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Sarasota Thursday, May 19, 2022 1 month ago

Prose and Kohn: Our columnist's favorite moments of the 2021-2022 high school athletic year

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Championship wins, massive dunks, bearhugs and a well-deserved retirement: These moments run the gamut.
by: Ryan Kohn Sports Editor

On Monday night, I was hit with a feeling of confusion. 

"What do I do now?"

It's a familiar thought, one I usually have this time of year. I have the thought because the high school sports season for Sarasota-area schools is over, except for a handful of spring football games that don't exactly count. Sometimes we have baseball or softball teams still playing at this point — like our East County publication does — but not this year. The track and field championships were the area's last grasp at glory for the 2021-2022 school year. So now I don't know what to do with my weeknights; if I'm not at a school for a 7 p.m. start of some kind, it feels wrong. 

Longtime readers will know that the end of the athletics season brings with it a countdown of the top sports moments of the year. That countdown is coming soon. But first — as longtime readers will also know — I like to break down my personal favorite moments of the year. These moments are not necessarily championships or other important wins, though they could be. They are simply a collection of moments that stood out to me for one reason or another that I believe are worth sharing again. 

I would be remiss to not start with the most recent of these moments, as it was a type of moment I will no longer be able to experience. When I attended a Sarasota High baseball game against Braden River High in April, I did not think it would be the last time I got to cover Clyde Metcalf, who had been the team's bench boss since 1982. Metcalf needs no introduction. He's a legend. When I say I feel lucky to have been able to listen to him teach baseball to his teams for six seasons, I mean it. I won't be able to do that anymore. Metcalf announced his retirement on May 11. 

I'm something of a lapsed baseball fan. I grew up playing the game my entire childhood and, being from Maryland, I loved the Baltimore Orioles. As the Orioles have collapsed on the field in recent seasons and I moved away from Maryland, getting to see fewer of their games, my care level for both the team and the sport started to wane. Whenever I catch highlights of big hits or disgusting pitches online — Pitching Ninja is a great resource for this, apropos of nothing — I often have to look up the players involved because I don't recognize their names right away. 

But whenever I listened to Metcalf, my love of the game resurfaced. Like Metcalf, I love the fundamentals. If the pitchers throw strikes and the defense behind them fields well and the hitters can manufacture a handful of runs, that's a beautiful performance, and that's how his teams played. I will miss listening him chide his team for being afraid of choking up on the bat or chewing out, well, everyone at the field for not knowing the infield fly rule. 

His retirement is well-deserved, and his replacement on the Sailors bench will have massive shoes to fill. 

But we'll worry about that next spring. Let's keep looking backward. I loved so many things about this athletic year, but watching the Cardinal Mooney girls basketball team come so close to a state title for the second year in a row was enthralling. The program's games have an electric atmosphere to them and the girls on the team care so much about the game and each other. They play with tenacity. It makes for a joy to watch, even when — as this year's Class 3A championship game did — it ends in Mooney heartbreak. This week, the school named Monty Williams as the program's coach after Rico Antonio stepped down following the season. Williams has a talented roster to work with, but more than the team's record, I am interested in seeing if he can keep the same energy within the program.

As far as singular talents go, Riverview High freshman Jamier Jones is among the best I've seen, especially at such a young age. While there are of course things he needs to work on, like all inexperienced players, the Rams boys basketball player put on a show this season, posterizing opponents with highlight-reel dunks and swatting their shots away like they were gnats on a summer day. There's a reason Jones, who is 6-foot-5 according to Rivals, was named the No. 7 player in ESPN's initial Class of 2025 national rankings. Getting to see a talent like this so early in his career was a treat. Don't miss out next year. Basketball fans are going to be hearing Jones' name for a long time. 

I also enjoyed chatting with the Sarasota boys and Riverview girls swim teams following their state championships. For what could be an individual-heavy sport, I am always blown away by how much swim teams value the "team" aspect of it. Special chants, signs, routines: all the hallmarks of group bonding are there. I love that. I can't prove it, but I believe that having tight-knit teams like these does help in the individual races. When you compete for something bigger than yourself, you can accomplish so much. It's an important lesson to learn. 

Goodness, I'm running out of space already. Let's speed run these last few things: Watching Riverview senior football linebacker Tyre Smith tackle people was a lot of fun (for me, not for the people he tackled); seeing the Booker High girls basketball team scratch and claw its way into the Class 4A final four on the back of good defense was inspiring; witnessing first-year Cardinal Mooney boys basketball Coach Vince Cherry get a bearhug from his mentor, B.J. Ivey, after the Cougars beat Ivey's The Out-of-Door Academy was heartwarming. 

All in all, it was another stellar year on the beat, and I can't wait for more moments like these to bowl me over next year. 

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I’m the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. I was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. My biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. My strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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