Prose and Kohn: Ryan Kohn
Each season seems to pass faster than the last.
It's the sports journalist's curse, the price of having fun every day you're on the job covering a fantastic game. The 2020-2021 season felt especially swift, perhaps because it was a respite from everything else happening in the world.
With the school year complete, I've been able to pick a handful of my favorite memories and storylines.
Heading the list was watching two local programs, The Out-of-Door Academy baseball and Lakewood Ranch High softball, win state championships for the first time. They were just as exciting as I hoped they would be. It's what every teams works so hard to achieve. Knowing that those kids will never forget those wins means I will likely remember them for a long time as well.
Mostly, though, my favorite moments on the beat don't come from watching specific wins. I like stories — something I hope you know by now — such as following Lakewood Ranch High football Coach Rashad West as he continues to rebuild the program, perhaps turning it into a contender. That gives me a thrill. The Mustangs went 5-3 in the regular season and advanced to the playoffs. Sure, they were beaten 51-14 by Manatee High in that game, but every program has to start somewhere. Lakewood Ranch's players know what the playoffs feel like now, so if they reach that level again in 2021, they'll be ready. That's progress.
A little further west down State Road 70, I enjoyed watching the high school career of two Braden River High athletes, seniors Shawqi Itraish and O'Mariah Gordon, come to a close. Itriash, the football team's quarterback, has always impressed me with his arm. He will play for Rice University next season. I think he has a chance to be a solid starting quarterback with time and some decision-making refinement.
As for Gordon, the girls basketball star, what can you say? Getting injured midway through her senior season isn't how anyone wanted 2021 to go for her, but she's been such a stellar player for four years. Her two Gatorade Florida Player of the Year awards are deserved. She's going to Florida State next season, and I would be surprised if she did not make an immediate impact on the Seminoles. She's too talented to sit on the bench.
It was fun taking in a Parrish Community High girls soccer game that featured a number of players from the Lakewood Ranch area. The program is only in year two, so there have been growing pains, but the program is going the right direction under former Braden River High Coach Nicole Paternostro. Watching how the Bulls improve next season will be interesting; they have a lot of talent.
Finally, I always enjoy writing about niche sports, so naturally I found my conversation with Lakewood Ranch senior Blake Wood about the art of javelin fascinating.
If the sports season goes by in a flash, the summer takes forever to end. Eventually, though, it will be August. We'll get to do this all again. I'm thankful for that precious gift.
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