Once again, I wanted my final column of the year to highlight all the great things that happened in the world of Manatee County prep sports during the past 12 months.
I wanted to highlight the thrills and the achievements, hoping to conjure up some memories for the folks who witnessed said thrills and achievements first hand.
Once again, however, I came up empty.
Nothing at all, unless you count:
Manatee winning football coach Joe Kinnan his fifth state championship ring in dominating fashion; Lakewood Ranch’s boys golf team proving that perfection isn’t always elusive; Lakewood Ranch’s Olivia Ortiz, one of the most polite student-athletes I have ever interviewed, winning a state cross country championship before waving the county’s banner with pride during the Foot Locker national meet in San Diego; a pair of Mustangs swimmers, Will Kazokas and Danielle Valley, leaving Orlando with a total of three championship medals dangling around their necks; Manatee’s baseball team, led by a no-nonsense baseball addict named Dwayne Strong, playing into the state final four for the first time since 1963; Saint Stephen’s young gang of boys soccer players playing into its state final four; Southeast’s girls basketball coach John Harder hoisting another district championship trophy; Palmetto’s football team playing into its final four for the first time since 1986; The Tigers and Hurricanes hosting state semifinal football games on the same night; Palmetto baseball player Granden Goetzman walking on the turf lining Tropicana Field just before signing a professional contract with the Tampa Bay Rays; Lakewood Ranch’s girls volleyball team winning its first district title before reaching its first regional championship game; Manatee’s Quinn Tibbetts nearly winning a wrestling championship during his first trip to the state tournament; Manatee’s Travis Fulk, a wrestling lifer who never complained through tough injuries and tougher losses, winning his first state medal during his fourth and final trip to Lakeland; the Mustangs football team nearly stunning nationally-ranked Seffner Armwood in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs; Cord Sandberg’s 21-yard game-winning touchdown run during Manatee’s state semifinal win over Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer; Braden River’s softball team outlasting Naples Barron Collier to reach the Class 4A state final four; Bayshore’s Canaan Meester-Kitterman surprising even himself en route to emerging as the county’s next cross country star; Braden River defeating arch-rival Lakewood Ranch to win the school’s first boys basketball district title; and Southeast’s Brian Poole holding up a jersey after being picked to play in the Under Armour All-America game.
See? Nothing happened.
Here’s hoping 2012 provides us with something to cheer for.
John Lembo, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-2097.