Sarasota athletes are finding success in college.
The winter sports season is here.
I am likely alone in wishing it felt a little more like winter here, but nonetheless, typical winter sports like basketball and … swimming … are underway at the collegiate level. With it comes my periodic look at what area alumni are doing at the next level.
Wouldn't you know it? They are doing phenomenal.
Former Riverview High swimmer Austin Katz has a starring role on the No. 1 ranked Texas Longhorns swim team. Katz, a junior, took the men's 200-meter backstroke title at the Minnesota Invitational on Dec. 7 with a time of 1:37.35. That is the fastest 200 backstroke time in the country this season and set a University of Minnesota pool record. Katz also won the 100-meter backstroke (44.93) and was part of the Longhorns' victorious 800-meter freestyle relay (6:08.40).
Staying in swimming, former Cardinal Mooney swimmer Matthew Garcia participated in the 2019 Toyota U.S. Open Championships, held Dec. 4-7 in Atlanta. Garcia, a senior at Tennessee, finished 17th out of 128 swimmers in the men's 100 backstroke (56.31) and 47th out of 102 swimmers in the 200 backstroke (2:07.18). Earlier this season, on TKTKTK, Garcia set the fourth-fastest 200-meter individual medley time in Tennessee history (1:44.71). According to the school's website, Tennessee coach Lance Asti said Garcia has been working hard on his backstroke at practice. Garcia's results speak for themselves.
Former Sarasota High girls basketball player Imani Jones is having a breakout season at Embry-Riddle after redshirting in 2018-2019. Jones is third on the Eagles in both points (8.7) and rebounds (5.6) per game. In three out of the Eagles' seven games, Jones has gone into double-digit points. She came one rebound shy of her first double-double on Nov. 23 against Lynn University. Embry-Riddle holds just a 4-3 record, but Jones is doing her part to turn around the program.
Booker High boys basketball alumnus Jordan Clark hit the junior college scene running. Clark is a freshman guard at the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, and has started all 14 of the team's games. He is averaging 13.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He got a shoutout from SCF coach Tom Parks on Twitter on Dec. 12, with Parks saying is a "Crafty combo [guard], good in tight spaces, super efficient and makes winning plays." His play may yet land him at a bigger institution when his time at SCF is up.
There is also Riverview boys basketball grad A.J. Caldwell, who is averaging 4.6 points and 2.4 rebounds per game as a redshirt sophomore guard at Tennessee-Chattanooga. He had 12 points in a 87-77 loss to Western Carolina on Dec. 3. At Columbia, Sarasota High girls basketball grad Madison Pack, a junior forward, scored eight points in the Lions' 74-46 win against Milwaukee on Nov. 30.
As always, there are more athletes doing great things for their colleges. I simply don't have room for them all. The bottom line is that this area produces talent that can play against anyone, anywhere, at any time, and that is a cool thing.