NORTH PORT — The Sun Preps team honored the best of the local high school athletes on Tuesday night in an All-Area awards banquet at CoolToday Park — featuring First Team players and coaches throughout 21 sports.
Awards were presented to players and coaches of the year in each respective sport, but two athletes — the boys and girls athletes of the year — stood above the rest.
Lauren Ragazzone of Lemon Bay — a golf, soccer, weightlifting and track and field athlete — was named the Girls Athlete of the Year for her record-breaking accomplishments and versatility across the school year for the Lady Mantas.
She beat out Bella Desjardins — a volleyball and basketball star at Charlotte — and Kiki Slattery — a soccer and track standout at Venice.
Alex Perry, of Port Charlotte, set himself apart on both the football field and the basketball court — earning him Boys Athlete of the Year honors.
The multi-faceted Pirates athlete beat out Tre Carroll — Charlotte’s top basketball player — and Colin Blazek — the football player of the year and a starting varsity baseball player for Venice.
Ragazzone, also the girls soccer player of the year, not only broke the single-season goal scoring record for the Lemon Bay soccer team, but also led them to a pair of regional titles. In golf, Ragazzone wasn’t a top player but still played her part — helping the team win another district championship.
She was a standout in track and field, too, as she won a district title in the high jump while competing in several events.
“I really only played soccer growing up,” Ragazzone said. “I got into the other sports when I got into high school. I love to stay busy, so that’s how I kept myself occupied.
“Making new friends was the best part of it all. Even though I maybe didn’t know what I was doing at first, everyone was so welcoming to me and would help me with whatever I needed even though I was new. I hope I did that for other players in soccer, too.”
Though Perry was not named as the football player of the year or the boys basketball player of the year, he starred in both sports for Port Charlotte.
The rising-senior athlete was one of the area’s top receivers on the gridiron — turning 28 catches into 658 yards and nine touchdowns, good for 23.5 yards per reception.
“When Alex gets to college he’s gonna be surrounded by elite players, so we’re trying to continue developing him as a man, not just as a player,” Port Charlotte coach Jordan Ingman said during this past football season.
“He’s done a great job responding to the challenge.”
He was even better on the basketball court where he averaged 18.8 points per game, leading Port Charlotte to a 17-4 record and a trip to the Class 5A region semifinals.
“A very tough competitor,” Port Charlotte boys basketball coach Kip Rhoten said of Perry earlier this year. “He can be the best defensive player in Southwest Florida. He has a high basketball IQ for his age.”
Perry, who has offers to play Division-I football for Purdue and Old Dominion, was unable to attend the All-Area awards event due to a last-minute invite to showcase his skills in front of coaches at UCF.
Ragazzone’s and Perry’s awards wrapped up the proceedings at CoolToday Park — putting the finishing touches on a year to remember.