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Prose and Kohn

What our Sarasota sports columnist can't wait to cover in 2024

Cedric Mullins is the Orioles' starting centerfielder and a great defensive player.
Cedric Mullins is the Orioles' starting centerfielder and a great defensive player.
Courtesy image
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The 2024 Sarasota sports calendar looks filled to the brim. 

It's a trend. The last several years, the Sarasota area has attracted big-time national events while still having local preps teams competing deep into the postseason. 

It's a great sports community with diverse offerings, and there are plenty of events to add to your calendars. 

In February, the Baltimore Orioles will return to Sarasota and Ed Smith Stadium for their 2024 spring training season. After winning 101 games and the American League East division title in 2023, the upstart O's will have bigger and better trophies on their mind this year. 

For anyone at all interested in baseball, this year's spring training is a must-attend. Not only will the team likely be a serious contender, but you'll get to see the reigning AL Rookie of the Year in Gunnar Henderson. He hit .255 with 28 home runs and 82 RBIs in addition to his vacuum-like glove work at third base and shortstop. Plus, there's Jackson Holiday, the No. 1 prospect in baseball according to rankings

Later in February, high school boys and girls basketball playoffs will begin. Both sports have teams with a chance to make deep playoff runs. They have done so in recent years, too, but thus far no one has been able to bring home a state title. Is 2024 the year that changes?

ODA grad Ada Giraldo, second from right, rows for the Sarasota Crew's women's varsity 8+ boat at the 2023 USRowing Youth National Championships.
File photo

June 6-9 will see the return of the Youth Rowing Championships to Nathan Benderson Park. The 2023 event saw local club Sarasota Crew find success, with its U17 men's 8+ team taking gold in the event's A final (6:07.85), crossing the finish line approximately one second before second-place RowAmerica Rye. The Crew's women's varsity 8+ boat finished fifth overall in the A final (6:41.30), approximately 13 seconds behind winner Marin Rowing Association. It was the first time the club even reached the finals in the event in nine years, so everyone was happy with the finish.

Will more Crew history be made in 2024? Don't count it out. Also, from Jan. 4-16, you can catch the U.S. Rowing Paralympic Trials at Benderson Park, as the team picks national team rowers in the PR3 (rowers with residual function in the legs or athletes with vision impairment) mixed double sculls and the PR3 mixed four for the 2024 Paralympic Games, held Aug. 31-Sept. 1 in Paris. 

The summer will also bring Little League All-Star baseball, which is always a good time. Not only do we have talented kids in the Sarasota area, but seeing the joy on their faces as they compete against other areas' best reminds me of my own Little League days. It's nostalgic for me.

In the fall, football season will return. The biggest question, of course, is whether Cardinal Mooney High will be able to repeat as Florida High School Athletic Association state champions. Losing players like defensive back Teddy Foster to the University of Florida and wide receiver Zy'marion Lang to the University of Toledo will hurt, but the Cougars retain enough talent to think a repeat is at least possible. 

Mooney sophomore Bryce Fulda takes down NFC quarterback JP Pickles.
Photo by Ryan Kohn

I'm also interested in seeing how Booker High follows up its trip to the state semifinals. The Tornadoes, too, will lose talented players like wide receiver Josiah Booker, who signed with Central Michigan University. But Head Coach Scottie Littles has shown an ability to get the most out of his roster in his first two seasons in the program. I won't be surprised if Booker keeps its arrow pointing up in 2024.

Finally, I'm looking forward to being surprised by stories from the community. At the beginning of 2023, I did not know the story of Alice Bixler, but once I heard it, I was honored to tell it. Bixler was inducted into the National BMX Hall of Fame in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in October. She has been working to advance the sport since 1974, giving advice on improvements made to Sarasota BMX, volunteering with the National Bicycle League and coaching Team Florida in the annual President's Cup event, which Bixler and Florida won 23 of 26 times. Bixler also is the namesake of the Alice Bixler Scholarship Program, which assists riders and their families in furthering their education. Since 2008, the program has awarded 152 scholarships totaling $152,750. 

By the way: Sarasota BMX is hosting the USA BMX Sunshine State Nationals, which serves as a 2024 World Championships qualifier, Jan. 5-7. It will also serve as a celebration of 50 years of the track — something that possibly doesn't happen without Bixler. The races are free to the public.

Every year, stories of people like this — people who make a difference, despite not seeking the spotlight — find their way to me. I can't wait to see what stories I get to tell in 2024. 

For all of these reasons and more, the new year should bring another eclectic journey on the Sarasota sports beat.



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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