The 34th Street beach mat which extends to the tide line will be emulated with plans for others at the some of the city’s beaches. By Donald WittkowskiFor many beachgoers, the trips across the sand are a relative breeze, a short trek while heading for a favorite spot near the water’s edge.For others, though, the deep, powdery beach sand is like trudging through a desert, one challenging step after another. It is especially difficult for senior citizens, people with disabilities and families with young children or baby strollers.But at the 34th Street beach, a 200-foot-long blue mat made of hard plastic creates a pathway that allows everyone to walk on top of the sand instead of getting bogged down in it. The mat also makes it much easier for people in wheelchairs to gain access across the beach.In what is Ocean City’s latest project to improve access to its beaches, the long mat at 34th Street extends all the way to the high tide line and is part of a test program this summer. It offers an amenity for some, and to others, it provides the only way to easily access the beach.“I love this. I really love it how easy it is,” beachgoer Laura Tucker said as she pushed her 3-year-old daughter, Gemma, across the mat while the little girl sat in a baby stroller. “Without it, it would be so hard for me that it would be nearly impossible.”Tucker, a summer vacationer from Swoyersville, Pa., noted that the mats are also a great help to beachgoers who don’t have young children. She said longer mats would make it easier for people to lug chairs, umbrellas and other beach gear through the sand.“It’s more convenient for everyone, even people who don’t have strollers,” she said in an interview Thursday.The distinctive blue mat, made of hard plastic, sits on top of the sand to create an easy-to-walk pathway.Last summer, Brigantine installed beach mats to the shoreline at its 16th Street beach, making it possible for people in wheelchairs to get close to the ocean. Ocean City modeled the plan for 34th Street after Brigantine’s project.City officials will monitor 34th Street over the summer to see if more mats should be extended all the way to the high tide line at other beaches in town. Through the first two months of summer, the experiment at 34th Street appears to be a success, Councilman Bob Barr said.“So far, I’ve heard positive feedback from beachgoers, from residents and from the city administration,” Barr said.Barr, a Fourth Ward councilman whose district includes 34th Street, has been one of the city’s leading advocates for creating more access to the beaches. He and other members of City Council have worked with Mayor Jay Gillian’s administration on the project.Born with cerebral palsy, Barr uses a wheelchair for his mobility. He said he tried out the mat at 34th Street earlier this summer for a trip to the beach.“It worked for me,” he said. “It makes it much easier to use your own wheelchair that you’re comfortable with.”The longer beach mat at 34th Street puts people closer to the water’s edge.The extra-long mat at 34th Street serves as a trial run because it is the only one of its kind that extends all the way to the high tide line, Barr said. Ocean City has mobility mats at more than 50 beaches in town, but they are shorter than the one at 34th Street and don’t come as close to the water.The mat on 34th Street effectively creates a sitting area closer to the ocean for people in wheelchairs. City spokesman Doug Bergen said other beaches are being considered for wheelchair access and sitting areas.“Limiting factors for the expansion of the program include the need to keep the mats clear of sand throughout the day (particularly on the paths for wheelchairs), as they are extremely popular with people without disabilities, and the need to be able to remove them from the beach quickly in the event of a major storm,” Bergen said in an email.There are two more wheelchair sitting areas in Ocean City. One is at Surf Road in conjunction with a new ramp to the beach. The other is at the Ocean City Beach Patrol station between 58th and 59th streets, just off the handicap-accessible ramp to the beach, Bergen said.At 34th Street, the entire path to the beach is about 450 feet from the restrooms. About 200 feet of that pathway is a distinctive blue mat stretching out to the sitting area, Bergen said.“There are approximately 80 mat sections that make up the path and sitting area. The approximate cost of the mat material alone is $13,200,” he said.The 34th Street beach also includes dune crossovers and handrails. The city also has a program that provides beach-accessible wheelchairs at no cost.The beach-accessible wheelchairs are equipped with extra-large rubber wheels to make them easier to push through the sand. Gayla Frantz, seated in a beach wheelchair, is pushed by Dave Law, while her daughter, Danielle Frantz, right, and Christina Morales watch.Danielle Frantz, a vacationer from Philadelphia, uses a beach wheelchair for her 65-year-old mother, Gayla Frantz, who has a disability. Danielle Frantz said the beach wheelchairs can be hard to push in the sand, underscoring what she believes is a critical need for even more mobility mats.“Yes, we have problems walking through the sand,” she said. “Going back and forth to the bathroom is miserable.”Frantz, however, is happy that the 34th Street beach includes a mat that extends closer to the water.“This is quite easier, for sure,” she noted. “They should do this at more places.”Frantz’s boyfriend, Dave Law, said the deep, soft sand can be even harder to walk cross while carrying bags and other beach gear. Mobility mats that extend closer to the water would make Ocean City’s beaches even more popular with vacationers, he believes.“I think it would encourage more people to come here,” Law said.Beach wheelchairs equipped with extra-large rubber wheels are available outside the first aid station at the entrance to the 34th Street beach.
Katie Chin | Daily TrojanOn Sept. 23, 2016, it appeared as though USC’s season ended on a rainy Friday night in Salt Lake City. Utah defeated USC 31-27 on a touchdown with 18 seconds left in the game, and a then-redshirt freshman quarterback named Sam Darnold saw his debut spoiled in heart-wrenching fashion. The Trojans fell to 1-3. But it wasn’t close to the end. It was a new beginning. “I just remember in that game just seeing our team grow,” head coach Clay Helton said. “It reminds me a little of this year. I saw players getting better week in and week out … Instead of worrying about what’s out there way on down the line, just worry about what it takes to win this week and let’s add them all up at the end.” Last year’s loss to Utah was a turning point for a team standing at the crossroads. Now, one year and some change later, the Trojans again face the Utes at a critical point in their season. They suffered their first loss of the season to the Cougars on the road two weeks ago, and now must win out to get a whiff at the College Football Playoff facing a stiff test in Utah this weekend. For Darnold, Utah is the only school he has unfinished business with from last year as they represent just one of two losses he’s suffered in 16 career starts. When he played Utah, the now-redshirt sophomore entered the game as a virtual unknown, benched in favor of Max Browne at the start of the season. Since his first career start at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Darnold has been featured on Sports Illustrated covers and NFL Draft forecasts. With all eyes on him in 2017, the results have been mixed. He’s already tied his total number of interceptions last year (nine) in just six games. “I’d like to beat Utah just because I haven’t before,” Darnold said. “And Coach Whittingham, I have so much respect for him. It’s well-documented that they were my first offer, so I have a lot of respect for the Utah program because of what they’ve built there ever since they entered the Pac-12.”In Darnold’s emotional rematch with the Utes at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, he must go up against a stout front seven and a secondary with a knack for forcing turnovers. The Utes’ defense has allowed the second fewest total touchdowns (nine) and has forced the second most turnovers (five fumbles, nine interceptions) in the Pac-12. Senior linebackers Sunia Tauteoli (7.5 tackles for loss) and Kavika Laufatasaga (26 tackles) both can fly to the football and blow up plays in the backfield. Utah also possesses a dominant defensive line behind tackles Lowell Lotulelei and Filipo Mokofisi. “They load the box,” Helton said. “This is a cover-one football team, cover-three football team. They’re going to put one more down there than you have. They do a tremendous job with their big people up front … Their primary focus is to stop the run and they put their DBs on islands and so far they’ve held up extremely well.”For the Utah offense, Los Angeles native Troy Williams has reclaimed the starting quarterback spot he held last year, after Tyler Huntley went down with an injury two weeks ago. Williams is a dual threat; last year he totaled 20 touchdowns both through the air and on the ground. He will be throwing to wide receiver Darren Carrington II, who leads the Pac-12 in receiving yards (116.8 yards per game, five touchdowns). Likely the most dynamic athlete on Utah’s roster, Carrington joined the team this season after spending the last three years as a standout for Oregon. Upon his dismissal from the program due to a DUI arrest, the San Diego native is making the most of second chance in the Pac-12 South. Clashing with Carrington, Williams and Zack Moss, the Utes’ leading running back, will be a Trojan defense prolific in its own right. In replacing junior linebacker Porter Gustin, sophomore defensive end Christian Rector has emerged as the unit’s primary disrupter. He leads the Pac-12 with 4.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries. In addition to the defensive front, USC’s secondary is tied for forcing the most interceptions in the conference with nine. Sophomore cornerback Jack Jones has four interceptions himself over the first half of the season. As Darnold tilts with Utah for the second time in his career, his supporting cast may look different, but the game’s importance remains the same heading into a Pac-12 contest with major Pac-12 South division ramifications. “I think everyone on the team knows what’s going down on Saturday,” Darnold said. “We know implications that the game presents. So far, on film, we’ve seen them bring it. We’re going to be ready, but it definitely will be a battle for sure.”
Rangers – back in the top flight after four years out of it – will begin at home to Hamilton.Brendan Rodgers’ first Old Firm derby in charge of Celtic is five rounds in – taking place over the weekend of the 10th and 11th of September at Celtic Park.The season’s due to start on the 6th of August.