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The top 10 moments of the 2023-2024 Sarasota high school sports year

Cardinal Mooney High football celebrates its first state championship since 1972.
Cardinal Mooney High football celebrates its first state championship since 1972.
Courtesy image
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The 2023-2024 high school sports year brought local athletes bountiful success. 

Six teams or individuals in Sarasota won state titles this year, and plenty more came close, or did things no one in their respective programs had done in several years. 

Here's a rundown of the top 10 sports moments of the high school year: 

1. Mooney football wins first state title since 1972

For the first time since 1972, the Cardinal Mooney High football team captured a state title. 

The Cougars (12-2) got a 39-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Michael Valentino to junior wide receiver/defensive back Chris McCorkle with less than a minute remaining to secure a 31-27 win over Trinity Catholic (6-8) in the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 1S state championship game, held Dec. 8 at Bragg Memorial Stadium in Tallahassee. 

Mooney quarterbacks Valentino and Devin Mignery, a sophomore, combined to throw for 312 yards and three touchdowns — two to McCorkle and one to senior Teddy Foster. Senior running back Carson Beach had 19 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown.

Seniors Zeshon Casimir (13) and George Leibold (8) led the team in tackles. McCorkle added an interception on Trinity Catholic's Hail Mary attempt on the final play of the game. 

"I'm just proud of how everyone believed in one another," Head Coach Jared Clark said. "They trusted in their teammates and trusted in their coaches. They believed that they were going to go out there and be successful."

2. Sailors boys, Rams girls repeat as state swim champs

Yes, they both did it again.

On Nov. 10 in Ocala, the Sarasota High boys swim team won the FHSAA Class 4A title, the program's fourth in a row, by 20 points over Braddock Senior High; while the Riverview High girls team won the Class 4A title, its third-consecutive title, by 138 points over Windermere High.

The Sarasota High boys team and the Riverview High girls team repeated as state swimming champions in November — Sarasota for the fourth-straight time and Riverview for the third-straight time.
Courtesy image

The Sailors were led by senior Aidan Siers, who won the 200-yard individual medley (1:48.33) and was third in the 500-meter freestyle (4:25.58). He also helped the Sailors to a first-place finish in the 200-yard medley relay (1:33.28) alongside senior Elias Corn, sophomore Bogdan Zverev and senior Victor Izquierdo.

The Rams were led by Florida Dairy Farmers' Miss Swimming 2023, junior Gracie Weyant, who won the 200-yard individual medley (1:58.64) and the 100-yard breaststroke (1:02.41). Weyant also helped the Rams to a win in the 200-yard medley relay (1:40.81) alongside sophomore Taylor Schwenk, senior Addison Sauickie and freshman Angelina Lista; and to a win in the 400-yard freestyle relay (3:20.20) alongside Sauickie, sophomore Brynn Lavigueur and senior Brianna Deierlein. 

3. Susan Lowther caps multi-sport career with titles, national numbers

In a year of incredible athletic efforts, no individual put together a more impressive body of work than Riverview High senior Susan Lowther. 

Lowther dominated on the girls lacrosse field, as she has done for years. She finished the 2024 season with 162 points, the 10th most in the country according to MaxPreps. Her 9.0 points per game average was higher than six of the nine players in front of her, too. After graduating this spring, Lowther will head to Clemson University to continue her lacrosse career. 

But that was only a third of the story of Lowther’s senior year. She also played for the school’s girls basketball team and averaged a double-double of 15.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, both team highs. And while she played lacrosse in the spring, she was also on the school’s track and field team. 

On May 18 in Jacksonville, Lowther took home a gold medal in the shot put (13.27 meters) and the discus (45.45 meters) at the FHSAA Class 4A state meet, putting a fitting cap on her illustrious high school athletic career. 

4. Cardinal Mooney runner wins 3,200-meter gold, cross-country bronze
Cardinal Mooney senior Addison Dempsey started competitive running during the COVID-19 pandemic. In May, she won the girls 3,2000-meter run at the FHSAA Class 2A state meet.
File photo

Cardinal Mooney High senior Addison Dempsey started her running journey in Dubai during the COVID-19 pandemic, not knowing where it would take her. Dempsey, previously a soccer player, said she ran around palaces and she ran around fish markets, and she did it all in Dubai's sweltering heat, which could reach 106 degrees or more.

After moving to Sarasota in 2021, running for fun eventually led Dempsey to competitive cross-country, then track and field. Now Dempsey has earned first- and third-place medals at the FHSAA Class 2A state track and field and cross-country meets, respectively. 

Her track and field triumph came in the 3,200-meter run (10:35.87) at the state meet, held May 16 in Jacksonville. She won by approximately 11 seconds over second-place Emily Whedon of Bishop Kenny High. 

Dempsey completed the state cross-country 5K run, held Nov. 17 at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, in 18:01.9. The run was won by Annabella Tomasic, a seventh grader at Lake Highland Prep, in 17:32.9. 

5. Sarasota senior lifts his way to state title

Mark Monchecourt’s biggest strength is, well, his strength. 

A former football player, Monchecourt transitioned to weightlifting after coaches noticed his naturally good technique in the weight room. Monchecourt put all his focus into getting stronger and refining the details of his lifts. 

As a senior in 2024, Monchecourt put it all together. Competing at 219 pounds, Monchecourt took first place in the Traditional category at the FHSAA Class 4A state weightlifting meet, held April 19-20 in Lakeland. 

Monchecourt lifted a total of 725 pounds, beating second-place Milton High’s Kaden French by 35 pounds. That score includes 335 pounds in the clean and 390 pounds in the bench. 

6. Mooney girls basketball goes to fourth straight championship game

For the fourth straight year, the Cardinal Mooney High girls basketball team made it to the FHSAA Class 3A state championship game. For the fourth straight year, it returned to Sarasota with second-place medals. 

As much as the players wish those results were different, making it through the playoff gauntlet to reach that point is still an accomplishment to celebrate. 

Cardinal Mooney High junior Kali Barrett shoots over Tampa Catholic's Zalani Carter. Barrett finished with 27 points in the game to help the Cougars reach the state tournament. The Cougars would eventually reach the title game for the fourth-straight season.
File photo

In 2023-2024, the team got there by defeating Seffner Christian 66-52 in the state semifinals in Lakeland on Feb. 28. In that game, junior guard Sy’monique Simon and freshman forward Madi Mignery led the way with 17 points, while junior forward Kali Barrett added 15 points. Mignery, who has since received offers from the University of Miami and the University of Cincinnati among other schools, also grabbed 21 rebounds and had three blocks. 

The Cougars would drop the title game 75-51 to Miami Country Day School, finishing the season with a 22-7 record. 

7. Booker girls basketball reaches regional finals

After a slower start than the Booker High girls basketball program is used to having under Head Coach Ty Bryant, the Tornadoes turned things around. 

Booker shook off a 5-8 start and finished 15-10, including a playoff run that landed the team in the FHSAA Class 5A regional finals. The Tornadoes got there with a 52-46 win over The Academy of the Holy Names on Feb. 19. Down seven points entering the fourth quarter, the Tornadoes rallied to force overtime, then held off the Jaguars down the stretch. Sophomore Yvette Brown led Booker with 18 points while senior Jakai Peterson added 16 points. Brown also had a team-high eight rebounds. 

The Tornadoes would fall 62-53 to Lakewood High in the regional finals. 

8. Mooney boys lacrosse earns No. 1 seed in regional tournament

For the first time in program history, the Cardinal Mooney High boys lacrosse team (15-6) secured a No. 1 seed in the FHSAA regional tournament round of the postseason. 

It did so with a balanced offensive attack and strong play from its defense and goalkeepers. The Cougars ultimately advanced to the regional finals via a 13-4 win over Calvary Christian on May 4.

Cardinal Mooney senior Carter Westendorf high fives senior Gio Zanoni after a Zanoni goal against IMG Academy. The Cougars secured the No. 1 seed in their regional tournament for the first time in 2024.
File photo

Senior Carter Westendorf and sophomore Cole Hunt each had three goals in the win while senior goalkeeper Jacob Brown saved 71% of the shots he faced. 

The Cougars would lose 8-5 to the Community School of Naples in the regional finals. 

9. Riverview girls soccer wins first district title in 18 years

With six minutes on the clock Jan. 31, Riverview High girls soccer junior Rachel Paule sent a ball past North Port High’s defenses and into the net. 

Not only did it break a 1-1 tie, putting the Rams ahead 2-1, but it ultimately ended an 18-year drought. 

The game was no ordinary game, it was an FHSAA district title game. The win resulted in Riverview’s first district title since 2006. The Rams were down 1-0 before senior Majestic van Ingen scored on a free kick with 15 minutes remaining. The Paule put them ahead. The team’s stingy defense and goalkeeping did the rest. 

On the field after the game, players let their emotions flow. Head Coach Joe St. Onge said several Rams started crying, the result of achieving a goal that many did not think the team could achieve at the beginning of the season. 

The Rams would fall to Palm Harbor University High 3-2 in double overtime in the first round of the regional tournament. They finished the season 11-5-2. 

10. Pitcher leads Riverview softball to resurgence

Thanks in large part to the arm and bat of junior pitcher Allison Cole, the Rams softball team rebounded from a 4-18 season in 2023 to finish 16-7 in 2024. 

Riverview High junior pitcher Allison Cole finished the season with a 1.40 ERA and a 14-5 record over 124.2 innings.
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Cole, who did not play high school softball prior to this season, was the team’s workhorse, holding a 1.40 ERA and a 14-5 record over 124.2 innings. She also led the Rams with a .492 batting average. She got help from teammates like junior Ella Trandem, who led the team with eight extra-base hits and had a .362 average, plus a .989 fielding percentage over a team-high 263 chances. 

Though the team did not reach the regional round of the postseason, the season laid the foundation for more success in the future. 



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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