- November 9, 2022
Multiple state championships, several breakthrough seasons and lots of award-worthy individual performances make up the 2022-23 Sarasota high school sports season highlight reel.
These are the top 10 moments of the high school sports year.
The Sailors boys swim team relied on its depth to win Florida High School Athletic Association state titles in 2020 and 2021. Sarasota won no gold medals in individual or relay races during those state championship meets.
This year, the Sailors had several medalists, leading to Sarasota winning its third-consecutive title in Class 4A by 45 points over second-place G. Holmes Braddock Senior High of Dade County.
Sailors senior Liam Heary won individual titles in the 100-yard butterfly (48.61 seconds) and in the 100-yard breaststroke (55.00 seconds). The Sailors' 200-yard medley relay team of Heary, senior Evan Keogh, junior Ethan Ooi and junior Luca Simon also took gold (1:32.91).
"I have always wanted to win the 100 breaststroke," Heary said. "Before this one, I had finished second and third and second again. Thinking about that going into it, it was emotional when I finally won. It's a picture-perfect ending to my high school career."
Heary, Keogh and others are graduating in 2023, but the rest of the Sailors insisted that all their focus would be on completing the four-peat next season.
In theory, the 2022 Florida High School Athletic Association Class 4A girls swimming state meet was anyone's to win.
In reality, it was over once Riverview High showed up at the pool.
The Rams won seven gold medals on their way to a second-straight team title, besting second-place Oviedo High by 155 points. The Rams' 200-yard medley relay team of juniors Gracie Weyant, Addison Sauickie and Bailey O'Regan and freshman Taylor Schwenk won gold and set a state record (1:42.04) by 0.30 seconds. Weyant later won the 200-yard individual medley (1:58.66) and the 100-yard breaststroke (1:01.68); Sauickie won the 200-yard freestyle (1:45.38) and the 100-yard freestyle (49.03 seconds); and O'Regan won the 500-yard freestyle (4:49.28).
The team's 400-yard freestyle relay team of Weyant, Sauickie, O'Regan and junior Brianna Deierlein also won gold (3:22.22).
O'Regan, who came to the school from Ontario, Canada, during the offseason particularly enjoyed the experience.
"In Canada, they don't have the 500-yard race because they use a short-course meters format," O'Regan said. "I didn't know what time I was supposed to go or how I would place. I just wanted to get my hand on the wall first to get some points for the team. It ended up paying off. It was fun."
The Cardinal Mooney High beach volleyball team was out for revenge at the Sunshine State Athletic Conference state tournament April 21-22 in Orlando, and the Cougars found it.
The Cougars met Bradenton Christian School in the SSAC tournament final 11 days after the Panthers handed Mooney its only loss of the regular season, a razor-thin 3-2 match. In the tournament final rematch, the Cougars made sure things would not be close: Mooney beat BCS 3-0. It was the second-straight SSAC state championship title for the Cougars program.
Mooney was not done. In a weekend Cougars Head Coach Chad Davis now calls "The Miracle in the Sand," Mooney went to the FHSAA state tournament in Tallahassee down three key players May 12-13 and took wins over Merritt Island High (4-1) and Bradenton Christian (3-2), the latter coming down to a final set win from freshmen pair Layla Larrick and Violet Weiser. The two wins put Mooney in the state final four, where the Cougars faced defending champion New Smyrna Beach High (28-0), ranked No. 2 in the country by MaxPreps as of May 16.
The Cougars would fall 3-1 to New Smyrna Beach, but Davis said he was proud of his team for hanging tough and taking a game from the Barracudas despite the missing players.
Sarasota's Leonardo Dal Boni was named the United States Tennis Association Florida Player of the Year on Dec. 16 at Payne Park Tennis Center while surrounded by friends and family.
Over the previous 12 months, Dal Boni, who is originally from Milan, Italy, won 90 of his 120 singles matches and 20 of his 30 doubles matches. His singles success included taking the title at the 2022 USTA Florida "Bobby Curtis" Championships in Orlando, regarded by many to be the biggest annual junior tennis event in Florida.
Dal Boni, who attended online high school classes, later committed to Furman University. Dal Boni owed some of his success to his strong mental game, which he said comes from training and from taking the advice of great leaders like Marcus Aurelius and Sun Tzu.
"It's not just about reading them," Dal Boni said. "It's about being mindful of them. I always try to apply what I read the next day or next match."
Riverview High senior Aksel Moe ended a strong 2022 season with a win at the FHSAA Class 3A state championship tournament, held Nov. 8 at Mission Inn Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills.
The tournament was scheduled to be two rounds, but adverse weather from Tropical Storm Nicole limited the tournament to one day. Moe used that to his advantage, shooting a 2-under-par 70 over 18 holes to finish one stroke better than three other golfers.
Moe, who signed with George Washington University on Nov. 11, previously shot 2-under par to win the American Junior Golf Association's UHY Baltimore Junior event at Woodholme Country Club in Pikesville, Maryland in August.
He didn't leave Tampa's Amalie Arena with a medal on Aug. 19, but Siesta Key's Benjamin Aguilar, who trains in gymnastics with EVO Athletics, fulfilled a dream regardless by competing at the 2022 U.S. Gymnastics Championships.
Aguilar finished 12th all-around in the nation in the Junior Men 16 division. His highest score came in the pommel horse, where he received a 24.900 combined score from the judges, good for sixth.
Aguilar began his year of competing by finishing first all-around in the Men's 16 division of the 2022 Florida Men's State Championships, held March 4-6 in Alachua. Level 10 is the highest level of the Junior Olympic program overseen by USA Gymnastics. At the state championships, Aguilar finished first in the floor, pommel horse, vault, parallel bars and tied for first in the high bar.
At the FHSAA track and field championships, held May 17-20, no area athletes took gold, but three athletes left the University of North Florida in Jacksonville with silver medals around their necks — a nice consolation prize.
Riverview High boys junior Luis Castaneda finished second in the Class 4A discus with a throw of 50.12 meters, 1.22 meters behind winner Terrance Powe, a junior from Niceville High. Rams girls junior Susan Lowther — who also had a record-setting year as a lacrosse player — finished second in the Class 4A discus with a throw of 41.86 meters, 0.25 meters behind winner Lydia Kentis, a junior from Goleman High.
Sarasota High boys senior Tyler Boyer finished second in the Class 4A 110 meter hurdles (14.14 seconds). Boyer was 0.26 seconds behind winner Markel Jones, a senior from Lake Mary High.
The end result hurt, but getting to a third-straight FHSAA Class 3A state championship game, even with roster turnover and a new head coach, is something for the Cardinal Mooney High girls basketball team to celebrate.
The Cougars (21-6) got there thanks to strong play from its main scoring trio of senior Olivia Davis and sophomores Kali Barrett and Sy'monique Simon, as well as overall tight defense instilled in the team by Head Coach Marlon Williams and his staff.
Mooney got to the championship game with a 52-39 win over King's Academy in Lakeland. Sophomore Bri Behn exploded for 17 points while Davis added 14 and Simon added 11.
The team's season ended with a 54-38 loss to Miami Country Day in the championship game.
For the second consecutive year, the Tornadoes used solid team basketball to pick off opponents in the playoffs and reach the Class 4A Final Four.
The Tornadoes (22-8) took down the Academy of the Holy Names 61-48 in the regional finals. Senior guard Sariah Bradley scored 17 points while junior Jakai Peterson added 13 points. The Tornadoes forced 13 steals and had 6 blocks as a team.
Booker's season came to an end with a 65-35 loss to Lake Highland Prep in the Final Four.
Though it ended earlier than the Sailors would have liked, the 2023 season was a breakout campaign for Sarasota High softball. The Sailors went 21-5 and recorded two wins over traditional local power Lakewood Ranch High, including a 5-3 win in the district championship game.
The Sailors then earned a 10-4 win over Winter Orange High in the regional quarterfinals before a 10-0 loss to Windermere High ended their season.
Sarasota was led by senior pitcher Ryleigh Bennett, who went 14-1 with a 1.44 ERA.