guys, so they don’t get stagnant with what we’ve been doing. We can still accomplish the goals with what we’re trying to do by winning the rebounding battle out there every night.”

The night before the finals, Colin said the team was ready for the highly anticipated rematch against Coral Springs.

“I think there was a lot of emotion going into that game. Trent [Frazier], actually, and he still has it saved on his phone, has got a picture of me picking him up off the floor after we lost the regional final last year, and it was in the paper. It was front page of the sports section, me picking him up and walking him into the locker room because he was so devastated by that loss,” Colin recalled.

It was in the team’s group chat that Frazier sent a message to everyone, including the coach. “The night before the game, he put that on our team chat about how that wasn’t going to happen again,” Colin said.

After a long season of play, a record of 34-3, a lot of rebound drills and dedication, the Wolverines recaptured the regional championship.

Heading into next season, Colin is ready to help turn the next Wellington High School boys varsity basketball team into champions and keep the tradition alive.

“Every season is a journey. You don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but this was, by far, one of the most pleasurable ones I’ve been on,” Colin said. “We have about four or five returning guys who played for us last year, along with the junior varsity group that’s coming up. I’m just looking forward to learning as much as I can about them and seeing what our strengths and weaknesses are.


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