Slowly but surely we're all making our way through this summer together.
It hasn't been easy — what, with the heat and the lack of live sports and all — but we're getting there. Florida High School Athletic Association practices for the fall season begin this month, after all. In just a few weeks, everything will be rolling like normal. And even now, there is plenty to talk about. So much so, that I decided to split my column into thirds once again, to cover as much news as possible.
This week: A high-profile football player makes his college decision, a big-time dragon boat event comes to Benderson Park (while a different boat racing event will soon follow), and three local rowers get national recognition for their skills.
Foster makes his choice
Cardinal Mooney High rising senior defensive back Teddy Foster ended his long recruitment process on July 14 — his birthday — when he announced to the world his decision to become a University of Florida Gator.
Foster, a three-star player and the No. 67 cornerback nationally on the 247Sports Composite, had previously announced a final three of Florida, the University of Miami and the University of North Carolina. The 6-foot-2 Foster only joined the Mooney football program three games into his sophomore season after taking time away to focus on basketball. It was a good decision: Foster quickly established himself as one of the top cover corners in the state, with the raw talent to get even better in time.
Now that Foster has ended his recruitment, he can focus on the 2023 season — and it has a chance to be a big one at Mooney. The Cougars have a stacked defensive backfield with Foster and rising junior Chris McCorkle, who also holds an offer from the Gators, as well as West Virginia University and Michigan State University among others. On offense, the team returns rising senior running back Carson Beach (offers from West Virginia and the University of Tennessee, among others) and brings in four-star wide receiver Zy'marion Lang from Palmetto High, who will be announcing his commitment on July 30, choosing between Kansas State University, the University of Pittsburgh, South Carolina University and the University of South Florida.
In other words, there is a lot of high-level talent at the Mooney skill positions. Until the games get underway, there's no way of knowing how all of that talent will gel, but the potential for a big season is there.
Want boat races? Hit up Benderson Park
If, by some chance, you still get confused when you hear the phrase "dragon boat," there's a grand opportunity to rectify that this weekend.
Nathan Benderson Park will host the 2023 United States Dragon Boat Federation Club Crew National Championships on July 21-23. As the event title suggests, these championships will see some of the top dragon boat clubs in the country descend on Benderson Park to race for glory. Well, "some" doesn't quite do it justice. More than 100 clubs will be represented.
USDBF clubs did not have to qualify for the championships themselves, but the event will serve as a qualifier for the 2024 Club Crew World Championships, which will be held in Ravenna, Italy. So while not every crew racing at the 2023 event will be elite, all the winners certainly will be. And some will likely be from this area — Benderson Park's dragon boat teams have 10 people representing Team USA at the World Dragon Boat Racing Championships next month in Pattaya, Thailand, after all.
And hey, maybe the whole "dragon heads on the boat" thing is too quirky for you. Not to fret: there's another boat racing event coming to Benderson Park. The American Canoe Association's Canoe Sprint National Championships will be there Aug. 1-4. Unlike in dragon boat, these competitors will not be seated during their races. They will be kneeling, one leg strapped into their canoe, while twisting and turning to generate the most power flowing through their oars as possible. They'll race distances of 200 meters, 500 meters and 1,000 meters. For more information on this unique event, visit AmericanCanoe.org.
Big honors for local rowers
Staying on the water, some junior athletes got recognized in a big way this month. Sarasota Crew rowers Sofia Simone and Kennedy Housley were named to the U19 U.S. National Team in the women's 8+ boat on July 10. The boat will race at the 2023 World Rowing Under 19 Championships Aug. 2-6 in Paris at Vaires-sur-Marne Nautical Stadium, which is a former Olympic venue.
Simone has been in this position before and twice won gold, including at the 2022 championships in Varese, Italy. Housley also made the roster last year, but in the women's 4+, which finished fourth overall.
On the men's side, Crew rower Colton Millar has been named an alternate, meaning he's next in line if a rower has to drop out of a race because of injury or other reasons.
Congratulations to all three Crew members. For more information on the championships themselves, visit WorldRowing.com.
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.