Olympian Gabby Douglas tells athletes ‘Be yourself’ at Herald-Tribune’s Best of HT Preps Awards
SARASOTA –Be yourself was the theme at the Fourth Annual Best of HT Preps Banquet at Robarts Arena.
Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas delivered that theme during the night honoring athletic and academic achievement.
Douglas’ message was clear: “Be yourself. Don’t try to copy someone else’s path. Create your own path. If you have a dream or passion, go for it 100 percent. It’s not easy, but it is rewarding. Never limit yourself. If you quit, you’re gonna have a regret.”
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Douglas, who followed previous year’s speakers Tim Tebow, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers standout linebacker Derrick Brooks and former Manatee High quarterback and current Florida State football coach Willie Taggart as the guest attraction, also addressed the rise in social media during her question and answer session in front of the largest gathering in the four years of the event.
“Watch what you put out there,” Douglas said. “If you doubt it, don’t post it. Social media could be cruel. Don’t let social media change you.”
Bayshore High swimmer Ryley Ober and Sarasota High runner Ben Hartvigsen were named the overall Female and Male Athletes of the Year, respectively.
Already enrolled at the Indiana University, Ober won two gold medals in the 100- and 200-meter freestyle this past season at the Class 2A State Swimming Championships. It was the second time she won the 100 and 200 at states and gave her six gold medals in the past three years.
The Harvard University-bound Hartvigsen won the Class 4A State Championship for the second straight year. He also finished second in the 3,200-meter run at the State Track and Field Meet.
Players of the Year in all 14 sports, including lacrosse this year for the first time, were honored.
Receiving speciality awards were Riverview High senior Abby Quigley (Academic Award), Sarasota High senior Chasen Leavitt (Inspiration Award), Pine View student and Riverview High volleyball player Akane Beardow (Determination Award), Cardinal Mooney baseball player Jaelen Childs (Boundless Award).
Retiring legendary girls basketball coach John Harder was named the overall Coach of the Year from a list of very worthy candidates that included Venice High boys swimming coach Jana Minorini, Saint Stephen’s football coach Tod Creneti, Lakewood Ranch softball coach T.J. Goelz, Venice High boys tennis coach Wayne Robertson, Lakewood Ranch High boys basketball coach Jeremy Schiller, Sarasota boys cross country and track and field coach John Stevenson and Cardinal Mooney volleyball coach Chad Sutton.
Harder ended a 45-year coaching career, 35 at Southeast High, with 905 victories.
Team state champions from Venice High boys swimming, Sarasota High cross country and Venice boys tennis were lauded.
The Venice High baseball team, which is in the regional final Wednesday, and the Lakewood Ranch High softball team, which is in the Final 4 for the second straight season and plays in the state semifinal Thursday in Vero Beach, still can add to the list of team champions this season.