Football is such a force in Sarasota, and across the state, that it becomes easy to forget about the other fall sports.
They do exist, though. In some of them, the area even has a few state title contenders. Me personally? Taking in a back-and-forth volleyball match or watching a deadlocked swim race come down to a few hundredths of a second is just as thrilling as witnessing a one-handed touchdown grab. Because I spent the last two weeks previewing the gridiron, I thought it was only fair to give the other sports some shine.
The domination had to end at some point.
In 2018, the Riverview High boys swim team’s streak of four-consecutive state championships came to an end. The Rams finished seventh overall, and the girls finished third. Both teams have high-end talent returning, highlighted by senior Emma Weyant.
Weyant won two individual golds at the 2018 state meet, and this summer, the University of Virginia commit won the 400 individual medley at the 2019 U.S. National Championships in Stanford, Calif. Her time of 4:35.47 is the third-fastest 400 IM time in the 17-18 girls division in history. Forget high school state meets; Olympic meets may be in her future.
The Rams also return senior Savannah Barr, who took bronze in the girls 200 freestyle, senior Alexander Gardner, who finished fourth in the boys 200 freestyle, and senior Alexander Gusev, who finished fifth in the boys 500 freestyle, among other strong swimmers.
Sarasota High returns seniors Alicia Davie and Sumner Chmielewski, who finished fifth and sixth in the girls 500 freestyle, respectively.
Riverview is covered in our sports cover story, but the Rams are not the only area volleyball team with lofty aspirations.
Cardinal Mooney returns nine players from last year’s state runner-up squad, including captains Sophia Hritz, a senior outside hitter, and Anna Klemeyer, a senior opposite hitter. The Cougars also return junior Ashley “Skye” Ekes, who led the team with 17 kills in its five-set championship game loss to Trinity Catholic last November. Coach Chad Sutton should have the Cougars in prime position for another deep run.
Sarasota Christian will try to build on its 18-9 record from a season ago. The Blazers were bounced in the regional semifinals. That will be tough, as seven seniors from last year’s team have graduated. The Blazers do return junior Hailey Knepp, who was second on the team with 103 kills in 2018 according to MaxPreps.
The Riverview girls team is a state title contender after finishing second in 2018 and returning four of its top-five players: Jacqueline Putrino, Aaron Whitley, Rachel Carlson and Kiran Kaoiyala. Putrino and Whitley finished sixth and seventh, respectively, for the individual state title.
Sarasota High junior girls golfer Lily Sikorski should also have a strong season after finishing her sophomore season 42nd individually at the state tournament.
On the boys side, Cardinal Mooney finished fifth as a team and return seniors Noah Kumar and Robbie Higgins and sophomore Wyatt Plattner. That trio should be strong enough for a return trip to the state tournament.
Sarasota High took home a cross country gold medal last year thanks to Ben Hartvigsen’s Class 4A boys division win. He’s at Harvard this fall. The best bet to follow in his footsteps is senior Ryan Guendjoian, who finished 16th in 2018. Kasumi Wade and Marissa Kempf are juniors to watch on the Sailors girls team.
In 2018, the Cardinal Mooney girls cross country team reached the state meet for the first time in 31 years. The Cougars should begin making that a habit in 2019. The Cougars’ top eight runners from last season are juniors and sophomores this season. They should only get faster.
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.