Could the same be said of every year? Maybe, but that's a product of how talent and event-rich the area has become over the last several years. Between top-tier high school sports, big-time golf tournaments and national water sports events at Nathan Benderson Park, it is easy to take all the area has to offer for granted.
We shouldn't. It's a great sports community with diverse offerings, and there is plenty to mark on your calendars.
The 2023 USRowing Masters National Championships will return to Nathan Benderson Park Aug. 10-13. If you attended the 2022 event, which saw more than 775 rowers from 96 clubs across the country compete, you know this is not an event to be missed.
At last year's event, I told the stories of people like Elliott Vasquez, a paraplegic who lost his motor skills and sensation below the T5/T6 region of his spine but persevered to become a rower and won a gold medal in the PR1 Men's Masters 1x Final (8:11.99). I hope I get to tell more stories like that from the 2023 event, because if that isn't inspiring, I don't know what is.
The 2023 USRowing Youth Nationals will also be held at the park, for the sixth-straight year. The exact dates aren't set, but it will be held during the summer.
Of course, football is always intriguing in the 941 area. That shouldn't change in 2023. The question we'll get an answer to first is who will coach the Sarasota High team. That answer could come at any time, but it will certainly come before spring football practices start on May 1 (and likely much sooner). Whoever it is will inherit a talented backfield and a hard-hitting defense coming off its first playoff win in 18 years. Seeing if the program's upward trajectory continues will be fascinating.
The other three area programs — Riverview High, Cardinal Mooney High and Booker High — also made the postseason, with Riverview reaching the third round. It is also expected that Sarasota Christian will make the jump to 11-on-11 football in 2023 after one season of 8-on-8 football. All of these programs are on the upswing, which is a rarity, at least in recent years. Can it continue?
As a former baseball player myself, the diamond sports are always of particular interest to me. Last year, Riverview High's baseball team came the closest to making a deep run, going 18-9 in the regular season and reaching the regional quarterfinals before losing 4-3 to East Lake High. After graduating 11 players from last year's team, can the Rams get back there (and beyond)?
Plus, 2023 will be the first year since 1981 that Clyde Metcalf has not been the Sarasota High baseball team's bench boss, as he stepped down following last season. I'm looking forward to attending a Sailors game, if only to see how different it feels without the legend there. New Coach Greg Mulhollen has a tough job in front of him.
And hey, you can't talk baseball without mentioning the Baltimore Orioles. They'll be back in town next month; Spring Training opening day is Feb. 25, as they host the Minnesota Twins at 1:05 p.m. at Ed Smith Stadium.
Each year, it seems we have athletes emerge as state track and field contenders. Last year, that group included Sarasota High's Alec Miller, who finished second in the Class 4A 1,600 meter run (4:13.50) as a junior. He's back as a senior, and it will be fun to see if he can capture gold this time, but I'm more interested in the people we have not yet seen make the jump to the elite. Will Cardinal Mooney High's Addison Dempsey be one of them? Dempsey finished second in Class 2A at the girls cross country state meet in 2022 (17:54). She didn't compete in track and field in 2021-2022 — her first year of competitive running — because of an IT band injury. She could make a splash come spring.
Will anyone else join her? Someone in the niche field sports, perhaps? I love covering things like pole vault and javelin, so I hope the answer is yes. We will find out in May.
Covering things in person is, of course, the most fun part of the job, but I also enjoy following the careers of our college athletes from afar. With so many of them now at big-time programs in various sports, it can be overwhelming to keep track of them all, which is actually a good thing. It's thrilling to see how far some of the young athletes I talked to as freshmen have come. I'll continue to update readers on their progress throughout the year, and let you know how you can check out their play on TV for yourself.
I'm also looking forward to getting to know more of you. I received more suggestions for story ideas and athletes of the week in 2022 than in any other year since I joined the beat in 2016. Not only are the suggestions themselves helpful, but it's nice to be reminded that people still read sports news and features. I shouldn't be surprised because the people in Sarasota have always been knowledgeable and helpful. It's a trend I hope continues into the new year.
For all of these reasons and more, 2023 should be another terrific time on the Sarasota sports beat.
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.