Ridaught: It was an unbelievable sports year

2022 championship teams
The 2022 high school year featured several area team and individual titles.

It’s that time of year again, time to reflect on the year that was.

And what a year it was in 2022.

This year there were state champions in football, boys basketball, boys weightlifting, girls cross country, volleyball, and individual state champions in swimming.

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Plus, several schools made first-ever final four appearances.

With so many outstanding feats, it’s hard to do a numerical top 10.

So, like last year’s top 10, I’m once again listing them chronologically.

In February, the Hawthorne boys basketball team faced Bradford (Starke) in the state semifinals in Lakeland.

The Tornadoes (16-10) had no problem with the Hornets — or Paxton in the 1A state title game — en route to Bradford’s first state title in program history.

In April, the Keystone Heights boys weightlifting team won its second straight state title.

Indians’ head coach Lantz Lowery was named the Florida Dairy Farmers 2022 Boys Weightlifting Coach of the Year, while Ulysses Freed, who won two individual state titles was named runner-up for the Mr. Weightlifting award.

The following month, the Fort White and Dixie County (Cross City) softball teams advanced to their first state semifinal in school history.

The Indians, who shut out Union County (Lake Butler) in the 1A-Region 3 Final to advance, defeated the Bears (21-5) in the state semifinals behind freshman Kadence Compton’s complete game performance.

However, Fort White (16-8) lost a heartbreaker in the state title game to finish as state runners-up in Class 1A.

The Fort White and Dixie County baseball teams also advanced to their first final four in program history.

The Indians rode the momentum of a 12-game winning streak in March and April —which was the longest in school history — to a 16-7 season which ended with a 4-1 loss to Holmes County (Bonifay) in the Class 1A state semifinals.

After a 6-8 start to the season, Dixie County rebounded by winning down the stretch, including a dominant effort against Chiefland in the regional final. However, the Bears (13-10) ran out of gas against top-ranked Bozeman (Panama City) in the state semifinals.

Columbia (Lake City) also advanced to its first final four in program history in thrilling fashion, before the Tigers (22-9) lost to Eau Gallie (Melbourne) in the 5A state semifinals.

Suwannee’s (Live Oak) baseball season ended in the 4A state semifinals to eventual state champion Island Coast (Cape Corral) and the Bulldogs finished 24-5.

This past November, three area swimmers won individual state titles.

Eastside senior Hannah Ahn, a Brown signee, won the 100-yard butterfly for the second time in a row, P.K. Yonge junior Lillie Nesty won the 200-yard freestyle, and GHS junior Michael Mullen, a Florida commit, nearly set a state record in winning the 200-yard individual medley. He also claimed the 100-yard breaststroke.

The Buchholz and Oak Hall girls won cross country state titles, marking the first time in area history that two girls teams had won the state championship in the same year. Buchholz coach Mike Maren was named the Florida Dairy Farmers Coach of the Year.

One week later, the Santa Fe (Alachua) volleyball team won its second straight state title. Right side hitter Jalyn Stout, who signed with Coastal Carolina, was named Miss Volleyball by the Florida Dairy Farmers for the second straight year. Head coach Eric Marshall, the 4A coach of the year, was recently named the Mainstreet Daily News big school Coach of the Year.

Union County (Lake Butler) (20-8) and Williston (19-11) also advanced to the state semifinals for the first time in five years.

And in December, the Buchholz football team (10-3) advanced to its second straight final four, falling at Venice in the final game for head coach Mark Whittemore and a Bobcats’ foursome who signed to play college football.

Columbia (9-4), Bradford (12-2), and Union County (8-3) all advanced to the state semifinals for a total of five area teams in the Mainstreet Daily News coverage area who made the final four.

The fall ended with a bang as Hawthorne won its first football state title in school history.

It’s all about family at Hawthorne, which went wire-to-wire to finish with a 12-0 record.

It was the perfect ending to an unbelievable year.

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