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Prose and Kohn

East County winter sports alumni excel at next level

These Lakewood Ranch area athletes have made the area proud with their play.

Former Braden River High star O'Mariah Gordon chats with former Florida State Coach Sue Semrau during her freshman season.
Former Braden River High star O'Mariah Gordon chats with former Florida State Coach Sue Semrau during her freshman season.
Courtesy photo
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While I've written about some of the East County area's former high school star athletes now making an impact in college football, let's turn our attention to other former local high school athletes who are making a name for themselves at higher levels of sports.

These former prep stars compete in basketball, indoor track and field, hockey, and even acrobatics and tumbling, which is a subset of gymnastics focused on in-air movement. 

Here's a list of some of the East County alumni you should keep an eye on.

LaDazhia Williams, Louisiana State University

LaDazhia Williams, the former Lakewood Ranch High girls basketball star, has played in eight of LSU's 10 games and started all eight of them. The 6-foot-4 graduate student is the team's fifth-leading scorer at 9.9 points per game and is fourth on the team with 4.4 rebounds per game. She's also fourth with seven blocks. 

Williams' contributions have helped the Tigers race to a 10-0 record and a No. 11 NCAA ranking. Williams transferred to LSU from the University of Missouri.

O'Mariah Gordon, Florida State University

O'Mariah Gordon, the former Braden River High girls basketball point guard, has been coming off the Florida State bench for much of her sophomore season after making 20 starts in 31 games last season.

It has mattered little to her stats, or to the team's success. 

Gordon is averaging 9.4 points and 2.3 assists per game this season after averaging 7.4 points and 3 assists per game as a freshman. Using the 5-foot-4 Gordon as a "sixth man" type of player, the Seminoles have gone 10-1 in 2022, the only loss coming against Oklahoma State on Nov. 24 in the Women's Cancun Challenge in Mexico.

Gordon earned her first start of the season on Dec. 15, a 98-37 win over Presbyterian in which Gordon scored 12 points and pulled down four rebounds.

Whether she continues to crack the starting five or not, Gordon has a habit of making good things happen when she's on the floor. 

East County athlete Skye Ekes, a Cardinal Mooney alum, had 72 kills in 2022 at Florida State. Courtesy photo.
Courtesy photo
Skye Ekes, Florida State University

Another East County athlete, Cardinal Mooney High alum Skye Ekes, has also found a home at FSU. Ekes, a volleyball player, played in 20 of the Seminoles' 30 matches this year as a sophomore. The 6-foot-1 Ekes had 71 kills for Florida State in 52 sets. 

Ekes' contributions helped the Seminoles go 19-11 in 2022 and reach the NCAA Tournament, though they lost 3-0 to Northern Iowa in the first round of the tournament on Dec. 2. 

Saraiah Walkes, Eastern Michigan University

Saraiah Walkes, The Out-of-Door Academy track and field multi-time state champion, is a sophomore sprinter at Eastern Michigan. Walkes finished seventh in the 200 meter (24.79) and 400 meter dashes (56.07) at the Mid-American Conference Indoor Championships as a freshman and was named to the All-MAC First Team for her efforts.

Walkes has started well this season. She finished second in the 400 meter dash (56.55) at the Grand Valley State University Holiday Open on Dec. 9 in Allendale, Michigan. 

James Rivera, Florida State University

James Rivera, a junior hurdler, and the Seminoles will begin their season Jan. 13 at the Clemson Invitational. If this season follows the progressions he made as a sophomore, he should be in good position to compete for conference honors. 

Rivera finished 15th in the 400 meter run (47.97) at the Atlantic Coast Conference Indoor Championships in February, then won the ACC Outdoor title in the 400 meter hurdles (50.36) in May. 

Sasha Pastujov, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Sasha Pastujov was seventh in the OHL in scoring as of Dec. 15 with 38 points. Courtesy photo.
Courtesy photo

Pastujov is not a "college" athlete, but since hockey's professional structure is a strange beast, him playing in the Ontario Hockey League is the closest Pastujov will get to college-level competition. 

The 19-year-old Lakewood Ranch area native is playing in the developmental league, for the Sarnia Sting while he waits for the Anaheim Ducks — who snatched his rights in the third round of the 2021 NHL Draft — to call him name. Pastujov has 38 points in 24 OHL games this season, 19 goals and 19 assists. That's seventh-most in the OHL. 

NHL writer Adam Kimelman noted in a Dec. 10 column that Pastujov has "taken his game to the next level" this season, especially since a trade that brought him to the Sting from the Guelph Storm on Nov. 17. Pastujov's star is shining brighter than ever. 

Ashlynn Voorhees, Converse College

Voorhees, who trained at EVO Athletics and graduated from Lakewood Ranch High, is part of Converse's (Spartanburg, South Carolina) Acrobatics and Tumbling team. Acrobatics and Tumbling is a sport that combines gymnastics with competitive cheerleading. 

Last season as a freshman, Voorhees helped her team win the trio tumbling division of the 2022 Conference Carolinas Acrobatics and Tumbling Championships. She also qualified for the 2022 National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association National Championships, though she did not win there. Her chance at redemption begins Jan. 29 with a meet against Presbyterian College. 

Sarsen Whatmore, Boston University

Whatmore, the Out-of-Door Academy grad, is in his senior swimming season with the Terriers and looking to close it strong. 

Whatmore, who made the All-Patriot League Second Team in 2020, won the 200-yard backstroke (1:54.47) at a Dec. 3 meet against the College of the Holy Cross and on Nov. 19, he teamed with freshman Tony Ponomarev, sophomore Piergiulio Bressan and junior Olin Jackson to finish third in the 800 yard freestyle (6:44.36) at the 2022 Terrier Invitational. 



Ryan Kohn

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.

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