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Worthy of Attention

Gabby Goodwin, Oviedo girls swimming

A sensational distance swimmer, Goodwin was the 4A state champion in the 500 freestyle last year in a school-record time of 4:50.84 and also placed third in the 200 free. She is committed to Florida State.

OFM: Has it sunk in that this is your last year of high school and is it a bittersweet feeling?

GG: I kind of feel both ways. High school has been my life for the past four years and high school swimming is so special to me. The fact that this is my last year doing it is crazy to think about.

OFM: Last season was definitely a memorable one. Can you describe the feeling of winning a state title?

GG: Unimaginable is an understatement. Going into it … I had three or four competitors who had been pretty close to me for a long time. We had always been going back and forth and I knew some of them were Olympic Trials qualifiers. … I was with the lead pack and then in the last 100 [meters] or so I was like, ‘Wow, I can actually win this. I don’t see anyone else.’ For the last 25, another girl [Julia Brzozowski] who I’m going to end up going to college with next year, we were going at it and I could see her coming up from behind. … I beat her by just .05 and it was surreal. There’s one picture that one of my friends’ dads took of me and my mouth is open and my jaw is dropping from seeing my time. I looked at my coach and I almost started crying. It was amazing.

OFM: What are your goals for this year? Is it important to you to try and repeat as state champ?

GG: You always want to go in [trying for your] best times. The past year has been up and down with emotions and a lot of things going on. This year I really want to keep the state title; that’s always the hope, especially senior year and having the top-dog mentality. I have school records and anything I can do to keep them and make myself a better person is really all I can ask for.

OFM: One of your teammates, Kaylin Herbet, is also a state champion. Do you two push each other?

GG: A lot of people want to say it’s helpful, but her and I are such different people. We train differently and we have different mentalities going into everything. But once I saw her win her state championship, because she had gotten it about two events prior to mine, I was like, ‘I can do this.’ She pushes me to be my best person, especially in practice. … We’re such different people if you talk to us; I’m probably way more chill and relaxed about the idea of swimming. But having her on my team has been a great part of my life.

OFM: You also had a great showing in the 200 free at states. Which other events do you swim in high school?

GG: With me being a distance swimmer, there’s not really a lot of options in high school swimming. I can try a couple of things out, but my best events are always going to be longer distance and events that aren’t offered in high school season. On Senior Night we get to choose whatever events we want to do as seniors, and me and my other teammate who swims the 500 free, we’re just going to stick with that and the 200 free. We could try a 50 free, but it won’t be as impactful as the 500 would be.

OFM: The 500 free is the longest race in high school, but is it almost kind of short for you compared to the longer distances you swim in the club season?

GG: At this point, yes. The one at states was probably the fastest mental 500 I’ve ever had. I touched and I was like, ‘Oh my God, that was the 500. Wow.’

OFM: Why is distance swimming something you decided to focus on?

GG: When you’re younger, they put you into the shorter stuff, the 50s and 25s, because you really aren’t allowed to do the longer distances. As I got older, a lot of people who I swam with were doing really well in the 50s and I found that I was going as hard as I could, but I was never really tired when I finished. So my coach decided to put me into the 800 freestyle, and I did pretty well at a championship meet. At that point, I realized I could keep myself going at a certain point no matter what. From then on, I’ve been training constantly in distance and I’ve never looked back. I think I frown upon a 50 free when I have to swim it. I’d much rather swim a 500 free.

OFM: How old were you when you started swimming competitively?

GG: I started lessons when I was about 1, I did summer league when I was 5 and I started on a team when I was 6 or 7.

OFM: Did you have family members who got you into the sport?

GG: My dad did literally every single sport that involved a basketball, a football, a hockey puck. He did everything except for swimming. My mom was into band and school. I had a couple of cousins who started swimming and did summer league, so I thought I would try. I kept with the sport and now my three younger siblings all do swimming too. It’s a great pleasure doing it with my family and knowing that I can have fun. I take my brother to practice and he and I are even competing when we swim now.

OFM: What has the Blue Dolfins club program meant to you?

GG: That program has been a family to me. I’ve lived in three separate states: Georgia, Tennessee and Florida. I moved to Florida in the beginning of high school, freshman year, and immediately when I met this group of friends, I knew I was meant to be with them. We talk all the time that it’s like I’ve always been here and I’m part of the family. My friend’s dad is the head coach, Charlie Rose, and with him being my club coach and my high school coach, I’ve grown to have a really good bond with him. He’s pushed me to be the best person I can be. When I first moved here, I was an OK swimmer but I wasn’t great, and he has managed to take me up to a state champion, which was unimaginable. I couldn’t have ever thought that I could be this person.

OFM: Were you excited to move to Florida?

GG: I came from Tennessee and I was excited. Living in Georgia when I was younger, I had a lot of family there. That’s where I grew up, that’s where my mom grew up. I left there and it was hard, because I left a lot of people that I knew. Living in Tennessee, my family never intended to stay there as long as we did. My dad had a couple of injuries that prevented us from moving sooner. As soon as my father told me we were moving to Orlando, my entire life changed. It was amazing to get a fresh start and to have an opportunity to swim in one of the fastest states in the country. I heard so many great things about this team and the people on it, so I was exited for the opportunity.

OFM: What do you like about living in Florida aside from the swimming aspect?

GG: I absolutely love the school. High school here has been amazing and my neighborhood is great. Everything about Florida, especially the town of Oviedo that I live in, every day I look at my parents and say, ‘We really moved to a great area.’ There’s no negative to where we are now. … At this point my parents are like, ‘We’re never leaving. We love it.’

OFM: What did you like about the school and swimming program that made you commit to Florida State?

GG: I did my college visit over my birthday weekend, which was unfortunate because I was missing my birthday and everything. But I swear, it was the best birthday weekend I ever had, and it was spent at a college where I didn’t know anyone. I immediately walked on campus and said, ‘Wow, this is my home.’ I called my mom that night and said, ‘I never want to leave.’ I love it there. I had prior teammates who were seniors when I was a freshman, actually Kaylin’s two older siblings, and they went there, so I kind of knew about Florida State. My coach, Charlie Rose, had gone to Florida State, so it was close to my heart. I wanted to see how I fit because it was a school I was close to and my other options were out of state. I was pretty excited to go and everything about it [was great]. Florida State has this rep as a big party school and a lot of drinking, but the people I met were chill and relaxed and a lot of fun. I can have such a great future and the swim team is committed. I committed on the spot to the coach. Now, a week later I went on another visit because I didn’t want to officially say anything. But the next day I called the coach and said, ‘I’m still going to FSU.’ It was a no-brainer for me.

OFM: Do you know what you want to study in college?

GG: I’ve been up and down on this for a long time. I was thinking pre-med for about two or three years, but now I think I’ve decided on actuarial science.

OFM: But obviously, you want to swim as long as possible.

GG: Definitely. My goal at this point is to achieve Olympic Trials cuts and we’ll see where it goes from there. I never thought I’d be a Juniors qualifier or a state champion. Making the Olympics Trials cuts would make me feel like one of the top swimmers in the nation. I’m excited to have this next year with my coach and future opportunities at Florida State and I’m looking forward to seeing how much I can improve.

OFM: I know you competed at the USA Swimming Futures Championships in North Carolina this summer. What was that experience like?

GG: Every time you go to a big meet, it’s hard to explain but you realize, ‘Wow, these are the top dogs.’ You see all these names and you’re like, ‘I know this girl because she’s the top [swimmer] in Florida. I know this girl because she was the first one to commit to the University of Florida.’ You realize, ‘I get to be part of this group of amazing people who are some of the best.’ It’s a little daunting … but every time I come out of that meet, whether it was a good meet or a bad meet, I always feel accomplished because I got to that level and who knows what can happen next.

OFM: What are your hobbies when you’re not swimming?

GG: I spend my life training—my whole summer was in a pool. But most of my free time is spent with my family. We’re close-knit and we do a lot of things together. I have a small, close-knit group of friends and we like to just hang out, go to the beach. Coming up is football season and I just like hanging out and living life as a teenager while training for states at the same time.

Emma Sundermeyer, Foundation Academy girls swimming

Sundermeyer, a junior, had a fantastic performance at the 1A state meet last year, placing second in the 200 free and fifth in the 100 free. She also shined at the USA Swimming Futures Championships in North Carolina this summer.

OFM: When you look back on your sophomore season, are you proud of what you accomplished?

ES: Yes. I’m very happy with the way I performed and I accomplished some of my goals, so looking back is very positive and I’m looking forward to my junior year.

OFM: Do you have certain goals in mind for this season?

ES: My personal goals are just to continue to improve, get better every season, drop time in my events and maybe place a little bit higher. I think the times are the most important thing to me right now, but winning states is definitely one of my goals and it’s something I would love to do.

OFM: Do you enjoy both your individual events and the relays?

ES: Definitely. I like my individuals but doing the relays with my team is more fun. There are three other girls and I think we get to know each other more and have fun together. They’re very entertaining and they keep you on your feet the entire relay, which is exciting.

OFM: The Foundation Academy program has come a long way in a short time, right?

ES: Yes. The first year we had a team was 2019, my eighth grade year, and we had 10 kids on the team. This year, going into our fourth year as a team, we have 40 kids, so we’ve almost doubled in size every year. We’ve seen a lot of interest and improvement within the school. More people are starting to see our success as a team and they want to be a part of it too, which is great. We always accept new people.

OFM: What is it like having your dad, Chad, as your head coach?

ES: I love it. I think it just strengthens our bond and it’s nice to have someone who I know very well coaching me. I know he has my best interests at heart when he coaches me, so I really love swimming for my dad.

OFM: Do you talk about swimming at home or try to leave it at the pool?

ES: A little bit of both. When we talk about swimming at home, it’s not necessarily about me, it’s about current events or things going on outside of swimming. If there’s a swim meet on TV, we’ll talk about that or future meets. We don’t often talk about swimming, it’s more other things, but sometimes we do because we both have a passion for it.

OFM: Do you call him Coach or Dad when you’re around the team?

ES: [Laughs] I call him Dad. I asked him which one he would like me to call him and he said Dad, so that’s what I call him.

OFM: Is he the one who got you involved in the sport?

ES: Him and my mom were both swimmers when they were in high school and college, so I learned to swim at a very young age. They encouraged me to swim but they never forced it on me. I decided that I wanted to swimming, and ever since I was 8 years old, I’ve loved it. I swim year-round for Southwest Stars.

OFM: What was it like competing at the USA Swimming Futures Championships in July?

ES: That was my second time going and I really enjoyed it. There was a bunch of competition and it was nice to race some new people and some people from outside the state of Florida. It’s refreshing to race people I don’t usually swim with, so I had a great time at Futures and I was very happy with my results.

OFM: Are you mainly a sprinter?

ES: I think I’m more of a mid-distance type of person, but I can definitely do the sprinting events and I can also go up to distance if I like.

OFM: Have you started thinking about college yet?

ES: A little bit, not that much. It’s definitely on my mind because this is my year to get ready and take all my standardized tests. I would definitely like to swim in college.

OFM: Do you have older siblings?

ES: No, I am the oldest of four. My brother and one of my sisters swim on the high school team with me and my other sister, who’s not old enough to swim on the high school team, swims for the same club that I do. During the fall season we are all involved in swimming. I really like going to practice with them, it’s a lot of fun. It’s different than seeing them at home.

OFM: Is there a swimmer you look up to?

ES: I look up to all of the Olympic swimmers. All of them are unique and they all have a different story. I can learn from all of them and do things like them. I don’t have one specific person but I think all of them are really good role models.

OFM: What do you like to do when you’re not training or at a meet?

ES: We live on a lake and we have a boat, so I like going out there with my family and going tubing, wakeboarding and wakesurfing.

OFM: Do you like going to school at Foundation?

ES: I love Foundation. I’ve been there since I was in kindergarten and I absolutely love it. I really like how all of the teachers are invested in their students. It’s not a big school, which is nice, so each teacher gives each student their own time and attention, and that helps me. They are always willing to help me … and they’re very flexible with my schedule.

Morgan Cox, Trinity Prep girls cross country

A senior, Cox is coming off an impressive junior season in which she placed sixth at the 2A state meet with a personal-record (PR) time of 18:52.8. She also took fifth in the state in the 3200 meters during spring track and is primed for a big final year at Trinity.

OFM: Does it feel strange to call yourself a senior?

MC: Yes. I feel like I’ve been waiting for this for a long time because I have an older sister and I saw her as a senior. I always wanted to be one and now I am one, so it just feels weird.

OFM: Do you have certain goals in mind for cross country?

MC: I would really like to make some PRs this year. My biggest goal is to break 18 minutes and I would love to place in the top three at the state meet. That’s something we’re working toward in practice and that’s in the back of my mind.

OFM: Do you just focus on the 3200 during spring track?

MC: I also did the 1600, probably about as often as I did the 3200, just so I didn’t get super fatigued early in the season. I kind of alternated … and I also did the steeplechase once.

OFM: Those races must be a breeze compared to the 5K in cross country.

MC: [Laughs] Yeah, the 5Ks are definitely rough, especially because of the terrain—the squishy ground and the occasional hills.

OFM: How did you discover you had a talent for distance running?

MC: I did crew in ninth grade and I stopped doing that because I switched schools. I needed a sport to do because I’ve done competitive sports my whole life and I decided to run because that’s really popular here at Trinity. I didn’t really start improving until my second year doing it and I just stuck with it ever since.

OFM: Have you found a passion for the sport even though you started late?

MC: Yeah, I love it. I’ve always loved pushing myself to my limits and I like suffering, as weird as that sounds. It’s a really good sport to do that.

OFM: Are you hoping to run in college?

MC: Yeah, I’m trying to go through the recruiting process right now and emailing coaches. I would love to run in college, because I love running but also to be with like-minded people and to have some structure.

OFM: What kind of qualities are you looking for in a school?

MC: I’m not really sure yet. I emailed a bunch of schools but I have to do more visits and research. I could go anywhere, really, but a school that’s not super large. I want a close team because that’s what I have right now. I definitely want commitment, because I know some teams just fool around. I want to have fun but I also want a team that is serious at practice.

OFM: What kind of career do you want to go into?

MC: I definitely want to go to med school. I’ve always wanted to be a dermatologist, but I might discover that I like something else in the medical field or even something not in the medical field. I’m not 100% sure yet.

OFM: What do you like about going to school at Trinity?

MC: I feel like we get a lot of freedom here compared to other schools. We get a free period, and at lunch we can really sit wherever we want on campus. My friends at other schools complain about not having that. The school is really nice overall, we have good teachers and the classes are challenging. I think I’m getting a good, quality education here and that’s very important.

OFM: Do you have any favorite teachers?

MC: I actually love all of my teachers this year.

OFM: Have you always lived in Florida?

MC:  Yeah, I’ve lived here all of my life, and so has my mom; she grew up in Orlando. I like that it’s warm because I’m a wimp when it comes to the cold. I like that all of my family is here. My sister goes to UF so she’s close, and that’s nice.

OFM: What do you do for fun outside of sports?

MC: I do a lot of cooking and baking, that’s probably my biggest hobby outside of running. I cook dinner most nights when I have the time.

OFM: What are your specialties?

MC: We do pasta the most because it’s the easiest, but that’s not a specialty. We like doing Mediterranean pitas a lot. I’ll do all the prep work, the chicken and the vegetables. My sister’s favorite [dish] I make is kabobs but we have a whole host of things that we rotate through.

OFM: Do you watch the cooking shows on TV?

MC: Yes. I watch with my mom a lot on the weekends, ever since I was little really. Right now we’re watching Alex vs. America, that’s our favorite.

Aaron Leach, Olympia boys golf

Leach carded a 70 to claim a regional championship last year and went on to shoot a two-day total of 149 to tie for fourth at the 3A state tournament. A golfer since he was a toddler, he is hoping to contend for a state title this year before continuing his career in college.

OFM: Is it true that you’ve been golfing pretty much since you could walk?

AL: Yes. When my parents got our house, they had a putting green built artificially. I started putting on it when I was 1 or 2, and then I started hitting balls around 3. I started playing competitively when I was 7.

OFM: Are your parents big golfers?

AL: They’re actually not, surprisingly. But me and my brother liked it and we kept playing.

OFM: Your brother Jonah was also a star golfer at Olympia and is now playing at the University of Central Florida. Did he have a big influence on you?

AL: We’re three years apart and we play together a lot. He’ll give me tips if I’m putting bad. We’re very competitive. He beats me a lot in chipping contests, especially for money, and his putting is good too. But I’m getting better.

OFM: Did you spend a lot of time on the course this summer?

AL: I actually had a pretty chill summer and didn’t play in a lot of tournaments. I went to the beach a lot and I just needed a little break. But I did play some FJTs [Florida Junior Tour] and I played in a match play tournament and won two matches.

OFM: You’re coming off a great high school season. What are your goals for this season?

AL: To play the same way and try to win more tournaments. I want to try to win states; I came close last year and that’s definitely one of my goals.

OFM: What are your favorite courses to play in the area?

AL: I play at Orange Tree, which is pretty nice. That’s one of my favorite courses to play.

OFM: How about your favorite courses outside of Orlando?

AL: I’ve been to Pebble Beach when Jonah played in the U.S. Amateur there. I walked it and that’s the best course I’ve ever seen. There are so many that I’ve played. I’ve played Bay Hill and I’ve played Bella Collina in Clermont—the clubhouse is like $40 million and the course is beautiful.

OFM: If you could play a round with anyone, who would it be?

AL: Definitely Tiger [Woods] if he’s healthy. I would love to pick his brain about stuff. Also Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas—any of those guys.

OFM: What’s your take on what’s going on in professional golf, with players leaving the PGA Tour for LIV Golf?

AL: I think it’s good because it opens up more pro spots. But that’s a pretty big argument right now between the tours.

OFM: Is that the ultimate goal for you, to play at that level?

AL: Yeah, I want to play pro. [It’s going to take] a lot of hard work and having a good mindset. You can’t let bad rounds destroy you. You’re separate from the golf course; you have to be the best person you can be and the results will be there. You can’t let it define you.

OFM: Are you pretty good at keeping your head?

AL: I used to not be, but I’ve gotten a lot better. I’ve been learning how to stay clam. I shot 41 on the front nine the other day and I came back with a 32.

OFM: What else do you like to do for fun?

AL: I like to work out a lot and just relax and watch TV. I like to watch golf a lot.

OFM: What is the better golf movie, Caddyshack or Happy Gilmore?

AL: Ooh. Probably Caddyshack because it’s a lot funnier. That’s tough because they’re both really good.

OFM: What do you like about going to school at Olympia?

AL: It’s really close … and all of my friends go there. It’s a nice environment and I love the classes and the teachers.

OFM: Have you chosen a college yet?

AL: I’m actually talking to Nevada right now and I’m hoping to take a visit and maybe commit before November. I’m also talking to FAU and some schools around here, but I’ve known the [Nevada] coach for a long time and he actually watched me play in FJTs. It’s a good school. It’s tough because of COVID and the fifth-year [seniors] and the [transfer] portal. It’s hard to find a school but I’m just staying patient.

Malik Bryant, Jones football

A senior edge rusher known for pressuring the quarterback, Bryant played for Jones as a freshman before transferring and starring at IMG Academy for two years. This season he is back with the Tigers and hoping to lead them to a state championship before continuing his career at Miami.

OFM: How does it feel to be back at Jones? Were you welcomed back with open arms?

MB: It’s always open arms at Jones and the community. It’s a great experience coming back and seeing a lot of old faces that I was with the first time. They definitely welcomed me with open arms.

OFM: Did you feel there was unfinished business after making the 5A state final as a freshman but falling short?

MB: No doubt. There was definitely some unfinished business. Freshman year did not finish the way we wanted it to. Our goal is to get back to states and win. It was good to make it there but we wanted to win and that’s what we’re coming back to do.

OFM: Was it a good experience at IMG and did you grow as a player and person there?

MB: No doubt. When I went to IMG, I had goals set for myself and it all unfolded in front of my eyes. Being developed by the coaches there—not even being developed but being polished up, because it really started at Jones. But I learned the game of football at IMG and expanded my knowledge on the game of football. I really got out of it what I wanted to.

OFM: What are your personal and team goals this year?

MB: My personal goals are to keep growing every day and try to change someone’s life around me. If I can change one person’s life, I’ll feel like I made a difference. I want to keep stepping in the right direction. The overall team goal is to win states, period.

OFM: Have you always been a guy who liked getting after the quarterback?

MB: No doubt. In Pop Warner, I used to like scoring touchdowns, but I got a good adrenaline rush from sacking the quarterback, so that’s what I stuck with.

OFM: Are there players in the pros or in college who you try to model your game after?

MB: A guy I really watch heavily is Micah Parsons and I also watch a lot of Ray Lewis and Von Miller.

OFM: You have something in common with Ray Lewis since you’ll be going to Miami. A lot of legendary players have come through that program—what made you want to go there?

MB: I feel like coach [Mario] Cristobal coming in had the right goal and vision set out for the team and I feel like everyone is following that goal and vision. He definitely has some special things in the works for the University of Miami. Growing up as a kid, I always liked Florida State, but having family go to The U, I thought it was a natural fit for me. When I was getting scholarship offers, I weighed my options and that’s what God brought me back to.

OFM: Have you always lived in Florida? What do you like about the area?

MB: Yes sir, born and raised in Orlando, Florida. Growing up in the area, what really stuck out the most and what I cherished the most was the grind and the everyday hustle that you have to go through to make it through sometimes. That’s really what built us in Orlando. There’s other cities in Florida that are relatable, like Miami, but being able to play with the guys I grew up with, that’s part of the reason I came back to Jones, to play with those guys I played with in Pop Warner. That’s the fun part about growing up in Orlando.

OFM: Do you know what you want to study at Miami?

MB: Business administration. That’s something I’m interested in, and my father was once the CEO of a business and I want to learn how to operate and take over a business one day and hopefully keep his movement going.

OFM: What do you like to do when you get a break from football?

MB: I really just like to chill with friends or watch movies, and catch up on sleep when I can. But if I’m not playing football, I’m usually doing something revolved around football like watching film or working out.

OFM: What are some of your favorite movies?

MB: I like oldhead movies like Boyz N The Hood, Menace II Society, Don’t Be A Menace…—those types of movies.

OFM: What do you do to get hyped up for a big game?

MB: The thing that really gets me the most hyped up is looking at the opposing QB. Whatever music is playing in the locker room is the music I’ll listen to, but really I’m just scrolling down the timeline of my opposing quarterback. That’s really all I need for motivation.

OFM: Where do you see yourself in five years? Is getting to the NFL the goal you’re focused on?

MB: My goal is to get to the NFL so I definitely see myself in the NFL within five years. Overall, as long as I’m making a difference in someone’s life in five years, I’ll feel like I’m making a difference period.

Nico Cecchi, West Orange boys swimming

Cecchi, a senior, had a memorable junior season that included three top-five finishes at the 4A state tournament: a third in the 100 backstroke, a fourth in the 50 free and a fifth in the 200 free relay. He is currently being heavily recruited and getting close to his college decision.

OFM: Are you more nervous or excited for your final season of high school swimming?

NC: It’s a little weird [being a senior]. This is my third year at West Orange; I was at a different school as a freshman, Montverde. I’m definitely super stoked this year; I have a lot to prove and I want so swim some super fast times. I want to shock some people with how fast I can go at the end of the year.

OFM: Last year you had a really good state meet. Was stands out when you look back on it?

NC: That was a really good highlight for me. That’s where I really started to see time drops after some hard work. I did well to take third and I’m excited to see what I can do this year.

OFM: Are the 100 back and the 50 free your two favorite events?

NC: Definitely. I love those events—they’re short and sweet. You feel really strong and powerful and you can rip through the underwaters in back and freestyle, nail those turns, and they’re just fun races. They’re up for grabs for anyone.

OFM: The relays are always exciting to watch. Is it fun to compete in those as well?

NC: Oh yeah, the relays are my favorite events during the high school season. Being with my friends, it’s fun to rile them up. They get going, I get going, and we usually post our best times. We feed off our energy at almost every meet. We have some water polo players this year and we love being the underdogs against schools with four club swimmers.

OFM: Did you get into swimming at a young age?

NC: I think I was 7 years old when I competed for the first time. My sister did it and my parents would take me right after school, so they were like, ‘You’re doing it too.’ They would throw me in the water. I actually hated it for two or three years, but then I met a coach and he changed everything for me.

OFM: Who was that?

NC: Coach Bruce Follensbee. He’s retired now but he was my coach from [age] 9 to 12. He believed in me but he also sharpened me up. I was a goofball and he showed me that you’re not going to get anything just goofing around. He helped me mature a lot.

OFM: Do you still swim club for SouthWest?

NC: Yes. I do that six days a week year-round.

OFM: Do you ever get fatigued by that schedule or do you always look forward to it?

NC: During the summer I get a little fatigued, but luckily I have great teammates and coaches who help me push through it. They make it fun to be there and even on the hard days, I’ll still look forward to being with the team, having fun and working hard.

OFM: What’s it like to have a teammate like Brennan Muramatsu at West Orange, who is also one of the best in the state? Do you push each other?

NC: For sure. We’ve been swimming together basically since I started. We’ve been best friends on and off the pool deck and we love racing and hanging out. At the end of the day, we’re always happy for each other.

OFM: How is the recruiting process going for you?

NC: It’s going well and I’m coming toward the end. … I’m taking my official [visits] in September and hoping to decide after that. It was never a goal until I became a junior. It’s definitely exciting to see myself swimming for a college team. It would shock my younger self that I’m able to do that.

OFM: What do you want to study in college?

NC: I either want to go into business or law. I’ve always been good at negotiating and kind of rambling back and forth to get what I want, even with parents and friends, so I guess that’s why I’m interested in law. A lot of people tell me I’d be good at that. Business is a gray area and there’s a lot of things that it can open up. I don’t have a specific area I want to study; I think I want to go into something broad and find something specific once I’m in college.

OFM: Have you thought about swimming beyond college?

NC: It’s possible but I’d be fine with just swimming through college and then finishing it out.

OFM: You have experience competing at big meets against the best in the country, like at USA Futures this summer. What’s it like in that environment?

NC: It’s very humbling. It’s super cool to see the best guys from the United States and racing top college commits. Everyone at these big meets is super nice. You can go up and talk to anyone; even the fastest guys on the pool deck are nice and will talk to you. It’s cool to see how open and friendly people are, even at the big meets.

OFM: When you get some free time, how do you like to spend it?

NC: I like to hang out with my friends and play video games here and there.

OFM: What do you like about growing up in Florida?

NC: I’ve lived in the same house my whole life and I love it. Everything about Florida is cool, but I’m open to going to other places as well and branching out.

Yu Fei “Nancy” Dai, Lake Mary Prep girls golf

Dai, a junior, started playing golf in her native China and has thrived since coming to the U.S. in both junior tournaments and during the high school season. Last year, she captured a region championship in a playoff and moved on to card a 77-72-149 at states.

OFM: Are you exited for the upcoming season after playing so well as a sophomore?

ND: Yes, I’m really excited for this year. We have a couple of new teammates coming in and we think we’ll have a really good team. Hopefully we can get the state trophy back.

OFM: What are your individual goals?

ND: I want to defend the regional title and the state tournament will always be a highly competitive event. … It’s a really strong field and I’m definitely looking forward to that. I hope I can play well at that tournament too.

OFM: Did you go into regionals last year with a lot of confidence?

ND: Yeah, I was pretty confident about my game but I wasn’t thinking too much about the title. I was just trying to play my best golf to help the team. After the 15th or 16th hole, I looked at the leaderboard and I was at the top.

OFM: How did you get into golf in the first place?

ND: It was back in China at an elementary school. The school had its own golf team and I was pretty much influenced by my dad. He encouraged me to give it a shot and play on the team. I had a lot of fun so I started to play some competitions. I guess it just boosted my confidence as a person when I was playing golf and that’s how I fell in love with the sport.

OFM: Did you play a lot this summer?

ND: Yeah, I did play a lot. I played in some AJGA (American Junior Golf Association) tournaments and a junior invitational. I got some good results and I actually broke my personal best score at a tournament in Tennessee called the Bubba Conlee Junior Invitational. I shot a 66 in the first round—I was at even-par through 12 and I shot 6-under-par on the last six holes. That was a really good experience. I also played a qualifier in Florida for the Junior PGA and I shot a 70-70 to qualify for that tournament. I didn’t play my best but it was a good experience to play the PGA course. I played about seven or eight tournaments this summer and I learned a lot from all of them.

OFM: What was your previous best score before the 66?

ND: A 68.

OFM: How old were you when you came to the U.S. and what was the adjustment like?

ND: I was 15. On the golf course it’s pretty much the same, because you’re just playing golf no matter which country you’re in. I got the hang of it pretty quick. At school, it took a couple of weeks to adjust myself to the environment, because the courses I have here in the States are quite different from China. That part took a little while to adjust to.

OFM: Is your family with you?

ND: No, but my dad visits me in the summer and sometimes in the winter.

OFM: I’m sure you miss your family, but what else do you miss about home?

ND: Food, definitely. I really miss my mom’s food. I love burgers and hot dogs, but sometimes when I have too much of it I really miss Chinese food.

OFM: American Chinese food probably doesn’t match up, right?

ND: [Laughs] Not quite.

OFM: What is something that you enjoy about living in Florida?

ND: It’s a lot warmer than Beijing, where I’m from. Here you can play golf basically 12 months a year. Back in Beijing, it’s really cold in the winter. Here in Florida, I can play in a lot of tournaments year-round, and there’s also a lot of great courses. From school to the golf course, it only takes five or 10 minutes. Back in China, it takes a lot longer. I really enjoy that about Florida.

OFM: What is your favorite course to play in this area?

ND: I guess probably Innisbrook Copperhead. The whole course is so challenging, especially the last three holes. Every single hole is really intense and you can’t really relax during the round, because one shot will get you in trouble. You have to be really careful with every shot and that’s fun. It can be rewarding if you play well.

OFM: If you could play any course in the world, which would you pick?

ND: Probably St. Andrews.

OFM: What do you like to do for fun when you’re not golfing?

ND: I like listening to music and reading books. That’s pretty much what I do when I’m not golfing. I also like hanging out with friends.

OFM: Would you like to golf in college?

ND: Yeah, definitely. I’m looking to play collegiate golf in the future and I really want to play professional golf after I graduate. I think playing collegiate golf will help me achieve that goal; having that great stage to challenge myself.

OFM: If professional golf doesn’t work out, what kind of career would you be interested in?

ND: That’s another reason why I want to go to college, because I love golf but it’s not my entire life. Right now, I don’t know specifically what kind of career I want to do, but I know I want to major in business in college.

Cedric Baxter, Edgewater football

A senior running back, Baxter rushed for more than 1,700 yards and 26 touchdowns during a phenomenal junior season. He was one of the most heavily recruited players in the country and recently committed to Texas.

OFM: Is it a relief to get your college decision out of the way and be able to focus on your senior season?

CB: It feels like the weight of the world is off my shoulders. I can play Friday nights without having to worry about that and having it in the back of my mind. It feels great. [The recruiting process] was definitely fun … at the beginning, but toward the end it started getting a little aggravating. But it’s a blessing and I didn’t take it for granted at all.

OFM: What made you want to commit to Texas?

CB: Coach [Tashard] Choice, the running backs coach, has been recruiting me since he was at Georgia Tech and that was the beginning of my freshman year. Ever since then, I’ve had a good relationship with him. As soon as he got to Texas, he offered me, but even before that we were talking all the time and it wasn’t always about football; it was about life and what I could do to get better. He’s a genuine dude. Coach [Steve] Sarkisian, the head coach, he offered me last year in June and ever since then I’ve been building a relationship with him too. Seeing what he did [as Alabama offensive coordinator], it shows he knows how to win.

OFM: Austin seems like a great place.

CB: It’s definitely a beautiful city.

OFM: You’re part of a heralded recruiting class that includes quarterback Arch Manning, the nephew of Peyton and Eli. How does it feel to be included with those other players?

CB: It’s great. I probably would have been one of the first commits to Texas but I wanted to wait for Aug. 10 because that was the birthday of my best friend who passed away when we were 8 years old. I wanted to wait for that day and make it mean something, that’s why I didn’t pull the trigger right away. Being in the class with Arch and all of those other players is great. I talk to Arch all the time and he’s a great ballplayer but an even better person.

OFM: Do you know Payton Kirkland, an offensive lineman from Dr. Phillips who is also committed to Texas?

CB: Yes, I know him. Last summer, we had a bus tour with some of the top players in the area and he was a part of it. That’s when I got to know him a little bit; he’s a good dude, a hard worker and a really good ballplayer.

OFM: Do you know what you want to study in college?

CB: Sports communication. I want to be an analyst—I tell people all the time that I don’t want to be like Stephen A. Smith. I want to be like Reggie Bush and those guys who talk before the game.

OFM: What are your individual and team goals for this season?

CB: My main thing this year is I just want to have fun as a team. We have to play for each other and with each other. Individually, I wouldn’t say I want any specific stats. I don’t chase stats because I feel like it’s hard to get them if you chase them, so I just let the game come to me. Whatever comes, comes.

OFM: Are there any running backs you admire and try to steal moves from?

CB: I wouldn’t say so much that I take things from them, but there are guys I idolize. Growing up, it was always Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson. As I got older and started understanding football more, it was Dalvin Cook. I grew up a Florida State fan.

OFM: What is your favorite part about growing up in Florida?

CB: Florida is unique. Florida and Cali, I feel like those two states are unique and could almost be our own country. I don’t know anything else but Florida, and I wanted to go an experience something new, learn new things and meet new people. That was another part of my decision, going somewhere else and adapting at a new place.

OFM: Texas could probably be its own country too.

CB: That’s right. Florida, Cali, Texas and New York, definitely.

OFM: What do you like to do when you’re not playing or watching football?

CB: My dad tells people all the time that I’m a boring person, because I’m the type of person who sits in the house all day. If I’m not working out or playing football, I’ll just sit in the house and watch movies. I’m a chill person—I’m an inside body, a homebody. When I went on a couple of visits, the schools that I went to thought I didn’t like it because after we got done with the recruiting pitch, they were trying to get me to go out and have fun and I just wanted to go back to my room. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, that’s just the way I am.

OFM: What kind of movies are you into?

CB: I love action movies—fighting and shooting and stuff like that. I like Marvel movies and I watch anime too.