- September 5, 2018
Although football season officially began this week, to me it seems like the official start came a month ago.
I've written about the new season for four straight issues of this paper. Of course, football is my favorite sport to watch as a fan and one of my favorites to cover, so that's OK. But the other fall sports deserve recognition as well.
So here is a look at the non-football sports as they begin their seasons as well.
One of East County's top athletes seems primed to make an impact early in the 2022-2023 season. Lakewood Ranch High boys golfer Parker Severs is one of the most talented golfers in the area. He tied for 23rd out of 96 golfers in Class 3A at the Florida High School Athletic Association state tournament in 2021 as a freshman (77-76—153) and he spent the high school offseason getting even better.
Before the high school season began, he tied for 11th (70-78-78—226) at the Florida State Golf Association Boys' Junior Championship, held July 6-8 at Seminole Legacy Golf Club and Golden Eagle Golf and Country Club in Tallahassee. He also won two straight Florida Junior Tour events, first the Royal Palm Open (72-71—143) at Royal Palm Golf Club in Naples on May 7-8, then the Palm Harbor Open (70-69—139) at Palm Harbor Golf Club in Palm Coast on May 14-15.
Lakewood Ranch boys golf coach Dave Frantz said Severs will be the team's No. 1 golfer this season. The Mustangs finished 13th at the 2021 state tournament but graduated Jack Burbee, perhaps the team's most consistent golfer last season, and lost Jaxon Brown, a talented sophomore, to IMG Academy. As a result, the team likely will not have the depth it had in 2021.
Severs, though, gives the Mustangs a high-end talent that will help keep the team in contention.
His talent was on display at the season-opening John Ryan Invitational, held Aug. 22 at Capri Isles Golf Club in Venice. Severs shot a 70 and took medalist honors while the Mustangs finished second as a team, 11 strokes behind Gulf Coast High. The next highest Mustangs finisher, junior AJ Hovermale, shot a 75 to finish tied for seventh.
Here's an area outlook for the fall.
On the girls side of the sport, the Mustangs return all four of their golfers from the team that finished tied for 13th at last year's state tournament. Lauren Hosier and Jessica Kobetitsch, who shot 157 and 159 at the tournament respectively, are both seniors and should ensure that the Mustangs get back to the state tournament again in 2022.
At Parrish Community High, the Bulls graduated East County golfer Tabitha Hanely, who was the area's top girls golfer in 2021, but will be led this season by East County golfers — and sisters — Marissa Krone, a junior, and Maya Krone, a freshman.
In 2021, Braden River High won its district for the first time since 2010. In 2022, the Pirates return the majority of their core players aside from outside hitter Sierra Arnsperger and defensive specialist Morgan Pogoda, who graduated. Braden River is a threat to repeat as district champion and perhaps make an even deeper postseason run. Through two matches this season, the Pirates have swept Parrish Community High 3-0 and taken Cardinal Mooney High — perennially a state-contending program — to its limit, losing 3-2 with an 18-16 final set. If a loss is ever an encouraging sign for a program's season outlook, it's that one.
Lakewood Ranch should have a solid season thanks to senior Andrea Dietz, a North Florida commit, while The Out-of-Door Academy has started 2-0 under second-year coach Lisa Godwin, sweeping both of its opponents.
Volleyball might turn out to be one of East County's sports of strength this season.
In the pool, East County should be led by The Out-of-Door Academy senior boys swimmer Felipe Baffico Balharry, who finished seventh in the 100 yard butterfly (49.11) and eighth in the 200 yard freestyle (1:40.21) at the 2021 FHSAA state meet in Class 1A. Baffico Balharry also made waves this summer when he represented Chile at the 2022 FINA World Championships in Budapest. Expect his senior season to be his best after his offseason experience.
It might be a slower year in the pool for the other East County teams. At Lakewood Ranch, the only swimmers to qualify for the 2021 state meet — boys swimmers Dimiter Zafirov and Frank Runge — have graduated. Only one Braden River High state qualifier returns, girls swimmer Sydney Koshinski, a sophomore. She didn't qualify for any state A division finals in 2021, but perhaps with another year in the pool she can reach that mark in 2022.
The Lakewood Ranch girls squad, which finished third in the state in 2021, loses the majority of its top runners from a season ago, including sisters Grace and Hailey Marston. Sophomores Olivia Spiegel and Addison Shea and junior Maeve Ingham will need to take some forward steps if Mustangs will have a chance to get back to the state meet.
None of the other East County teams, boys or girls, should be state contenders in 2022, but an interesting athlete to watch is The Out-of-Door Academy girls runner Bailey Fulk. She finished 51st (22:14.90) at the 2022 Babe Zaharis Twilight Challenge in Tampa on Aug. 26. I know 51st might not seem that impressive. But Fulk is a seventh grader competing at the varsity level. She's already finishing in front of a lot of high schoolers. In the Twilight Challenge, 141 runners finished behind her.
It should be interesting following her progress.