2022 Year in Photos
Can we talk for a moment?
We’ve been through a lot, huh?
There we were, tooling along just fine a couple years ago. A round of golf here, a bike ride there, a little barbecue now and then and a nice cigar.
Pineapple Drop almost here
If some 20-somethings quizzically stare pineapple-ward in wonder at why Sarasota’s New Year’s Eve street bash would revolve around SpongeBob SquarePants’ house, well ... enter that conversation at your own risk.
The rest of us will be reveling in the annual Pineapple Drop — just like New York City’s Times Square one, but with a pineapple and without a drunken Anderson Cooper — on New Year’s Eve.
The event with music, food, drinks and more will be centered at Lemon Avenue and Main Street but spreads out over several blocks.
The Sarasota Police Department asks those planning to celebrate to leave backpacks, coolers and alcohol at home.
Then, whammo, we’re all wearing masks and checking drive times on Google maps to a place called Micco where a Publix store had a single COVID-19 shot appointment open at 8:30 tomorrow morning.
Since then, we’ve dodged hurricanes, survived elections and worked like heck to get back to where we were when all this craziness started.
It wasn’t easy, but we’re here to tell you, we seem to have made it. In looking back through the thousands of photos our reporters took in 2022, we were hardpressed to notice much of a difference as compared to normal. No masks, no clear plastic barriers and, with the exception of a photo we shot in the first days of January, no signs of social distancing or anything.
Just Sarasotans doing Sarasota things. So, as 2022 fades into a typically glorious Siesta Key or Lido Key sunset, we look ahead to even more normality in 2023.
Winter? It’s just better here
Dr. Mark Kauffman and his wife, Irene, recently had a fittingly photographic (and adorable) reminder of why Florida winters are preferable to most anywhere else.
As our area returns to normal from one of the chilliest Christmases in years, we submit as evidence a snap (Dare we call it a cold snap?) of their great-grandson, Zev, on a recent visit to Philadelphia with his Sarasota parents.
As Dr. Kauffman put it, “It made me think again of why I moved to Florida!”
May we quote you, please?ERIC GARWOOD MANAGING EDITOR
If it’s college-football bowl season, it must be time for our annual nearly New Year’s tradition of matching newsmakers with what they said in the past 12 months. Simply read the quotes and try to match the person who spoke it, from the pages of the Sarasota Observer. And yes, in many cases we are trying to trick you. No, you can’t have your money back.
We met Kristopher Paul a month earlier in the Sarasota Downtown Holiday Parade. He wasn’t hard to spot, with kids swarming all over the costumed Captain America. He loves performance and theater and made his costume on his own, showing it off at conventions, parades and other public gatherings.
“My cosplay (work) has kept growing and growing,” Paul said.
UNDER THE BIG TOP Circus luminaries, such as ringmaster Mike Naughton (seen here) and their fans headed under the big top for the annual Ring of Fame ceremonies for the first time, moving from its previous location on St. Armands Circle. They saw performances, they heard heartfelt words from honorees and celebrated a big, circusstyle finale complete with confetti. “Life is being on stage, life is performing in front of a live audience, life is under a big top, in a ring, doing what I was made to do,” honoree Nik Wallenda said. “That’s life. I think we as performers often take our lives for granted.”
MARCH THINKING OF OTHERS
THEIR OWN PLACE
Work got underway on the Sarasota County home for the District 12 Medical Examiner’s office. At a groundbreaking ceremony, Medical Examiner Dr. Russell Vega toured the construction site.
FATHER FAUSTO STEPS ASIDE
The Rev. Fausto Stampiglia, the defining face of St. Martha Catholic Church for more than 30 years, retired at age 86, saying he feels his works and actions have been the simple result of living a life of meaning. “Being a priest is living a life of joy,” Stampiglia said.
AIRING THEIR GRIEVANCES
A dispute between the city of Sarasota and the leaders of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport over a developer’s plan to build apartments across University Parkway from the main runway at the site of the former Sarasota Kennel Club is now a legal matter. City leaders said approval of Aventon Sarasota, a 372-unit complex, is crucial to the area’s housing situation. Airport leaders say the move violates an agreement between the two designed to discourage residential development of land immediately adjacent to the corridor taken by arriving and departing aircraft.
Recently, the Florida Press Association commissioned CODA Ventures, an independent research and consulting firm, to conduct a survey among Florida adults ages 18 and older. The study found that every month, 15.1 million — 86% of Florida adults — read local print or digital newspapers. Of those, 78% are digital readers, 63% are print readers and 56% read both print and digital. In addition, 74% of those Florida newspaper readers are under the age of 65. And more than seven out of 10 Florida adults (72%) access local digital newspaper content through a smartphone.
Despite industry news about newspapers dying, Florida’s print and digital media remain strong.
In fact, Florida Press Association’s membership is growing, with the largest increase coming from weekly newspapers and online digitalonly news sites. Interestingly, some of the online-only sites are now beginning to print weekly publications, such as the Mainstreet Daily News in Gainesville.
The Observer Media Group’s print and digital readership is also strong. With a mission to inspire our communities with extraordinary local content and to help our partners prosper, we believe that we will continue to do so, both in print and digitally, for years to come. We continue to offer the largest print distribution in the SarasotaManatee area, delivering 60,000 papers each week, while our competitors continue to shrink their circulation (Sarasota Herald-Tribune — 27,889*; Bradenton Herald — 14,000**) and raise subscrip-
tion prices. A yearly subscription to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune is now $754.99*. The Observer remains free for our readers.
Print remains strong, yet our digital audience continues to grow. YourObserver.com, our online daily news site, reached more than 200,000 more people year over year. The number of brand lovers — users who visit the site more than 15 times a month — is up 26%.
Subscribers to our Daily Headlines e-newsletter grew 25% and our Deals and Promotions e-newsletter, which delivers marketing messages for our partners, grew 27%.
Experiencing the highest growth was a 30% increase in ad impressions served on YourObserver.com. That means our partners’ advertising messages were seen 57,110,594 times!
Demographically, our audience is becoming younger. About 60% of our users on YourObserver.com are between the ages of 35 and 64, with more than 100,000 of those users falling into the 35 to 44 age range. Last year, our largest group of online users fell into the 55 to 64 range.
Observing this data and the ways readers are consuming news, we spent much of 2022 focusing on our vision statement: Innovate and elevate.
Nearly a decade since our last website redesign, we knew it was time to offer an updated version of our site with a new clean design and sharper technology. Noting the fact above how most users access local digital news content through a smartphone (67% of YourObserver.com users access our site via smartphones), we wanted to build a site that had a mobile-first and friendly design that loaded fast.
A fresh look. After nearly a decade, YourObserver.com has a fresh look.
YOUR OBSERVER E-PAPER APP
While our print distribution is the largest in the Sarasota-Manatee area, the demand has continued to grow. Especially in growing communities like Lakewood Ranch — if money were no object, we could double the print distribution of the East County Observer easily. However, with the cost of paper rising with inflation, we would also have to double the cost to advertise in the paper, which would price ourselves out of the market and many small- and medium-sized businesses’ budgets. That challenge is coupled with the fact that Publix corporate recently made a decision to ban distribution of all free newspapers from its stores. Thankfully, our loyal readers lobbied with store managers to have a small number of Observers distributed behind the customer service desks. Yet, the problem still remained: How do we get the Observer into more people’s hands?
Early next year, you will be able to have the Observer at your fingertips with our new Your Observer e-paper app on your computer, tablet or smartphone. You will be able to read each week’s newspaper or other back issues exactly how it appeared in print. Zoom in and out, swipe through pages, jump through sections and click on a headline for an easy-to-read text view. You can view photos or videos by tapping on an image and swipe through photos from an entire gallery. Love an article, share and post it on social media and print an article or crossword any time you need. It’s your Observer delivered a whole new way.
Our Newsie members, at 452 strong, will have free access to the Your Observer e-paper app. Otherwise, the app will be available for $5 per month or $50 annually. To be one of the first with access to the app, consider becoming a Newsie by emailing Newsies@YourObserver.com.
As we look toward 2023, we will continue on this path to innovate and elevate the ways you can consume our extraordinary local content and provide additional ways to help our partners prosper.
*Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Statement of Ownership, October 2022 **Alliance for Audited Media, December 2019
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“If we are to build a better world, we must remember that the guiding principle is this — a policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy.”
We survived another crazy year. But we are thankful for our loyal readers and advertisers helping us get through the year. Wishing you a healthy, happy and prosperous 2023!
2022: A Return to Normalcy
The latest year in Sarasota’s arts community saw a return to a full slate of performances and customers returning to their places in theater spaces.SPENCER FORDIN A+E EDITOR
The arts community in Sarasota and beyond had craved a year like this, an opportunity to welcome people back to live performances with minimal interruptions. And they mostly got what they wanted: COVID-19 continued to recede and cause fewer programming interruptions, and people began to fill the seats again.
The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall welcomed more than 100,000 visitors to performances this year, and three musical tribute acts (to ABBA, Simon and Garfunkel and Queen) sold more than 1,700 tickets in their one night on stage.
There was also a demand for more time with great art. Beyond Van Gogh, the immersive experience that took people inside the master’s work, was originally expected to spend about a month-and-a-half in Sarasota. It was extended twice, though. The following are some of the other highlights of the year from the arts and entertainment scene.
Patti Smith, celebrated poet and inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, added another item to her distinguished list of accomplishments in 2023: Artist-in-residence at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
Smith, who performed in Sarasota in February and April, is the first artist tagged with that position at Selby Gardens. She’ll come back to perform at Selby Gardens in 2023 and 2024, and she’ll spend some time drawing inspiration from the organization’s two campuses.
Selby Gardens first honored Smith and her former collaborator and lover, the late iconic photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, with an exhibit called, “Flowers, Poetry and Light.”
“I was just a little sad that Robert couldn’t see this,” she said when she toured the exhibit for the first time in February. “I think we really would’ve had fun, and he would’ve also been very moved at all of the effort on so many levels.”
Two local arts organizations continued their quest for a new permanent venue; one successfully and one that will go back to the drawing board.
Sarasota Orchestra announced in March that it had agreed to purchase a 31.7-acre plot on Fruitville Road just west of the interstate with the
intention of building an 1,800-seat concert hall and a 700-seat recital hall space. That potential home leapt one procedural barrier in December, when it received a 5-0 vote from the Sarasota County Planning Commission.
The orchestra’s potential new home will be voted on by the Sarasota County Commission in January, and if approved, the purchase of the land is set to close in February.
The Players Centre for Performing Arts wasn’t as fortunate.
The Players had two plans for a potential home — one in Lakewood Ranch and one in Sarasota — fall through in 2022. The theater had planned for a $30 million complex in Waterside Place, but those plans fell through in March when SchroederManatee Ranch terminated that agreement.
Then in May, the Players had plans to lease and manage Sarasota’s Municipal Auditorium voted down by the Sarasota County Commission.
As for new venues, plans for the new Sarasota Performing Arts Center are still moving forward. An architect is expected to be chosen for the project, which will be part of The Bay park, by April.
Jeffery Kin spent 15 years building drama at The Players Centre. And he’s spent the past year laying the tracks for something big in Sarasota.
Kin is the driving force behind Sarasota Rising, which is committed to helping the arts scene evolve
in the Sarasota region and elsewhere on Florida’s Cultural Coast. The ultimate goal? Building a festival, dubbed the Living Arts Festival, that will debut in fall 2024.
Kin’s dream is to ultimately build a bigger stage for each of the institutions in town. He wants to build cross-collaborations between unlikely partners, and he wants to leverage the stellar arts products in town into building a catalyst for tourism during the “shoulder” season.
“We want to drum up cultural tourism. It’s going to start local, then statewide, then the Southeast and then the nation,” he says. “In 10 years, we want this to be an international festival. We will want people to be able to say, ‘We’ve got to be in Sarasota at this time because we’re going to see stuff that we would never be able to see anywhere else.’”
For more than a year, Sarasota Orchestra had looked forward to Bramwell Tovey taking charge. But it wasn’t meant to be.
Tovey, the charismatic Grammy Award-winning conductor who had formerly led the Vancouver Symphony, died in July after a recurrence of sarcoma.
Tovey accepted the position of Sarasota Orchestra’s Music Director in 2021, and he was able to lead performances here in October 2021 and again in April 2022.
He was expected to fully take the reins in the fall.
Tovey had been looking forward to shaping both the material for sea-
sons to come but also the composition of the orchestra. He told the Observer in an interview that there were as many as 15 positions to fill via audition, and he looked forward to a long and fulfilling run in Sarasota.
“As a group, I think they’re incredibly impressive. Individually, I think they’re outstanding,” he said of the orchestra. “It’s a wonderful group to work with. At the end of the day, as a conductor, I spend most of my time in a windowless studio working with musicians. I feel very confident about the people they are, the service they give and the quality of musical life that is available here in Sarasota. I’m just thrilled and honored to have been invited to lead the team.”
Many of the local arts organizations were lucky to skirt major damage from Hurricane Ian.
But the Hermitage Artist Retreat and the Venice Theatre were hit hard.
The Hermitage, located out on Manasota Key, had the opportunity to do some prep work before the storm, but the organization experienced major damage to its campus. Luckily, it avoided storm surge and survived a period after the storm in which it didn’t have power or water.
But for Venice Theatre, the interruptions to business as usual were more profound. Murray Chase, producing executive director of the theater, said in October that the main stage, the Jervey Theatre, would be out of operation for at least a year and maybe more. The secondary stage, the Pinkerton Theatre, was thought to need a few months of renovation.
Chase estimated at the time that damage to the theater could exceed $3 million, but he said Venice Theatre would emerge strong again.
“Sometimes, they can look a lot worse than they are. But they’re really bad,” said Chase of photos showing the extent of the theater’s damage. “At first glance, you think, ‘Oh, the theater is totally destroyed.’ It’s not. It suffered catastrophic damage, but it can be fixed.”
COMING AND GOING
The Asolo Repertory Theatre announced a major change in their organizational structure in April, when Michael Donald Edwards and Linda DiGabriele said they would step down in 2023.
Edwards joined the organization in 2006, and by the time he retires, he will have been the producing artistic director for Asolo Repertory Theatre for 18 seasons.
But DiGabriele was there even longer. She’s been the theater’s managing director since 1989, and her tenure at Asolo will total 50 years by the time she steps down next June.
Sarasota Ballet also celebrated a momentous changing of the toes. Principal dancer Victoria Hulland retired in April after 16 seasons with the company, and she announced in November that she is returning to Sarasota Ballet in an advisory role.
The ballet also welcomed a pair of dancers from Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Argentina: Macarena Giménez and Maximiliano Iglesias, who have relocated their lives and their art to speak the language of dance in a new community and a new country.
RIVERDANCE, as you’ve never seen it before! A powerful and stirring reinvention of this beloved favorite, celebrated the world over for its Grammy® Award-winning score and the thrilling energy and passion of its Irish and international dance. Bill Whelan has rerecorded his mesmerizing soundtrack while producer Moya Doherty and director John McColgan have completely reimagined the groundbreaking show with innovative and spectacular lighting, projection, stage and costume designs. Fall in love with the magic of RIVERDANCE all over again.
decades, and the latest scholarship winners are part of a tradition that stretches all the way back to the mid-’80s.
PINEAPPLE DROP PARTY
1 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Jan. 1 at intersection of Lemon Avenue and Main Street Free Visit DestinationDowntownSarasota. com.
the show with a special champagne toast.
NEW YEARS EVE WITH RON FEINGOLD 9:30 p.m. at McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre, 1923 Ringling Blvd. $70 Visit McCurdysComedy.com. Ron Feingold is bringing all of his voices. He’s the man behind Comedy A Capella, and he’ll sing lead vocals, backup and even the odd percussion sound. Scott Novotny and Helen Keaney will also do sets on New Year’s Eve.
MONDAY NIGHT JAZZ AT THE CABARET
7:30 p.m. at FST’s Court Cabaret, 1265 First St. Tickets TBD Visit JazzClubSarasota.org.
This is a circus town. And these are circus kids. The talented class of the Sailor Circus Academy — ages ranging from 8 to 18 — are ready to show you everything they’ve been working on over the past year. There are nimble acrobats and flexible contortionists, dextrous jugglers and people who fly through the air with the greatest of ease. And they still have homework.
IF YOU GO
When: 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Dec. 29 and Dec. 30; 1 p.m. on Dec. 31 Where: at Sailor Circus Arena, 2075 Bahia Vista St. Tickets: $20-$40 Info: Visit CircusArts.org.
Bring on the pineapple! The spiny emblem of the Sarasota New Year is ready to drop like clockwork to help you ring in 2023. The actual festivities will start 12 hours earlier, with DJs and bands, carnival rides, games and food and drink. Live music starts at 9 p.m., and the party lasts an hour into 2023.
NEW YEAR SOIRÉE AT GROVE
7-10 p.m. at Grove, 10670 Boardwalk Loop, Lakewood Ranch $200 Visit GroveLWR.com.
It’s a five-star buffet and a full open bar for the New Year’s Party at Grove. The menu will include items like prime rib and crabstuffed flounder, and the customary midnight toast will actually be served at 10 p.m.
FST IMPROV PRESENTS RESOLUTION REWIND
If it’s Monday night, that means there’s a jazz show down at Florida Studio Theatre. It’s the start of a year full of rich programming for the Jazz Club, which brings local and regional performers to the stage multiple times a week.
SALUTE TO VIENNA NEW YEAR’S
7 p.m. at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail $57-$90
Visit VanWezel.org. The Strauss Symphony of America, conducted by Michael Zehetner, is bringing you the sounds of a European New Year. Champion ballroom dancers will move to the music, and soprano Alexandra Reinprecht and tenor David Danholt will give voice to the songs of the Neujahrskonzert.
7:30 p.m. at Donelly Theatre, 1012 N. Orange Ave. $40
This show will still be in previews on Jan. 4, but here’s your chance to see the Sarasota premiere of a Pearl Cleage work. The play centers around a group of women in the 1890s who left the South to stake their claims in an all-black town in Nicodemus, Kansas, and their fight to keep what they had built for succeeding generations to develop in their wake.
2 p.m. at Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota, 3975 Fruitville Road $15-$20 Visit JazzClubSarasota.org.
The next generation of talent is bright. The Jazz Club of Sarasota has been nurturing local talent for
7:30 p.m. at FST’s Bowne’s Lab, 1265 First St. $25 Visit FloridaStudioTheatre.org.
Think of it as a last request for 2022. The talented improv crew at Florida Studio Theatre is taking your best suggestions to provide you a comic rewind of 2022, and they’ll close out
Elle Woods would like you to know there’s no law against being both a blonde and also the smartest person in the room. The national tour of the hit Broadway musical took a brief break for the holiday season, and it will get back on its feet with a pair of shows right here in Sarasota. Hannah Bonnett stars as Elle Woods, and Lea Savola, who starred in Urbanite Theatre’s “Athena” earlier this year, plays Vivian Kensington.
IF YOU GO
When: 7:30 p.m., Jan. 4 and 5 Where: Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail Tickets: $42-$92 Info: Visit VanWezel.org.
A special ovation for Lea Sevola
The young actress will get a chance to spend holidays home with her family, and then she’ll get right back on the stage for the touring production of ‘Legally Blonde.’SPENCER FORDIN A+E EDITOR
Lea Sevola will spend the holidays right here in Sarasota.
And then she’ll go right back to living her dreams on stage. Also in Sarasota.
Sevola, who plays Vivienne Kensington in the touring production of the Broadway musical “Legally Blonde,” will be on stage at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on Jan. 4 and 5.
And if it sounds like she’s getting a special ovation, there’s a reason for that. Her parents live in Sarasota, and they’re bringing their own cheering section.
“My parents are coming to the first performance with like 50 of their friends,” says Sevola during a break of the touring production.
“So I feel very supported, very loved. They have a wonderful community of friends where they live, and they’re so supportive of me.”
Sevola says her sister will also be in attendance at the Van Wezel, which makes it mean a little more than the average performance.
Sevola, who starred in the Urbanite Theatre’s production of “Athena” earlier this year, says that her “Legally Blonde” role doesn’t necessarily get all the laughs.
“Vivienne is the all black in a room of pink,” she says of her character, who plays a foil to the heroine Elle Woods. “She starts out very severe and rigid because she knows what she wants. And Elle is getting in her way.
“But by the end, she has a nice bit of an arc and a little bit of growth and ends up being really supportive of
Elle. And they end up as allies.”
Sevola says the tour has wound its way through 50 shows already, and by the time it concludes in May, she will have performed in 100 shows and 85 cities.
The hardest part of a national tour, she says, is moving from venue to venue and not knowing the little things like what the backstage looks like and whether all the set pieces will fit. But night after night, the show must go on no matter what adjustments have to be made to the final product.
Interestingly, as they move from city to city, the young actors are part of a finishing school of sorts. They’re interacting with each other, young professionals who are each getting their first big break and with seasoned actors who have played on these tours before. Sevola says that Chris Carsten, who plays Professor Callahan, is a veteran touring actor
IF YOU GO
‘Legally Blonde.’ 7:30 p.m., Jan. 4 and 5; Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail. $42-$82. Visit VanWezel.org.
of 25 years and that he’s been really kind and warm to most of his younger peers.
“He has been a mentor and someone I absolutely look up to because he does such great work every night,” she says. “There’s a nice blend of new people and people who are veterans.”
The cool part about a long tour, she says, is that several of her peers will have their own hometown shows at some point during the season’s worth of performances.
At some point, they’ll all get a special ovation.
“Those are the most fun because you can feel there are people who are extra supportive,” she says. “But I have been so pleasantly surprised; people are so excited to see theater no matter where we are. Our audiences have been so packed, so supportive, so loud. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Sevola says she hasn’t thought much about what’s next because the tour winds all the way through May, but she’s been so excited to perform on stages in front of audiences that seat thousands of people.
Every night, she remembers how lucky she is to do what she loves.
“Every once in awhile, we’ll get people coming to the stage door and they want us to sign our programs,” she says.
“I remember doing that when I was a kid. These are the people I looked up to, and now I’m that person for other people. That’s the very meaningful to me.”
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Best Of Black Tie 2022
Well, we’re certainly back, aren’t we? After a couple years (give or take) of cancellations, rescheduling, Zoom adaptations, alternative fundraiser routes and plenty of pining for “The Good Old Days”, Sarasota’s social scene has returned with a roaring first half of the season that’s kept everyone busy. Last year’s season was largely a return to form but was missing a few events that were still reworked or rescheduled to now.
And everyone showed up ready to meet the moment. The various functions and fundraisers have always been marked (to me anyway) for their high levels of energy, excitement and commitment to philanthropy for those in need in our area, but this year’s outings seemed to have taken it up a notch. The air has been different, and more and more people have been out and about making the most of these many social gatherings. Or maybe I feel that way because I stayed close to the entirety of Wine, Women and Shoes this year, and I witnessed the intensity up close. Who knows?
In any case, the calendar had a healthy mix of new approaches and events mixed with some returning favorites. Lighthouse Loss Vision Education Center and All Faiths Food Bank got the ball rolling in September with their signature Red Hot Gala and Autumn Harvest Dinner events,
respectively, before October brought a small wave of social functions. Selah Freedom returned to events after some time away with its new Light The Path fundraiser at Flirt Sushi Lounge, while Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium brought the underwater beauty aesthetic with its Oceanic Evening event.
Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation finally had its moment in the sun (or rain, rather) with its Rock The Roof fundraiser in November, which must have been a relief for staff after it was delayed for so many months.
Children First brought back its lively Flip Flops & Fashion and Rockin’ Lobster events in Venice early in November, and several nonprofits followed suit with their own functions throughout the month.
Even the Sarasota Art Museum kept its streak of elegant and committed events in December with a nature-inspired Art Bash that mixed philanthropy with nature conservation efforts.
It’s been quite a ride, and we’re only halfway there. But really, it’s a healthy and happy thing to see events having returned in a way that will positively affect so many.
We hope you’ve enjoyed the first half of this social season, and we’re excited to get back into it with you for the new year.— HARRY SAYER
Best (And Longest-Awaited) Premiere: Rock The Roof
It was a fun, rocked-out vibe with plenty of enthusiastic guests bringing their best ’80s-style costumes. Here’s to next October’s shredding session.
Shout Out to the Mayor’s Ball
The best news is that the cursed roundabout is finally opening, which means the easiest target on his back is no more. Nice job, Erik!
Best Outfits: Disco Boys, Wine Women & Shoes
Wine, Women & Shoes always goes hard, be it with various fashion show models or the creative and dazzling shoewear guests think up for the all-day event. There’s even been themed models like a Tom Cruise Top Gun lookalike in fundraisers past.
This year’s event at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota had a different move in mind on Nov. 18.
The event’s fashion show was led by a pair of Disco-Headed Dudes wearing snazzy suits that danced and posed for pictures with the crowd.
Best Outfits: Sasha and
Pyatte, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s
Stephanie Caroline of GRAE Productions ordered the disco ball heads and volunteered for the event. She helped lead the disco dudes to take photos and get through the busy ballroom. It turns out large globe heads aren’t the best for navigation, but Caroline was just glad it all went so well.
On The Soul Train gala
Sasha and Nathan Pyatte have been out and about at various fundraisers over the past few months, but rarely as boldly and loudly than at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s funky “Groovin’ On The Soul Train” gala on Nov. 11. The duo showed up with matching ’70s jumpsuits that matched the groovy looks most of the crowd donned for the signature fundraiser.
Best Outfits: Dan and Nicole Starostecki, Rock The Roof
Rock The Roof truly drew a surprising number of cool costumes and throwback rocker looks from guests that haven’t typically done so in the past.
Dan and Nicole Starostecki, though, tapped into their innate rocker energy and dressed up as they often do — something Dan called “GNashville with some doses of LA grime.”
In any case, it worked well for the duo, and the pair lived it up with the other rockers in the crowd.
Best Outfits: Rogelio Capote and Antonio Pinho, Rock The Roof
Rogelio Capote, of CAN Community Health, and his husband, Antonio Pinho, also did up the throwback look for Rock The Roof. But instead of embracing the ’80s with the big clothes and bigger hair, the duo went for a ’90s MTV look. Roger went for the cocktail look with jeans and a jacket, while Antonio kept it athletic with a colorful track suit.
“As a kid of the ’90s, it was so much fun to relive the styles,” Capote said.
Engagement: Margaret Wise and Tom Taylor
Margaret Wise has been a well-known figure in the social scene and was married for 40 years before her husband died a few years ago. She connected with social figure Tom Taylor and the two have been going steady for some time, often being seen at events together.
It’s going well. Wise and Taylor recently announced their engagement to a delighted social scene.
“He’s a good man,” Wise said. “That’s important when you get older.”
Taylor popped the question to Wise at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, where she happily said yes. They don’t have a date just yet, they’re just enjoying the moment and embracing what comes.
“We’re too young and immature (to set a date),” Wise said.
Sarah Karp of the Karp clan recently became engaged to fiance Okay Renkliyuz on a sunset cruise in Istanbul, Turkey.
Karp and Renkliyuz fell in love a year ago and have been enjoying their time together. Renkliyuz went so far as to project his proposal in large, bright letters on the Bosphorus Bridge.
About 15 minutes later, the pair spotted a pod of dolphins swimming past their boat — always a good sign for a couple.
They’re aiming to be married in Italy this summer.
Wedding: Sydney and Madison Koffman
Donna Koffman is no stranger to the social scene, be it fundraisers, luncheons, galas and all sorts of weddings.
December 3 was a first for Koffman, however — the wedding of Donna’s daughter, Sydney, to her wife, Madison.
The pair were married at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art during an elegant setting that saw more than 300 of Sarasota’s social scene in attendance. There were also several of Sydney’s friends from college who were attending as well.
A cute coincidence was that the wedding fell on Donna and David Koffman’s 28th anniversary.
Sydney and Madison Koffman are gearing up for their honeymoon at an undetermined time.
New Baby: Jersey Shelby
It’s not Alysha Shelby’s first time as a parent — she gave birth to her daughter Asher in December 2019. But as that date indicates, it was definitely a weird time to be a mom with the pandemic soon disrupting her planned mom life.
Her second baby, Jersey, born this past August, was unexpected in a different way. Alysha and her husband had been told from medical professionals and were convinced their second baby was going to be a girl.
The Shelbys went so far as to start buying girls clothes for their new child. It didn’t go that way. The couple set up their gender reveal at an Orioles spring training game on April 1 and, when the billboard revealed it was a boy, they both thought it was a big prank.
Surprises aside, young Jersey Shelby has been a happy baby in every way. And Alysha has enjoyed getting back into the social scene as well.
Starry Night Series
The Asolo Repertory Theatre started its Starry Night series with a swashbuckling event for close supporters on Dec. 12.
The theatre’s annual series — which features a number of events that are themed to Asolo Rep productions — started with a “Three Musketeers” evening at the Honorable Katherine Harris’ residence.
Guests were welcomed by a pair of adventurous performers that led them into the event space for an evening of light bites and
Artistic Director Michael Donald Edwards and managing director Linda DiGabriele later gave remarks to the crowd before it was time for the night’s entertainment. The “Three Musketeers” performers drew their blades and dueled to the delight of the crowd. The next installment in the Starry Night series will have a “Silent Sky” theme and be held on Feb. 27.
2022 Digital Year in ReviewOBSERVER STAFF
We all know the World Wide Web is a bit of a crazy place. When you put news out for the world to see, you never know who will come check out the latest and greatest happenings from our area (or what they’ll have to say about it). And, this being Florida, sometimes we garner a little extra attention for our news shenanigans. But, as years go, things were pretty tame in 2022 on YourObserver.com, which recently got a face-lift just in time for the new year, if you haven’t noticed. No alligators invading pools or rogue men in SpiderMan costumes bopping around town. But that doesn’t mean we had any less news. Here are some of the stories that drew the most attention on our website this year.
The top-performing content on YourObserver.com this year was — fairly unsurprisingly — our coverage of Hurricane Ian. We kept readers up to date on forecasts and news leading up to and throughout the storm. But what caught the most attention was the aftermath.
People like to see for themselves.
We published more than 100 photos taken by Observer staff and sent in by readers of damage across the region.
Readers from across the country were keeping up with our Ian coverage — snowbirds from their summer states as well as thousands of new readers. Compared to an average 60% of our content being read by people in Florida, the number of
“High Water Ahead.”
those outside the state nearly quadrupled those in state reading the Observer’s Hurricane Ian coverage.
This one had all the makings of a juicy local story: In essence, a local developer proposed razing the 100-year-old Mira Mar building on Palm Avenue in downtown Sarasota to replace it with 70 condos.
That alone was enough to spark a tidal wave of comments from readers. Then add in the plot twists: The building’s historical value was called into question from renovations and repairs made throughout the years. Then, just days after the proposal was made public, citing also that the building was a safety hazard, the city of Sarasota called for immediate shoring up of structural issues in it.
Add in that a longtime Sarasota restaurant currently leases space that would be affected by the proposal and we had a legit brouhaha brewing.
After the Historic Preservation Board unanimously refused the developer’s request, the deal to sell the building fell through, but the owner said in August it would still move forward with demolition. Stay tuned …
THE PLAYERS CENTRE FOR PERFORMING ARTS
The tale of the Players Centre for Performing Arts finding a new home had some twists and turns this year, and it still does not have an ending, happy or otherwise.
In March, Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch terminated its plan with the Players to build a $30 million theater complex in its new Waterside Place development.
The community theater had been working to raise the money to build the new theater since it announced it was selling its downtown Sarasota
property in 2016. After the Players presented a smaller theater concept for the space, which was rejected by SMR, it began talks with the city of Sarasota to lease the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium for its new home. The city rejected that proposal, which left the Players still searching for a home.
In the meantime, the community theater is still performing shows in its Studio 1130 space, in The crossings at Siesta Key mall.
Red tide returned to the region in mid-October. Rain and storm surge from Hurricane Ian helped fuel the ideal conditions for toxic levels of Karenia brevis, the organism that creates algae blooms known as red tide.
High levels hit Sarasota and Manatee beaches in mid- to late November but decreased in early December.
Tens of thousands of readers stayed up to date on the red tide status levels of local beaches with the Observer’s status map that began this past year.
The region’s restaurant scene saw a lot of sad goodbyes and exciting hellos this year.
Sarasota staple Cafe Baci announced in mid-April it would close the following month after more than 30 years. Owner Roberto Mei said that it was time for him to move into the next phase of his life.
Blue Rooster was another big hit. The Rosemary District restaurant brought Southern food and the blues to Sarasota for nearly a decade before closing its doors. Owner Bill Cornelius said that at 70 years old, he was ready to retire and sold the building to a new operator.
The area and its growing population is still a magnet for restaurateurs. Lakewood Main Street saw the openings of Remy’s on Main, which offers comfort food with a Korean twist, and Mediterranean restaurant Sofia’s.
Massachusetts-based Kelly’s Roast Beef opened at University Town Center in December, and Longboat Key’s first Mexican restaurant opened in August. La Villa Mexican Grill serves up authentic Mexican dishes, margaritas and mariachi.
Half of Sarasota-area’s 10 highest sales prices were in Harbor Acres.ADAM HUGHES RESEARCH EDITOR
HARBOR ACRES, SARASOTA
CCW Holdings 1435 LLC and Chad Cooper Williams and Nicole Williams, of Sarasota, sold the home at 1423 Hillview Drive to Danny Fast, of Sarasota, for $17.5 million. Built in 2005, it has six bedrooms, seven-and-a-half baths, a pool and 11,588 square feet of living area. It sold for $7,287,500 in 2007.
Cynthia Kaye Taylor, trustee, and Terry Frank Taylor, of Bradenton, sold the home at 1309 Vista Drive to John Chew Jr. and Judith Chew, trustees, of Ridgeland, Mississippi, for $15.5 million. Built in 2010, it has four bedrooms, four-and-twohalf baths, a pool and 8,452 square feet of living area.
Henry Philip Frieder, of Fort Lauderdale, sold his home at 1500 Hillview Drive to SRQ home Holdings LLC for $12 million. Built in 1949, it has five bedrooms, five baths, a pool and 3,245 square feet of living area. It sold for $800,000 in 1991.
THE QUAY, SARASOTA Pamela and Lee Kennedy, of Sarasota, sold their Unit PH-1903 condominium at 401 Quay Commons to Michael Marberry, trustee, of Sarasota, for $10,575,000. Built in 2021, it has four bedrooms, fourand-a-half baths and 5,893 square feet of living area. It previously sold for $8,928,000 in 2021.
$10.5 MILLION SEAGRAPE, NOKOMIS
J&M Eldred Realty LLC sold two properties at 1144 and 1148 Sea Grape Point Road to Michael Kimball, of Nokomis, for $10.5 million. The property at 1144 was built in 2016, it has two bedrooms, three-and-a-half baths, a pool and 4,749 square feet of living area. The property at 1148 was built in 2016, it has three bedrooms, three-and-ahalf baths, a pool and 2,864 square feet of living area.
THE QUAY, SARASOTA
Mark and Robyn Jones, of Westlake, Texas, sold their Unit PH-1901 condominium at 401 Quay Commons to Paul Verrochi and Joseph D’Arrigo, trustees, of Cohasset, Massachusetts, for $9.75 million. Built in 2021, it has four bedrooms, four-and-a-half baths and 5,893 square feet of living area. It sold for $7,845,700 in 2021.
Merle and Patricia Butler sold their home at 1486 Hillview Drive to Benjamin Max Curren and Genia Ryan Curren, trustees, of Sarasota, for $9,342,200. Built in 2008, it has five bedrooms, five baths, a pool and 8,433 square feet of living area. It sold for $7.5 million in 2012.
$9,175,000 COCOANUT BAYOU, SIESTA KEY
Ronald and Rebecca Bizick sold their home at 241 Cedar Park Circle to Carol Mueller, trustee, of Avon Lake, Ohio, for $9,175,000. Built in 1998, it has five bedrooms, fourand-two-half baths, a pool and 6,838 square feet of living area. It sold for $3 million in 2008.
$8.8 MILLION HARBOR ACRES, SARASOTA
Michael Kaiser and John Spencer Roberts sold their home at 1364 Harbor Drive to Mitchell and Dawn Epstein, of Sarasota, for $8,768,700. Built in 1999, it has five bedrooms, four-and-a-half baths, a pool and 5,240 square feet of living area. It previously sold for $6.1 million in 2020.
CASEY KEY, NOKOMIS
Rita Collins sold two properties at 1906 Casey Key Road to Scott and Meredith Hermann, of Nokomis, for $8.5 million. The first property was built in 1955, it has three bedrooms, three-and-twohalf baths, a pool and 4,388 square feet of living area. The second property was built in 1997, it has one bedroom, one bath and 1,379 square feet of living area. They sold for $4.1 million in 2020.
Indian Beach: $7.48 million Charles and Nancy Parrish, trustees, of Sarasota, sold two properties at 3139 Bay Shore Road to John and Kathleen Szabo, of Sarasota, for $7.48 million. The first property was built in 1912, it has four bedrooms, three-and-a-half baths, a pool and 4,140 square feet. The second property was built in 1912, it has one bath and 825 square feet.
SIESTA KEY Point Crisp: $7.2 million
Larry Enterline, of Buford, Georgia, sold his home at 1321 Point Crisp Road to Michael Martin Kaiser and John Spencer Roberts, of Sarasota, for $7.2 million. Built in 2001, it has five bedrooms, six-and-a-half baths, a pool and 6,572 square feet.
Casey Key: $6.5 million
Stanley Matysiak, of Treasure Island, sold his home at 2501 Casey Key Road to The Parking Co. for $6.5 million. Built in 2001, it has four bedrooms, four-and-a-half baths, a pool and 4,321 square feet.
Casey Key: $6.3 million
Michael Lombardo and Carla Morris-Lombardo, of Englewood, sold their home at 144 N. Casey Key Road to Scott and Linda Schaeffer, of Osprey, for $6.3 million. Built in 2003, it has four bedrooms, three baths, a pool and 5,397 square feet.
Prestancia: $2.5 million
Thomas and Mary Jo Runfola, trustees, of Sarasota, sold the home at 3944 Losillias Drive to Tom and Patricia Lietha, of Sarasota, for $2,595,000. Built in 1989, it has four bedrooms, four-and-a-half baths, a pool and 4,779 square feet.
For the full list of top sellers in Sarasota, Siesta Key, Palmer Ranch, Osprey and Nokomis, visit YourObserver.com/news/sarasota/realestate/
In with the new
Cops Corner: Best of 2022
PHONE NOT HOME
12:30 p.m., May 9, 1100 block of North Washington Boulevard
A man told police that a woman had stolen his cell phone. He claimed that he had hired the woman through an escort service and she stole his phone on the way out of his home. An officer had the man dial his cell phone number while he searched the woman’s car. The officer did not hear a ring or vibration.
OVER A BARREL 7:33 a.m., Oct. 14, 1200 block of Hillview Street
Lets face it, whether you’re a cop in the South Bronx or in Sarasota, there are days you’re gonna just stop and smile at the world around you.
OK, maybe fewer in the South Bronx than in Sarasota, but you get what we’re saying.
Those stop-and-smile moments are what we try to capture each week in Cops Corner, a newspaper feature that could easily adopt The Friars’ Club mantra of “we kid because we love.’’
Hard crime news isn’t what we’re about at Cops Corner. Making you smile and perhaps tipping our newsprint-folded hat at the men and women who wear a badge is.
Here’s some of 2022’s best.
SETTLE DOWN, PEOPLE
TOO MUCH SUN
6 p.m., March 6, 0 block of Marina Place
An officer was rinsing a patrol boat when he was informed of a group of drunken people nearby. He went to check on the group and asked them to find a place to go. One man became angry, raising his fists to fight the officer. The officer told the man’s friends that they needed to take him away from the area or he would have to do so. The angry man’s mother, who was also present, and persuaded him to leave without further incident.
PACING AND PANICKED
11:35 p.m., March 17, 1800 block of Main Street
Police called a taxi for a man who had become angry because a previous driver refused to take him to his out-of-town home. Once the new taxi arrived, the driver refused to let the man ride up front, which again angered the man. Once the driver agreed, the man refused to ride with him.
8:23 p.m. July 11, 1400 block of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Responding to a complaint about an unruly customer, officers arrived to find a customer arguing with another customer who earlier had thrown lottery tickets at her. She responded by throwing an assortment of plastic-wrapped snacks toward the man. The officer reviewed video of the incident, determined
none of the hurled objects struck their intended target, but indicated the woman spit in the direction of the man. The officer examined the man’s shirt where he claimed the woman had spit on him, but found no evidence of “a stain or wet spot or evidence of spit/saliva.”
FLOPPY FRY FRACAS
6:45 p.m., Aug. 26, 300 block of Beneva Road
Police responded to a call from a fast-food restaurant because a customer refused to leave the establishment over a complaint about soggy fries. A customer in the drive-thru, upset because she did not receive fresh fries, entered the restaurant approximately 10 minutes later demanding the manager’s last name. She was told such identification violated company policy. An officer met with the dissatisfied customer, who was sitting in the restaurant’s dining room. The manager did not wish to press trespassing charges providing the officer could successfully remove the customer from the property.
THERE MUST BE SOME MISUNDERSTANDING
WINDOW SHADY 8:20 a.m., Feb. 3, 1600 block of Pine Tree Lane
Police arrived at a home where a painting that read “Trapped” was visible through a window. A woman inside the home said she was using the painting as a window covering, and she was not actually trapped.
She told police she would remove the painting to avoid confusion.
8:50 p.m., March 3, 1400 block of Tamiami Trail
While taking a woman to the hospital, she accused actor Lorenzo Lamas of stealing money from her. When an officer informed her that Lorenzo Lamas was a famous actor, she named other celebrities she claimed also have stolen from her. She was transported to the hospital without further issues.
The Longboat Key marine patrol officer was called to assist Sarasota Police Department in responding to a report of someone clinging to a barrel floating in Sarasota Bay, as reported by someone in the Harbor Acres community. Before the Longboat Key officer could arrive at the scene, it was determined that the barrel/castaway was a manatee.
TO DISAGREE BOTANICAL CUSTODY BATTLE
1:05 p.m., March 30, 800 block of Osprey Avenue
A woman called the police and accused her neighbor of stealing a house plant. She claimed that she allowed her neighbor to watch the plant until she found a place to put it, as her apartment complex informed her that it was a fire hazard. The neighbor, however, claimed the house plant was a gift.
WE’RE NUMBER 1 2:30 p.m., April 5, 1000 block of Tamiami Trail
A woman told police that she was being followed by a woman she did not know. When she parked the car, the woman parked closely and an argument ensued. When officers spoke with the other woman, she said she was following her because she was driving poorly. The officer said both women “exchanged middle fingers” and no arrests were made.
NO MOTOR, NO SERVICE 11:58 p.m., July 21, 700 block of South Washington Boulevard
A man in a wheelchair making a midnight burger run learned that people-powered vehicles are not welcome at a fast food drive-thru. Police responded to a call about a man blocking traffic at the drive-thru and refusing to move after learning he would not be served. When the officer arrived, the man said he would not have attempted to use the drive-thru had he been aware of the rule. He then asked the officer to call the ride service to be returned home.
AERIAL ASSAULT 10:03 a.m., Aug. 7, 5000 block of
2:30 a.m., Feb. 1, 0 block of South Lime Avenue
A man who had previously stolen from a coffee shop returned and poured himself a cup. After drinking the coffee he helped himself to two gingerbread sandwiches. An employee told the man to leave and that police would be called if he did not return the sandwiches or pay. The man did not comply, so the employee called police and locked the shop’s door. The man pulled out a hammer, broke a window, stepped through and ran off.
Royal Palm Avenue
A case of gravity versus mischief brought police to a vehicle whose owner complained of a large pine cone landing on the hood while traveling on Royal Palm Avenue. The victim said she heard a loud bang on the hood and immediately stopped, claiming she then heard what she believed to be the closing of a sliding door at a nearby condo building. Dash cam video captured the trajectory of the strike, leading the driver to believe it was thrown from a nearby balcony. Police spoke with the resident of the condo, who was at work at the time, lives alone and had no company.
SOMETHING SUSPICIOUS GOING ON HERE
WAS IT A GHOST?
5:30 a.m., April 6, 2900 block of Bay Street
A man called police because he saw the silhouette of a someone behind his blinds. He said he also heard a man’s voice but could not find any disturbance when scanning his yard. Officers could not locate anyone outside and observed that the man’s blinds were closed. The man’s wife told officers she thought the man had just seen the reflection of tree branches, but the man was insistent that he saw the silhouette of a person. No suspects were identified.
UH, THAT’S SUSPICIOUS 8 a.m., April 11, 5000 block of Sunset Circle
Found property: A passer-by notified police upon their discovery of a suspicious package. Police examined the package and found it contained two adult toys, which were taken to police headquarters and placed into property storage.
FISH STORY 9:08 a.m., Nov. 21, 1600 block of Ken Thompson Parkway
OVERSTAYING HER WELCOME
5 a.m., April 17 1500 block of 31st Street
A family offered a woman to spend the night at their home to keep her from sleeping outside, but when the woman arrived, she became angry and threatened to burn the house down. The family contacted the police, who arrived and evaluated the situation.
There was a dispute about whether she had to leave the residence at which she was initially invited to stay, but the woman willingly left the property.
Police took a fish hook and fishing line into evidence to aid in their investigation of a burglary and a bit of improper fishing in a shark tank at a location on City Island, the name of which was redacted in a police incident report, as often is the case with burglary reports. Marinewildlife experts at the laboratory and aquarium reported finding a four-foot shark in one of its tanks with a baited hook in its mouth and a length of fishing line trailing behind. Experts were able to remove the hook without injury to the shark. Officers were told the likely felonious angler dipped the line overnight while the facility was closed, because no one noticed anything wrong at closing time the evening before.
The terrificRYAN KOHN SPORTS EDITOR
What a year.
Every year, it seems like the sports happenings and accomplishments of the previous year cannot be topped. Every year, that is proven wrong, and 2022 was no different.
It was 12 months of team and individual accomplishments. It was a year of athletes going above and beyond what they had previously done — and a year of athletes being recognized at the state level for doing so.
It is always a difficult task to narrow the year down to 10 moments, but 2022 was a special challenge. When a state second-place finish comes in at No. 8 on the list, it’s a sign of an out-of-the-ordinary year. There were great moments that had to be left off, but the 10 moments selected for the list were important on their own and in the context of their programs and sports.
Here are the top 10 moments of the Sarasota sports season:
Sarasota High captures third-straight boys swimming state title
In the past, the Sailors boys swim team relied on depth to win the 2020 and 2021 state titles. Sarasota won no gold medals in individual or relay races during those state championship meets.
This year, the Sailors had several, leading Sarasota to win its third-consecutive title
by 45 points over second-place G. Holmes Braddock Senior High of Dade County. 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.”
Though Heary, Keogh and others are graduating in 2023, the rest of the Sailors insisted that all of their focus would be on completing the four-peat next season.
3. Mooney’s Byrd named
Gatorade Florida Volleyball Player of the Year
Byrd, a 6-foot-5 outside hitter, recorded 551 kills, 258 digs, 56 blocks and 25 service aces during the 2021 indoor volleyball season, leading the Cougars to a 20-8 record and a spot in the Florida High School
Riverview High wins back-to-back girls swimming titles
In theory, the 2022 Florida High School Athletic Association Class 3A girls swimming state meet was anyone’s to win.
In reality, though, 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.”
Athletic Association Class 3A regional quarterfinals. Though the award was for the 2021 season, she also had a great 2022, recording 571 kills, 206 digs, 48 blocks and 52 service aces.
The Gatorade awards have been handed out to one player per sport in each state since 1985. The award recognizes athletic excellence as well as academic achievement and character on and off the court. Byrd, who will play for the University of Texas in 2023, held a 3.72 GPA at the time the award was announced.
4. Sarasota tennis player named USTA Florida Player of the Year
Sarasota’s Leonardo Dal Boni was named the United States Tennis Association Florida Player of the Year award 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, regarded by many to be among the biggest annual junior tennis events.
Dal Boni’s success has him ranked by the Tennis Recruiting Network as a five-star player and the No. 52 player in the national Class of 2023. Earlier this year, the 17-year-old Dal Boni and his family became American citizens, and he said he is proud to represent the USA.
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,” he said. “It’s about being mindful of them. I always try to apply what I read the next day or next match.”
1.Photos by Ryan Kohn Daniel Keegan, Elias Corn, Drew Vanden Heuvel, Evan Keogh, Luca Simon and Bogdan Zverev were part of the Sailors boys swim team’s three-peat at state. Addison Sauickie, Bailey O’Regan and Gracie Weyant were individual gold medalists for the Rams girls swim team, which won the state team title. back on 11, Cardinal Mooney volleyball player Jordyn Byrd, then a junior, was named the 2021-22 Gatorade Florida Volleyball Player of the Year.
5. Cardinal Mooney wins beach volleyball state title
The Cardinal Mooney beach volleyball team defeated Merritt Island High 4-1 in Tavares on April 30 to capture the Sunshine State Athletic Conference state championship.
It was closer than the final score indicates. Two of the individual matches Mooney eventually won went to three sets, and Mooney occasionally trailed in them, but the team’s depth allowed the Cougars to pull it out.
“When the last two games went to a third set and we were on the verge of winning, we felt it,” junior Madeline Carson said. “We were about to serve for the win when they (freshman Izzy Russell and junior Gracie Page) won their game. Everyone trampled on each other, and we were all screaming.”
It was the beach volleyball program’s first state title; the school’s indoor volleyball program won a state title in 2019.
7. Cougars girls reach secondstraight state championship basketball game
The Cardinal Mooney girls basketball team defeated King’s Academy 50-42 in the FHSAA Class 3A state semifinals on Feb. 23 at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland to reach the state title game two years in a row. Cardinal Mooney never trailed against King’s Academy. The Cougars were led in scoring by freshman Kali Barrett who had 19 points. Junior Olivia Davis had 16 points.
6. Riverview golfer wins FHSAA title
Riverview High senior Aksel Moe finished off a strong 2022 campaign with a win at the Florida High School Athletic Association 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.
The Cougars reached the title game by playing their signature aggressive style. Mooney’s will to win often gave the Cougars the edge in big games. Once they had the lead, it was difficult to get it away from them.
Mooney’s shooting went cold in the state championship game against Westminster Academy, costing the Cougars a state title, but appearing in two-consecutive title games is an accomplishment in and of itself. The program’s strong run has continued into 2022-23, as Mooney is 6-1 as of Dec. 19.
8. Sarasota High runner takes silver at track and field championships
Sarasota High’s Alec Miller, then a junior, did not win the Class 4A boys 1,600-meter run at this year’s event — held May 11-14 at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville — but he came close, and that was good enough to get Miller to smile wide on the podium.
Miller, who entered the event seeded first with a time of 4:19.86, ran in second place for most of the race and finished there as well (4:13.50). Miller tried to catch Hagerty High junior Brayden Seymour for first place, sprinting home on the final lap, but Seymour had built too big a lead over the course of the race and won by 1.74 seconds.
“I was curious if I was going to be able to catch him (Seymour),” Miller said. “It didn’t happen, but I’m psyched I was able to drop six seconds (from his personal record) against a huge field like this. That was awesome.”
Booker senior Jaydn Lattimore, senior Ty’anna Ash and junior Chariot Johnson helped the Tornadoes girls basketball team reach the Final Four.
girls reaches basketball’s
The Booker High girls basketball team won 74-50 over Port Charlotte High in the FHSAA Class 4A regional finals on Feb. 19, securing a spot in the Class 4A Final Four. Junior Chariot Johnson led the Tornadoes with 20 points. Junior Kymani Freeman had 15 points. It was a win that made Coach Ty Bryant especially proud.
The Tornadoes were not carried on the back of one superstar. They played as a
team, with different Tornadoes making winning plays each game. It was the little things, such as senior Jaydn Lattimore’s ability to set screens, opening lanes for Johnson to get to the rim, that allowed Booker to thrive. The end result was a team stronger together than it was apart. Although the team’s journey ended in the state semifinals, its postseason run was more than enough to engender hope in its future. That hope is paying off in the 2022-23 season; Booker is 10-1 as of Dec. 19.
10. Sarasota High wins first football playoff game in 18 seasons
With a quarterback making his first start of the season, the Sarasota High football team traveled to Manatee High on Nov. 11 and came home with a 30-20 win, its first playoff victory in 18 seasons.
The team was steadied by its running game — junior Joe Ziegler and sophomore Takurian Smith each ran for a score — but was given a boost by junior quarterback Michael Bendever, who threw touchdowns to senior Tyler Pack and junior Jackson Mullett and did not throw an interception.
Bendever, who comes from a baseball background, had taken some firststring reps all season during practice. The Sailors unleashed his arm thinking he was ready, and they were right.
The Sailors would lose in the next round of the playoffs to rival Riverview High, but they still made history and finished the year with a 5-5 record.
hen it comes to great photography, we don’t have to go any further than our readers, who supply our weather page with amazing photos for our Nature’s Beauty with Manasota Flooring contest. Here is a 2022 sampling.