Spring Into Action
High-school athletes who are ready to dominate the spring sports season
A shot-putter and discus thrower, Crawford has already attracted interest from five different colleges despite still being a junior. She placed fourth in shot-put at the state level last season, and she’s been working hard to improve on that standing this year.
ORLANDO FAMILY MAGAZINE: Your coach tells us you’re an excellent shot-putter. What is it about that competition that you enjoy?
JAE CRAWFORD: I’ve always loved shot-put because I couldn’t do anything else regarding track. My sister went out for track when I was a sixth-grader, and I was like, OK, so I can’t run, and my coach was like, you should try shot-put. So, I did, and I just fell in love with it.
OFM: Your coach also said you’ve gotten offers from University of Missouri, Stanford University, Brown University, University of Central Florida, and Jacksonville University. Have any others come in yet?
JC: The coach from Stanford actually moved to Princeton, so hopefully Princeton will be contacting me at some point. And then, I’m looking into [Louisiana State University] and University of Kentucky, as well as University of Texas. I don’t know [which I’d prefer] yet; just whichever school has a good STEM program because I want to be a biochemist. So, I just want to find a good school for biochemistry.
OFM: What is it about biochemistry that appeals to you?
JC: I love [biology], and then I fell in love with chemistry, and I want to be able to help people. And that’s a field in which I could do science and also help people.
OFM: What other sports, or other track & field competitions, do you compete in?
JC: I have done volleyball and basketball, and now I do weightlifting and track. And I’m also a discus thrower and I plan to throw hammer-and-weight at some point.
OFM: What steps have you taken during the off-season to try to improve on last year’s impressive ranking?
JC: I competed at the Junior Olympics again this year, and I’ve been training with my private trainer Andy Vince. He’s a former Olympian, and I train with him in Clermont at the National Training Center. So, I trained with him, and then I did weightlifting again, which will always help me with shot-put and discus.
OFM: How is the Boone track squad looking this year?
JC: We’re looking good—I’m excited. We have a lot of young talent, and we have a good amount of returners. I’m excited.
A three-year letterman for the Grenadiers’ swim and water-polo teams, Uyeda is one of the top scorers for the latter. He’s also a member of the prestigious Key Club and Cambridge Program, and he’s eyeing joining the military after graduation despite college interest.
ORLANDO FAMILY MAGAZINE: What is it about water polo that appeals to you?
JOSHUA UYEDA: One of my good friends my freshman year first showed it to me, and I thought it was kind of weird at first, but then I thought about the physical-activity conditioning it would give me. I decided to join it, and after that, I found it really fun.
OFM: Your coach said you’re a three-year letterman and one on the top scorers on the team. How do you achieve so much success?
JU: Work hard, stick to what you’re doing, and never give up. Just keep pushing yourself harder and harder every day.
OFM: What advice do you have for younger athletes hoping to excel at water polo?
JU: In swimming, when you first start out, it’s going to be very difficult, but just stick with it and you’ll get better at it, and it will become second nature.
OFM: You also hold a 3.9 GPA unweighted/4.7 weighted, and you’re in the Cambridge Program and the Key Club. What drives you to achieve academically as well as athletically?
JU: I just have very big goals in my life to accomplish, and I just think that working hard right now and putting in a lot of effort will pay off in the end.
OFM: Can you describe the Cambridge Program?
JU: It’s very connected to Cambridge University in England, so it’s kind of an Ivy League-type course.
OFM: You’re a member of Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC). Do you plan on joining the military after high school rather than pursue college, at least right away?
JU: Yes sir, I do. I strive to go to the Naval Academy in Annapolis and serve the military as an officer. My grandparents served in the military, and they influenced me to pursue that pathway in my life.
OFM: Do you play any other sports?
JU: I am on the swim team, and I also play basketball recreationally.
OFM: What do you enjoy about basketball?
JU: Basketball was my father’s sport, so he influenced me to play that, and I just kind of fell in love with that sport. I find it really fun.
An outfielder, senior Gaviria was named best defensive player of the season for her play last year, and she was also named a 2017 Preseason All-American by Softball Factory. She’s also received an offer to play ball for Barry University.
ORLANDO FAMILY MAGAZINE: You were named a 2017 Preseason All American by Softball Factory. Can you tell us about that?
ADRIANA GAVIRIA: It came as a surprise to me because I stopped playing travel ball a while ago, and the letter came in, and I was like, “Dang, this must have been from a while ago.” They saw me in Dodgertown playing, and they sent that letter to me.
OFM: You also have an offer from Barry University. Are you leaning toward accepting it, or are you still weighing your options?
AG: I don’t think I’m accepting it. I want to focus on my academics, and my major conflicts with my schedule. [I’m majoring in] nursing. I like the feeling that I’m helping people other than myself and contributing to the community.
OFM: How long have you been playing softball, and what do you get out of it?
AG: Since I was 13. I enjoy being a part of a team, being a part of something, and I like the teamwork, and it teaches you responsibility and time management.
OFM: Do you play any other sports? If so which ones? Any interest in sports you haven’t played yet?
AG: No. No interest.
OFM: Your coach says you’re the best defensive player of the season. What tips do you have for other softball players?
AG: Never give up. If you mess up on a play, there’s going to be others.
OFM: How do you think your team will do this season?
AG: This season, I’m pretty confident. We just have to keep it up and never give up.
A four-year letterman on the Lions’ varsity baseball team, Brito was named to the all-district team in his freshman and sophomore years—and at two different positions. He also holds a 4.83 GPA and is considering offers from several colleges.
ORLANDO FAMILY MAGAZINE: Your coach tells us you’re currently considering several schools for college. Which ones have made offers? Any school you’d like to get an offer from?
EDGAR BRITO: I’ve had an offer from Santa Fe [College], and I’ve been close with a few other schools, but I’ve already committed to [Santa Fe], so [the other schools] haven’t been too much into it because they know I’m already going there.
OFM: You’re a four-year letterman on the varsity baseball team. How long have you been playing baseball, and what do you enjoy about it?
EB: About 14 years now. My favorite part is definitely hitting—it’s my favorite thing to do. I could hit all day if I had to. Not have to, just want to. It’s definitely my favorite part of it.
OFM: You also have a 4.83 GPA. How are you able to perform at such high levels both academically and on the field?
EB: I just give everything the time it needs, so I know I can’t spend more on one than the other. It’s important to be an athlete and a student at the same time, so I delegate the time wisely and make sure I work hard at both.
OFM: Who are some pro baseball players who inspire you, and why?
EB: I always looked up to Alex Rodriguez at third base; one of my favorite players. Now Adrian Beltre’s definitely one of my role models. I love the way he plays. And now rising up, Manny Machado really helps me mold my game with how he plays.
OFM: Assuming you go on to play baseball professionally, what team or teams would you most want to play for?
EB: I’d love to play for the [New York] Yankees, but any team that picks me, I’d be happy with.
OFM: You’ve been an instrumental part of two district championships. How do you think your team will do this year?
EB: We have a new bunch; we lost nine seniors last year. But I think we’ll step up with [Patrick] Durbin, our new coach. He was an assistant last year, but he’s stepping up as a head coach and we have a lot of kids coming up to varsity this year. I think we’ll have a good chance, and we’re in a new district, too. There are a lot of new factors in, but I think we have a chance to go far this year.
OFM: Do you currently play any other sports, or have you in the past?
EB: Only for fun but not anything serious. I’m just strictly baseball.
A senior, Stewart has racked up some impressive stats during her high-school career with a .364 batting average, .440 onbase average and .848 fielding percentage. She has verbally committed to playing softball for Wisconsin Lutheran College starting this fall.
ORLANDO FAMILY MAGAZINE: Do you currently play any other sports, or have you in the past?
KYLIE STEWART: I’ve played volleyball, tennis and weightlifting, [but no longer play them competitively].
OFM: Your coach said that you’ve verbally committed to play softball at Wisconsin Lutheran College after graduation. What is it about that school that appeals to you?
KS: I love the small aspect of it, the religious aspect as well, and they have a great softball program.
OFM: What are your post-college plans?
KS: I’m looking at med school, [with an eye toward] pediatrics.
OFM: Your coach also shared your impressive stats with us. What’s the secret of your success on the field?
KS: It definitely would be teamwork.
OFM: Any advice for younger athletes who are thinking about or already playing softball?
KS: Keep your grades in check. The big thing is work on time-management skills.
OFM: How do you think your team will do this year?
KS: We have a lot of potential, so pretty good.
Described by his coach as a gifted athlete, this defensive player possesses speed and intensity that makes any opposing offense’s job hard. He’s also heavily involved with the Titans’ marching band and drumline, and he’s committed to attending Emerson College after graduation.
ORLANDO FAMILY MAGAZINE: You’re a four-year letterman. How long have you been playing lacrosse? How did you get into it, and what do you enjoy about it?
SPENCER CLARK: This will be my eighth year; I’ve played seven total years and this is going to be my eighth. I had a couple of teammates from my football team in middle school who made the switch. They told me it was a lot of fun, so I tried out the sport and then never stopped playing. I enjoy how fast-paced it is and how physical and demanding it is.
OFM: You’re described as the center point of the Titans’ defense. What tips do you have for other defensive players?
SC: It’s all about adapting quickly, because in lacrosse especially, there are so many styles of defense, and you have to be openminded to learning new styles of defense.
OFM: You’ve committed to play for Emerson College after graduation. What appealed to you about that school?
SC: When I started the recruiting process, I really just wanted to go to a school that would be the best for me academically, as well as lacrosse. Basically, Emerson’s big major is in film, and I’m really interested in TV production, so I decided to commit to the school that’s best for film.
OFM: What do you enjoy about television production?
SC: I’m in Titan TV, which is our school news at Olympia, and I’ve been pretty successful in making short videos for county contests and stuff. Since freshman year, I’ve sort of been growing in making videos, and it’s probably my second favorite passion behind lacrosse.
OFM: What do you think you’ll miss the most about your current teammates?
SC: They’re the people I’ve been playing with my whole life, so it’s definitely going to be different to be playing the sport without them. These are my teammates from middle school.
Primarily a pitcher, the 6’0” Santiago can also play catcher and third base. His fastball has been clocked at 87 mph, and strong scouting reports resulted in the senior receiving and accepting a free ride to Southern Connecticut State University after graduation this year.
ORLANDO FAMILY MAGAZINE: You’ve received a full scholarship to Southern Connecticut State University. What is it about that school that appealed to you?
HENRY SANTIAGO: They have a really good educational system and coaching staff. Those two things actually made me drawn to that school.
OFM: How did you first get interested in baseball?
HS: Honestly, I’m not sure. I just asked my mom one day if I could play. She was like: “Yeah. If you’re no good, you’re not playing again though.” I’ve been playing more than six years.
OFM: Do you play any other sports? If so, which ones?
HS: I can play other sports, but none competitively. [If I were to play others], either football or basketball, definitely. In football, I like the contact. Everyone gets to hit other people. You don’t get to do that often.
OFM: Any hopes of playing baseball professionally? If so, what teams would you most want to play for and why?
HS: Definitely. [As to teams], I have no clue honestly. It’s just a dream that everyone wants to do. [I currently follow] the [Tampa Bay] Rays.
OFM: If you’re not able to make a career out of baseball, what other options are you considering?
HS: I was thinking forensic science. I like the shows, like NCIS and things like that. It’s just something I want to do if [baseball] doesn’t work out.
OFM: What will you miss most about your teammates at University?
HS: I’m probably going to miss the environment that we have over there. Everyone’s friendly. We’ve grown up with each other.
With 12 years’ experience, Florin is instrumental to the Lady Warriors’ fortunes on the court. Her junior season will mark her third year on the varsity team, and while her college plans aren’t set in stone, she’s played in numerous U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) Junior tournaments.
ORLANDO FAMILY MAGAZINE: You’ve been playing tennis for 12 years. How did you get involved with the sport so young? What do you enjoy about it?
JAYLIN FLORIN: My mom plays, and so I’ve just always been around it. I like that it’s an individual sport and that there’s a mental component behind it. You have to think about your shots and use strategy, and [because] it’s individual, you get to go into it and do what you think’s best.
OFM: You have the skills to play tennis in college, but we understand you haven’t committed to it. What’s your hesitation?
JF: I don’t think I want to play tennis in college. I think I want to focus on my academics. I know playing sports in college is a huge commitment, and I want to do something in the medical field, which would require a lot of time and commitment to academics. [As to a medical field], maybe dermatology.
OFM: You’ve competed in a lot of USTA Junior tournaments. What’s your most memorable experience from that?
JF: There was one tournament where we competed as a team, and I said I just didn’t want to be the last match on, because I get really nervous when people watch me. Our team was undefeated the entire tournament, and I ended up being the last match. I had to play a really tough singles match. Everyone was watching, and I was really nervous, but I ended up winning the match. So, that was a cool experience.
OFM: Which professional tennis players do you most look up to, and why?
JF: Ever since I was younger, my favorite tennis player has been Maria Sharapova. I really like her game and how she gives it everything she’s got every time she plays.
OFM: What advice do you have for younger athletes who are just getting into or thinking of playing tennis?
JF: Make sure that you have fun while you’re doing it. It’s not worth it to do it if you’re not having fun and enjoying yourself.
OFM: Do you play any other sports? Which ones? Any you’d like to try?
JF: No, I just mainly play tennis.
A four-year varsity player and a starter for the last two seasons, Bell is as committed to victory in the classroom as on the playing field. A member of the National Honor Society, she currently holds a 4.0 GPA and has been recruited to play for the Naval Academy.
ORLANDO FAMILY MAGAZINE: You’ve been recruited to play lacrosse at the Naval Academy. Is there a military tradition in your family?
MADELYN BELL: My grandparents on my mom’s side were enlisted Marines, but besides that, no.
OFM: What do you love most about playing lacrosse? How long have you been playing, and how did you get into it?
MB: I definitely like the pace of the game; it’s really fast. I just grew up with it from a young age, so the game itself—it’s very beautiful, too—is just nice. [I’ve been playing] since fourth grade. My older brother played lacrosse, too.
OFM: What career options are you considering?
MB: You have a service requirement after you graduate [from the Naval Academy] for five years, and after that you can either stay in or get on to a civilian job. Right now, it’s pretty open. I’ve thought about a career in the Navy, or if I decide to stop after my five years of service, maybe I’ll get some engineering job. Something like that.
OFM: You’ve also traveled nationally with club teams. What’s your favorite experience so far from those trips?
MB: Our club team does a summer camp, and it’s at a college that’s up in the Mid-Atlantic area, and it changes every year. That’s super-fun, because we’re all staying in dorms, and we’re with each other all week, and you get a lot of good instruction during the day. At night, it’s just fun spending time with all the girls… It’s just a lot of fun.
OFM: Any advice for up-and-coming young lacrosse players, or those who might be interested?
MB: You should definitely get into it. A lot of people who might be wary of starting might think there’s a lot of cost involved with the equipment and stuff, but I got my first stick—it was a hand-me-down from, I think, my hairdresser. You don’t need the fanciest equipment. It’s more about the work you put in, and you’ll be successful.
More topflight athletes to keep your eye on this season
Cole Beavin, West Orange: Committed to playing at East Carolina University following graduation, this 6’4”, 175-pound senior is a starting pitcher.
Cameron Meehan, Timber Creek: A senior, Meehan will attend Rollins College on an athletic scholarship, and he’s earned numerous honors in high school.
Bret Neilan, Timber Creek: Voted all-metro utility player and the Wolves’ rookie of the year in 2016, this junior already has several colleges looking at him.
Preston Schumacher, Timber Creek: A target of some college interest, this junior led last year’s team in wins with seven, and he was voted honorable all-metro pitcher last season.
Chris Seise, West Orange: Playing shortstop and third base, the 6’3”, 170-pound Seise has committed to University of Central Florida.
DeAndre Shelton, West Orange: Boasting a .338 batting average last season, this senior plays second base and has been recruited by Stetson University.
Harry Storch, University: A pitcher and shortstop, Storch has accepted a scholarship to play ball for Lawrence Technical University.
Alex Aken, Olympia: A long-stick midfielder and four-year letterman, this senior has committed to Palm Beach Atlantic University.
Preston Hopkins, Timber Creek: One of the Wolves’ captains, Hopkins has the most points of any returning player, and he’s received an offer from Florida Southern University.
Crystal Bernal, Apopka: The only senior on the Lady Blue Darters’ team this season, she was last year’s top player and has committed to playing for Missouri Valley College.
Tatiana Barnes, Olympia: Having accepted an offer to play for Merrimack College, Barnes is a goalie and will be back this year as a senior.
Isabella Figueroa, Lake Nona: Returning as a senior, Figueroa has received offers from University of the District of Columbia and Alderson Broaddus University.
Katelyn Murphy, Ocoee: A varsity player for the Lady Knights’ lacrosse and soccer teams, Murphy has a 5.1 GPA and will play lacrosse for Barry University after graduation.
Riley Reagan, Olympia: An attacker, Regan is committed to continuing her lacrosse career with Stetson University after graduating later this year.
Natalie Williams, Winter Park: In addition to being a three-year varsity starter, Williams is a member of the National Honor Society and has been recruited to play at Villanova University.
Lianna Acevedo, Cypress Creek: Named the defensive player of the year for the last two seasons, this senior will play ball with Pasco Hernando College.
Lexie Blair, West Orange: A junior, this outfielder has committed to playing at University of Michigan, and she was first-team metro and all-state in 2016.
Lauren Mathis, West Orange: The Lady Warriors’ pitcher, Mathis was first-team metro and all-state last season, among other honors, and has signed with University of Georgia.
Marissa Sidwell, Olympia: Sidwell has committed to playing for Stetson University after this season, and she possesses one of the strongest bats on her team.
Kelsi Smith, Boone: Also a weightlifter, Smith plays third base and is a four-year varsity starter, and she’ll attend Seminole State College on a softball scholarship.
Madison Sulkowski, Ocoee: Boasting an impressive .923 fielding percentage through her high-school career to date, this senior has verbally committed to Geneva College.
Abigail Thompson, Olympia: Playing pitcher, catcher, third base and shortstop, Thompson possesses great energy and passion, and she’ll play for Polk State College next year.
Nini Underwood, Dr. Phillips: A shortstop mainstay since her freshman year, this senior has verbally committed to playing at Lake Sumter State College.
GIRLS TRACK & FIELD
Jessica Dolan, Boone: A fierce 800-meter competitor, Dolan has previously been a regional qualifier in cross country and track, and she plans to attend the U.S. Naval Academy.
BOYS WATER POLO
Zac Lacher, Apopka: Captain of the Blue Darters’ waterpolo team, Lacher also plays football and plans to attend either University of West Florida or University of Florida.
GIRLS WATER POLO
Marcela Herrera, Olympia: Named to the NISCA All-American team last season, Herrera will be attending Bucknell University after graduation.
This article originally appeared in Orlando Family Magazine’s March 2017 issue.