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Rising to the Occasion

These standout student-athletes from Central Florida are ready to shine once again during the fall season.

JT Bronaugh, Foundation Academy football

A senior running back, Bronaugh is coming off a breakout junior season in which he rushed for 1,277 yards and 15 touchdowns on 91 carries to help Foundation post a 6-3 record. Also a star sprinter during track season, he is being heavily recruited for football and has offers from Minnesota, Eastern Michigan, Air Force and Kansas, among others.

OFM: Are you excited to follow up your successful junior season and see what you can do as a senior?

JB: Oh, for sure. I definitely improved in my footwork and I needed to get my pads in lower. My fundamentals have improved a lot over the summer, so I’m ready for it.

OFM: Do you have any certain goals in mind for yourself and the team this season?

JB: Personally, I want to get to 2K yards this year. For the team, I just want to go as far as possible. Last year, we didn’t get to make the playoffs, but I have so much faith in this year’s team. Our team is young, but we’re getting it done.

OFM: Have you always been a running back?

JB: My first position was corner, and then I started at running back I think the second year that I played football. It kind of clicked, so I just kept at it when I first went to Foundation.

OFM: What do you love about playing running back?

JB: I don’t know, I guess that you can just give me the ball and watch the magic happen. It’s really simple to do, you just run. There’s not much thinking involved, you just score. Follow your blocks and you’ll be good.

OFM: Do you have favorite running backs at the pro or college level who you like to watch?

JB: My first running back [I liked], the reason I wear No. 22, is Fred Jackson. He’s the first running back I was introduced to and I always go back and watch [clips of] when he played for the Bills. Karlos Williams is helping me a lot with my recruiting. He used to play for the Bills as well and I know him personally. He’s been very impactful in my life—he’s a family friend and I met him at a young age.

OFM: Speaking of recruiting, how is that process going?

JB: I’m loving the process. Everyone says, “Take it slow, it’s only going to happen once, don’t be quick to jump at one school because of their reputation.” So I’m loving it. Everyone is so nice, of course because they want me to go to their school. The pressure is there, but I’ve adapted to it and it’s a good feeling.

OFM: What are you looking for in a school and a program?

JB: One that serves me well and one that I know I’ll be able to call home. I want the school to be close to home, but I’m also OK with going long distance. I’m very family-oriented and family plays a big part in everything, so I don’t want just myself to choose where I go, because I still want to see my family. But I want a great program with coaches who I know will help me and not just yell at me if I do something wrong.

OFM: Do you know what you want to study?

JB: Right now it’s business, but that can change. That’s what my dad does and I know he’ll show me the ropes.

OFM: I know that your younger brother CJ is expected to have a big year as well. What’s it like to have him as a teammate?

JB: It’s so much easier playing with him. At first I was a little worried because he’s my brother and I know him better than anyone else. But as he matured, it got easier playing with him. Now, he’s pretty much just as tall as me and he’s only a sophomore. He runs a 10.7 in track and I run a 10.65, so he’s right behind me. He’s not going to catch me—I’m not letting him catch me until I leave, and then he can pass me. He has so much potential and it helps so much to have him on the same team.

OFM: Is track your other love along with football?

JB: For sure. I definitely would not be as fast as I am if I didn’t do track. I also did a lot of speed work over the summer with Karlos Williams and he helped me a lot too. But track is definitely a major part of why I’m so fast.

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

JB: Because of how small it is, you know everyone there. All of the teachers know you, and as long as you don’t have a bad reputation and you get along with everyone, the school is amazing. It’s really hands-on, there’s a lot of love from everybody, and you never feel alone. There’s a lot of support for all the sports there too. I had a chance to leave the school this summer, but I wanted to stick with it for my senior year because I like it so much.

OFM: There is so much football talent in Central Florida. Is it cool to be a part of that and to see guys go on to big-time college programs?

JB: I have a lot of teammates who have gone on to college. Bryan Thomas went to the Gamecocks [to play for the University of South Carolina], and going up to camp and seeing him there was just crazy. I played with him and now he’s playing in the SEC. That inspires me—if he can do it, I can do it. Playing in Orlando and Winter Garden, you just know everybody, and 7-on-7 plays a role too.

OFM: What else do you do for fun when you’re not playing sports?

JB: Just hang around the local area, play games, chill. I actually do a lot of training with my running back coach and my defensive coach. I do a lot with my defensive coach, his name is Denzel Irvin. He played at Charlotte and then he coached at Charlotte, and now he coaches with us. He had a heart transplant, so it’s amazing that he’s helping the team and helping me to get better while he’s keeping track of his heart.

OFM: Have you always lived in Florida?

JB: Yes, I was born in Orlando. My mom is from St. Pete and my dad is from Buffalo, and they went to the same college. I know a lot of people in the area, from football mainly. Staying in the same area has helped me build a lot of friendships.

Emily Santos, Montverde Academy swimming

Santos, a senior, took third in the breaststroke at last year’s 1A state meet and was also a district champion in the event. A Virginia Tech commit, the native of Panama has represented her country at multiple international competitions, including the 2020 Summer Olympics hosted by Tokyo in 2021.

OFM: Are you excited for one last high school swimming season at Montverde?

ES: Yes. I’m feeling pretty good; I’ve been training most of the summer and we’ve had a really good start to training together as a team. We’re coming on strong.

OFM: Do you have any specific goals in mind for yourself and the team?

ES: I always want to drop my times and I also want to get better at my 200 IM, and we’re very excited about the relays too. Of course, we all want to make it to states, so we’re going hard for that. We just want to do the best that we can and drop our times as much as we can too.

OFM: You’ve come so close to an individual state championship over the past several years. Is that something you’re really aiming for?

ES: Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be able to make it this year because I have the Pan American Games. But I am excited for my team to do very well.

OFM: You’ve gotten to compete in many memorable events. What was it like to represent your country at the Olympics in Tokyo and be among the best swimmers in the world?

ES: It was such a beautiful feeling and a nice experience. It was definitely an honor to represent my country in the Olympic Games. All of the people there were so nice and the facilities were amazing. Swimming in that pool was an amazing experience.

OFM: Was that a lifelong dream of yours, to swim in the Olympics?

ES: Yes. And now that I made it, I really want to go back again.

OFM: How long have you been swimming competitively?

ES: I started when I was 8, so I’ve been at it for 10 years now. My family has always been very supportive. When I was little, I used to do everything. I used to do triathlons and I really liked the swimming part, so I got into swimming more.

OFM: Was it difficult to leave your family in Panama to come to school in Florida?

ES: It was hard in the beginning, but it’s gotten easier as the years have passed. I’ve gotten used to living here. I do miss them a lot, but they come and visit me, and I go and visit them.

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

ES: I just like the community here. A lot of the teachers help me when I’m struggling with homework or I’m away for meets. I love my coaches, they make practice really fun, and I really love my teammates too. It’s a nice experience when we have meets or we go outside for activities. Just the community in general I really love.

OFM: Have you enjoyed living in Central Florida?

ES: Yeah. The more I’ve been here, the more places I find. I’ve found that I really like going blueberry picking and strawberry picking. I love St. Petersburg and I really like to go to Universal when I have the chance. I’m really in love with Florida and I’ve been able to enjoy it.

OFM: Other than family and friends, what do you miss most about home?

ES: Panama is really close to the ocean, obviously, and I’m a fan of going to fish with my parents. That’s something I really miss that I don’t really do over here.

OFM: What led you to commit to Virginia Tech?

ES: I’ve always been a fan since I was little. One of the coaches there, Albert Subirats, I’m a really big fan of his. He used to swim when I was little and we met when he was still a swimmer, so I’ve always followed him, and also Sergio [Lopez Miro], who is the head coach. I like how they manage the program and how they are as coaches. Once I got to visit and I met them and met the team, I was like, “OK, this is it. This is exactly what I was hoping for.”

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

ES: I’ve been leaning toward business. There’s something about it that I’ve found interesting over the past few years.

OFM: You’ve gotten to travel all over the world because of swimming. Where else have you been in addition to Tokyo?

ES: I’ve been to Abu Dhabi, Hungary, El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, Colombia—I’ve been to a lot of places now that I think about it. Honestly, every single experience has been an amazing experience. I’ve met a lot of new people, seen a lot of new places and tasted new foods. It’s been really nice.

OFM: What are some of your hobbies when you get a break from swimming?

ES: I really love drawing. I’m big on drawing and painting—it’s something I do to relax a little bit. I also love reading a good book, watching movies and just hanging out with friends.

Boyi “Barry” Zhang, Lake Mary Prep golf

Zhang has been a standout for the Lake Mary Prep golf team since helping the Griffins claim a state title in his freshman year. Now a senior, the two-time regional champion and native of China is expected to contend for an individual state crown before moving on to college.

OFM: Is it hard to believe you’re entering your final year of high school?

BZ: Yes. It feels like it was very quick. I’ve been here since ninth grade and played my entire high school [career] here. I still have memories of my freshman season and it’s kind of weird that it went by so quick and I’m at the end already.

OFM: You’ve had quite a career already. What stands out when you look back at your accomplishments?

BZ: When it comes down to the best one, it’s definitely the team state championship win during my freshman season. We had a great team that year and everybody was supportive. I was obviously new at the time, and my older teammates definitely helped me a lot. We’re trying to replicate that this year.

OFM: Are you confident in the group you have coming back this year?

BZ: Yeah, for sure. We’ve got two new coaches this year, so there’s a few changes with how the team works and how the coaches do things. But I know the coaches pretty well, so I’m excited for that. There’s a lot of new blood, a lot of younger players this year. I don’t know everyone yet but I know a few, and I’m pretty confident that they’ll do well. I’m excited.

OFM: Do you feel like you can compete for an individual state title?

BZ: Yeah, of course. Florida is obviously a big golf state and the high school leagues are packed with good players. Everybody has the ability to shoot low scores in any given round at any given course. I think it just comes down to who handles the competition the best and who has their A game. Whoever handles the pressure the best will have the best chance, and as long as I get that figured out, I would say I’m pretty confident with my chances.

OFM: I know you won an American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) event recently. Are you pleased with how you played this summer?

BZ: Yeah, I would say it’s been a good summer for me—better than last summer. I’ve won an AJGA open and played a few invitational events. I played in a match-play event and I made it to the quarterfinals or something, so that was also a good one. It feels like this summer is less busy but it was a pretty memorable summer.

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

BZ: My dad played a lot of golf when I was young, and one day he brought me out and gave me a little club. Growing up, whenever my dad played, I would tag along. I slowly got into playing tournaments and I improved my game.

OFM: Did you grow up in the U.S. or in China?

BZ: In China. I moved here [with my parents] in eighth grade, for school and golf, because there’s a pretty good golf system here.

OFM: Was it a tough adjustment when you first arrived in the U.S.?

BZ: The language was OK because I went to an international school growing up, so I was fine with communication. I guess it was mainly the lifestyle change that stood out to me. Back in China, I lived in Beijing, which is a big city as you might know. Moving here, it was a different feel. There’s less traffic, which is definitely helpful, and more golf, which is great. In Beijing, it gets colder in the winter and you can’t really play there because they have to shut the course down. Down here, there are no such problems—there’s still good golf weather in December.

OFM: What do you miss most about home?

BZ: I still have a lot of friends there, and a lot of relatives in my extended family, so I miss them. I travel back sometimes when it’s the offseason or I’m on a school holiday. I went back earlier this summer and got to see some friends and family. That’s the part I miss the most.

OFM: What about the food?

BZ: Well, yes, but you can cook the food here.

OFM: Do you have any favorite courses to play in the area?

BZ: There are a lot of great courses to play in Florida. I travel up to Georgia every December for the Jones Cup Junior [Invitational] and they play at the Sea Island Seaside Course. They play a PGA Tour event there—I think it’s the RSM Classic—and that’s definitely one of my favorite courses. The views are pretty amazing and it’s always in pretty good condition. The weather get a little rough sometimes, but that’s just part of the course. I’ve always enjoyed playing there.

OFM: What is your dream course to play that you have not played yet?

BZ: I’m going to play the Junior Players [Championship] at the end of August and I’m definitely looking forward to that because I’ve never played TPC Sawgrass before—I’ve only watched an event there. Aside from that, I’ve been to Pebble Beach before but I’ve never played it, so I’m looking forward to doing that sometime in the future.

OFM: What do you like about going to school at Lake Mary Prep?

BZ: Well first of all, the teachers are very supportive when I’m out at a tournament or something comes up. It’s always pretty simple to make up what I missed. If I miss a test, the teachers are reasonable and they won’t give you a zero or anything. It’s easy to reschedule stuff, so I really love the flexibility. I also like the learning atmosphere: The students are nice to each other and the teachers aren’t super boring. It definitely helps to have a supportive school environment, and that’s why I did not transfer to another school. When I moved here in eighth grade, I was at Lake Mary Prep, and all through high school I stayed.

OFM: What are some of your hobbies away from golf and school?

BZ: When I was younger, my dad didn’t try to guide me to golf—he just brought me to golf, and at the same time he brought me to other sports for a basic exposure session. He was just trying to see what I liked, and eventually I picked golf. But the other sports he brought me to, I didn’t just drop them. I still play for fun once in a while, so that’s what I do during my free time. Me and my friends will go out and play ping pong, basketball or tennis if there’s a good court we can use. I’m not the best, but I know the rules, I know how to play and I like to play.

Ryan Erisman, Windermere swimming

Just a junior, Erisman is coming off an impressive sophomore season in which he took second in the 500 free and third in the 200 free at the 4A state meet, in addition to winning district titles in both events. He has also made a name for himself as one of the top swimmers in the country in his age bracket.

OFM: After a strong sophomore season, do you have any particular goals in mind for your junior season?

RE: I’m hoping to win both of my individual events and I’m also hoping to win both of the relays I’m on [at states]. I’m not exactly sure what events I’ll be doing, but whatever they are, I hope to win state titles.

Star Watch


Cai Bates, Edgewater: Known for his excellent cover skills, this senior cornerback had four interceptions as a junior and added 17 catches for 241 yards and a touchdown at wide receiver as Edgewater went 12-1 and reached the region final. He is committed to LSU.


Jordyn Bridgewater, West Orange: A speedy wide receiver who caught 39 balls for 876 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, Bridgewater has drawn interest from a number of college programs, including UCF, Miami, Pittsburgh and Iowa State.


Sincere Edwards, Wekiva: An elite pass rusher, this senior defensive end registered 78 tackles, 16 sacks and two fumble recoveries last season. He will continue his career at UCF.


Tye Hylton, Oviedo: Hylton, a 6-foot-5, 270-pound senior offensive tackle, was heavily recruited by schools across the country before deciding to stay close to home as a Florida State commit.


Trever Jackson, Jones: A senior transfer from West Orange, Jackson is one of the premier quarterbacks in the area. He threw for 1,559 yards and 16 touchdowns and ran for more than 300 yards as a junior, and holds offers from the likes of Penn State, Texas A&M, UCLA and Miami.


Brandon Jacob, Evans: Ranked No. 143 on ESPN’s list of the top recruits nationally in the class of 2024, this senior safety had a breakout junior season that included five interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He committed to Maryland this summer.


Laggarius Marshell, Boone: Considered one of the best running backs in Central Florida, Marshell amassed 1,285 yards on 181 carries as a junior and scored 16 touchdowns.


Joshua Raymond, Lake Mary: A 6-foot-4, 275-pound offensive tackle, Raymond helped lead his team to the regional championship game last season and is headed to the SEC as a Vanderbilt commit.


Ivan Taylor, West Orange: The son of former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback and two-time Super Bowl champion Ike Taylor, this junior is one of the top defensive backs in the country in the class of 2025 and has offers from Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Notre Dame and more.


Carson Baez, Windermere: Baez and his younger brother Cameron both carded 75s at last year’s 3A state tournament to help the Wolves take third place. He also won a district title with a 68 and shot 71 at regions. Baez, a University of Richmond commit, won the Press Thornton Future Masters Tournament in Alabama earlier this summer.


Josiah Wang, Windermere Prep: Wang’s phenomenal freshman season included an individual district championship and a second-place finish at 1A states, where he carded a 71.



Lauryn Finley, Lake Mary: Finley shot a 72 to place second at the 3A state meet as a sophomore, leading the Rams to the state title. She also carded a 66 to tie for first at regionals and shot a 69 at districts.


Ryleigh Knaub, Lake Mary: Knaub, a junior, was a district champion and tied for first at regionals last year, and she’s also enjoyed a sensational summer, earning spots on both the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup Junior Teams. She will be representing the United States and competing at both prestigious events this fall in Europe.


Elan Zhang, Dr. Phillips: Zhang was in the mix at several major tournaments last year, taking second at districts, regions and 3A states, shooting in the low 70s each time. It would not be surprising to see her secure a big win or two this fall.


Kierstin Bevelle, Lake Highland Prep: Bevelle, a junior outside hitter, was a major reason why Lake Highland Prep claimed a region championship and advanced to the 3A state semifinals last year. She collected 249 kills, 257 digs and 44 aces.


Anika Groom, Bishop Moore: A junior outside hitter, Groom led the 4A region runners-up with 250 kills and added 100 digs, 26 blocks and 30 aces.


Victoria Hill, Trinity Prep: One of the premier finishers in the state, this junior outside hitter totaled 415 kills as a sophomore—the second year in a row she eclipsed 400—and chipped in 291 digs and 33 aces.


Eloise Johnston, Geneva: Johnston, a junior who can line up at opposite and middle hitter, recorded 182 kills and 41 blocks to help Geneva go 17-6 and reach the region semifinals. She should play an even bigger role this fall.

Fallon Stewart, Winter Park: A 6-foot-3 senior outside hitter, Stewart led the Wildcats in several statistical categories, including kills (471) and blocks (73), as they went 21-8. She will continue her career at Cincinnati.


Nathan Frette, Lake Buena Vista: A junior diver, Frette is coming off a dominant sophomore season that included Metro Conference, district and regional titles before capping things off with the Vipers’ first state championship.


Ian Heysen Ricci, Winter Park: This junior won district titles in the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM before placing in the top 10 in both events at states last fall. This summer, he was a four-time champion at the Florida Senior Championships.


Lanie Gutch, Boone: One of the best divers in the state throughout her career, Gutch has a state title and two runner-up finishes already and it will be interesting to see how she goes out in her senior season.


Addison Reese, Windermere: Reese, a senior, claimed district titles in the 100 butterfly and 200 free last fall and went on to finish second and third, respectively, in the same events at states. Also a part of the state championship 200 free relay, she will continue her career at the University of Florida.


Alejandro Berrio, University: Berrio was the 4A Region 3 runner-up as a junior and went on to place 33rd at states with a time of 16:30.6.


Dylan Mauldin, Boone: Mauldin’s memorable sophomore season featured the Metro Conference East championship and a 24th-place finish at 4A states, where he clocked a 16:17.8.


Ava Hendrix, Lake Minneola: Last year as a sophomore, Hendrix was a district champion, a regional runner-up and placed 23rd at the 3A state meet.


Emily Knopfle, Olympia: Knopfle, a junior, competed in eight races as a sophomore and won five of them, including conference and district crowns. She covered the 4A state course in 18:34 to place second.


Ava Wyant, The Master’s Academy: Wyant captured a district championship last fall and placed in the top five at states for the second year in a row. Also a track star—she was a state champion in the 800 meters this past spring—she is committed to the University of Florida for both sports.


Isaiah Jackson, Apopka: Jackson, a senior, posted a 232 game average as a junior and helped the Blue Darters capture the program’s sixth state championship. He also shined at nationals this past June as Apopka won the U.S. High School Bowling Federation title.


TJ Pierson, East River: This senior has been a key competitor for East River throughout his career and averaged a 217 last year. He placed third at districts and 45th at states.


Madison Bailey, Timber Creek: Bailey’s accomplishments as a sophomore included a selection to the all-Metro East team, a 189 average and a seventh-place finish at states.


Emily Rusnak, East River: Rusnak, a senior, had a high game of 258 and a 204 average as a junior, and took second place at districts.






OFM: Well, you came close last year. Were you happy with your performance at states?

RE: Absolutely. I came very close and I was really happy with my times.

OFM: Do you feel like the team has a strong core coming back too?

RE: Yeah, I think we’re a lot stronger than last year and I think we’re going to give the state title a run for its money. We’re going to come close.

OFM: Are you pleased with your results this summer?

RE: Yeah, I went to USA Swimming Nationals this summer and qualified for the 2023 World Junior Championships, so I will be representing the USA in Israel this year. It means a lot and shows that all of the hard work I’ve put in is starting to pay off. It’s a huge honor.

OFM: What’s it like to compete against some of the best swimmers in the country?

RE: It’s definitely nerve-wracking, but it’s really cool because you have a front-row seat to watch the fastest swimming in the country every year. It’s a really cool experience for me.

OFM: Didn’t you also attend a camp for USA Swimming last year?

RE: Yes. My first camp was a Zone Select Camp last year, and then later I went to the National Select Camp and that was at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. It was amazing to see all the facilities they had and all the resources there to help the athletes in our country.

OFM: Did you think about all the great swimmers who have been there?

RE: Yeah, for sure. I’m sure almost every Olympian and Olympic medalist swam there before, so that was really cool just being in the presence of past Olympians.

OFM: Have you been involved in competitive swimming for a long time?

RE: I started swimming when I was 9, and ever since then I loved it. I grew up on the beach in Daytona Beach, so about an hour away from Orlando. I loved the ocean growing up, so one day I went and tried out. What I really fell in love with was the racing aspect.

OFM: Your younger sister is a pretty good swimmer too, right?

RE: Yes, her name is Rylee Erisman. It’s different because obviously I’m older and she’s a girl, so our times are different, but we really push each other and I think we benefit from that. We’re really competitive but we’re also always helping each other out. She’s trying to accomplish a lot, just like I am. It’s definitely a great relationship.

OFM: How is the college recruiting process going for you?

RE: I have a couple of visits planned for this fall, so I’m excited to get out to those schools. I have a couple of schools that I’m interested in, but I can’t really make a list or anything yet. I’m looking for a team that is going to be able to win an NCAA championship while I’m there, but I’m also looking for a school where I can contribute to the team in the best way I can.

OFM: Have all of your experiences with USA Swimming inspired you to strive for the Olympics?

RE: For sure. I’m slowly making my way up there, the progress is showing, and I’m excited for what I can do. Olympic Trials are next year, so right now I’m training for that.

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

RE: I like hanging out with my friends, and when I’m not hanging out with my friends, I’m usually at home playing video games or watching a movie. I also like Legos, so sometimes I’ll build Legos.

OFM: What’s the biggest Lego you’ve ever built?

RE: I have the Spider-Man Daily Bugle set, and that’s a big one.

OFM: When did you move to the Orlando area and what do you like about living here?

RE: I believe I was 11 about to turn 12, so we’ve been here for probably five or six years. I love the area as a whole. There’s so much to do, whether it’s going on the lakes or going to Disney or Universal. I really like the people here too.

OFM: Do you have any favorite rides at the parks?

RE: I really like the VelociCoaster at Universal. I’m a pass holder there so I like going when I get the chance.

Dionna Mitchell, Timber Creek volleyball

A 5-foot-11 senior outside hitter, Mitchell is a four-year varsity starter who recorded 340 kills, 224 digs and 22 blocks as a junior to lead the Wolves to a 15-7 record and a berth in the region quarterfinals. The Georgetown commit enters her final season with 762 kills and 442 digs for her career.

OFM: Are you excited for your senior season?

DM: I’m very excited. It went by so fast. Because of COVID, I was barely on campus during my freshman year, and then everything started rolling by so fast after that. I’m glad that I made it to senior year.

OFM: Do you have any specific goals in mind for yourself and the team?

DM: Obviously, a big goal for the team is to make it to states and then win the state title. We’re going to take it game by game and focus on winning the little tournaments and games along the way. Personally, I just want to help my team in any way I can and get even more kills than I did last year, and hopefully break some records. I believe the in-season kills record might be within striking distance—I think it’s 514.

OFM: Are you confident in the group that is coming back?

DM: Yes. Last year we only had two seniors and this year we have 11 seniors. We have a great connection and we’ve all been friends since freshman year. I think our chemistry has grown and it’s great that we’re all together in our last year.

OFM: How did you get started in volleyball?

DM: My parents put me in every sport they could—tennis, gymnastics, karate. I also ran track and did really well, but it wasn’t for me. They finally put me in a volleyball camp, and I remember I came home that night and I wanted to keep playing and pepper with my dad inside the house. We broke a few vases and my mom got really mad [laughs], but I just wanted to keep playing. I loved the team aspect of it and I had great coaches growing up, so they really helped me.

OFM: Do you know what you’re doing next year?

DM: I’m actually committed to Georgetown, so I’m very excited. Ultimately, it’s a great academic school, which was one of the main things I wanted, and I love the life on campus. D.C. is beautiful and I have family all around the area. Coach AJ [Bonetti] is a really great coach, he came from Maryland, and I hope to build the program with him.

OFM: Do you know what you want to study?

DM: I want to study human science. I want to see where that major leads me because I know it’s a very broad field. I love human anatomy and also biotechnology, and I think being in D.C. will help me find a career path.

OFM: Are you nervous at all about leaving Florida?

DM: I originally said that I wanted to leave Florida for college because I’ve been here my whole life and I want to explore something new and experience four seasons for once.

OFM: You might not be saying that next winter.

DM: [Laughs] I’m ready to get a whole new wardrobe.

OFM: What have you liked about growing up in the Central Florida area?

DM: I just think it’s a great community. Everybody around you is really nice and genuine, and it’s a great place to live where you feel safe all the time. There are so many options and things to do—there are so many schools and sports and clubs that you can join.

OFM: When you have some spare time away from volleyball, what do you like to do for fun?

DM: It definitely does take up a lot of time with working out and everything, but when I’m not playing volleyball I like to paint. It’s one of my hobbies that I acquired during quarantine. I paint whatever I see on Pinterest, and then I hang them up and decorate my room with it.

OFM: What was the coolest thing you got to do this summer before school started up again?

DM: Definitely the cruise I went on. It was very fun, a 10 out of 10. We had a lot of family on that cruise and it was a much-needed vacation. We went to the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas. It was amazing.

Amanda Lang, Trinity Prep bowling

Lang, a senior, is a three-sport athlete at Trinity Prep who especially shines during bowling season. She posted a 200 average as a junior, captured her second straight district championship and had a solid showing at states. She holds the school record for high series with a 686.

OFM: Your junior bowling season was certainly a memorable one. What stands out when you look back on it?

AL: I think the most exciting or memorable thing would probably be breaking my school records and then making it to states as an individual.

OFM: Do you have any specific goals for your senior season for yourself and the team?

AL: I’m hoping to be a three-time district champion, because I’ve won the last two years. It’s looking like we’re going to have a good amount of girls this season, so going for another district title as a team would be really cool. After that, [our goal is] going to states and hopefully winning that as well.

OFM: What is it like bowling in those big tournaments at districts and states? Is it nerve-wracking to be in those situations?

AL: Yeah, going into it, it definitely is. But once I start bowling, the nerves kind of go away. At the state tournament, there’s more competition because it’s all the schools from Florida that have a bowling team … so it’s definitely a more competitive atmosphere.

OFM: Did you compete in any tournaments this summer?

AL: I went to Junior Gold this summer; it’s the biggest youth tournament in the country. In my division, there were 588 girls in U-18 and I placed 20th.

OFM: How did you get into the sport in the first place? Did you start at a young age?

AL: No, compared to other pretty good bowlers, I’d say I started a little late. Going into my sixth-grade year, I went to a summer camp and we bowled every week as a field trip, so when I got to Trinity and I found out they had a bowling team, I was really excited to join. So I bowled starting in sixth grade, but I didn’t get really competitive until ninth grade.

OFM: Do you think it’s something you’re going to stick with now?

AL: Yes, I’m looking to bowl in college. Bowling-wise, I’m looking for a team that will push one another and whose main goal is to win, because it’s always fun winning.

OFM: Do you know what you want to study?

AL: I’m looking into sports management or sports communications. My favorite thing to do is play sports, so I think something in that realm would be enjoyable to do.

OFM: So you also play basketball and softball for Trinity Prep, right?

AL: Yes.

OFM: Seeing a three-sport athlete is pretty rare these days, because most people choose to specialize in one or two when they get to high school. Is it important to you to stay involved in bowling, basketball and softball?

AL: Yes. I think having three sports keeps me busy, and off to the side I can still do bowling, because I try to do that as much as I can. I think it helps me to stay on track with what I have to do.

OFM: Sports are obviously a big part of your life, but what else do you like to do when you have some free time?

AL: I like to hang out with my friends and I like to watch Netflix. I just finished my show so I’m looking for a new one now.

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

AL: I’ve been going there since sixth grade and I think one of my favorite things is that it’s easy to make friends there. Even if someone comes in new, after the first day they’re with people. There’s a friendly atmosphere, and I feel like the teachers are understanding and will help you when you need it. I like that it’s a smaller campus and that it prepares you for college.

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

AL: I’m just used to it because I’ve never lived anywhere else. … I think my favorite thing is meeting people in the bowling community and seeing people’s success. Lately the weather hasn’t been the best because it’s been really hot, but when it’s not too hot, I think it’s pretty doable.

Mi Li, The First Academy golf

Just a junior, Li is coming off a sensational sophomore year, her first with the Royals after transferring from Windermere Prep. She carded a 66 to claim the 1A individual state championship, leading The First Academy to its fourth team title in six years. Li, a native of China, also tied for ninth at districts and finished in the top 20 at regionals.

OFM: Last year was such a memorable one for you and the team. What did it mean to you to win the individual state championship?

ML: It felt like I really did something to help the team. It was my first year at TFA because I was at Windermere the year before, so it felt good to help the team win the state championship.

OFM: Did you feel confident heading into the state tournament?

ML: I feel like everyone didn’t know how they were going to do because there was a big hurricane coming in, so they pushed the tournament back and we only had a one-day event. There was also a fog delay that morning. But I felt relaxed and I wasn’t that nervous, because I’ve played that course multiple times and I felt confident there.

OFM: Is your main goal this season to repeat at states?

ML: Yes, but you never know what other players are going to do and I don’t even know what I’m going to shoot in my next round. We can only do our best and see what’s going to happen.

OFM: Was it a smooth transition to a new school and a new team last year?

ML: It was pretty smooth because I knew everybody on this team from playing in the junior tournaments around here.

OFM: How did you first get interested in golf?

ML: I started playing when I was 8 and my dad was the one who got me into it. He put me on a team back in China, and I was training and competing with all of the other kids. I think that pushed me.

OFM: Did you love the sport right away?

ML: It’s hard to tell, because when you’re little, you just want to be outside. That’s why I liked to play golf. [Laughs]

OFM: How old were you when you came to the U.S.?

ML: I was 11. I kind of came here for golf and it’s only me and my mom. It was a smooth [transition] because my dad came a month before to figure out everything like a house and cars. He has work back in China so he can’t stay.

OFM: Other than family and friends, what do you miss most about home?

ML: The food. I’m going to honest, I’m a person who really likes to eat. When I’m playing golf, one of the things that I’m thinking about is what I’m going to eat after the round.

OFM: Can the Chinese food in America compare to what you have back home?

ML: Not quite, no.

OFM: What do you like about living in the Orlando area?

ML: I like how the golf courses are really close together and I have a lot more opportunities to practice. Also, I like the weather and that I can play year-round. There’s no gap, like two or three months, when you can’t go outside. So I like the weather, but not how it’s been the last few days—it’s been too hot.

OFM: Do you have a favorite course in the area that you like to play?

ML: Let me think about that. It’s hard to pick a favorite, because I always have good and bad days on a course. I would say Bay Hill is a pretty good one. It’s a challenging course, and also a pretty course. I enjoy playing that one, and also both courses at Disney, Magnolia and Palm.

OFM: If you could pick one course to play in the world, which would you choose?

ML: That’s a good question. I kind of want to try the Sea Island Seaside Course. I just finished a tournament at the Plantation Course [at Sea Island] and that was a really good course.

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

ML: I draw sometimes or I like to do planting outside in the garden.

OFM: Have you started thinking about college yet?

ML: Yes, I’m thinking about college now, but I’m still in the middle of seeing where I want to go.

OFM: Do you know what you would like to study?

ML: That’s an unknown right now. There are a lot of subjects in my mind and I can’t decide yet.

OFM: Do you like to watch golf? Do you have any favorite professional players?

ML: I don’t really follow it that much, because I’m a person who’s really bad at recognizing faces. But I do follow Rose Zhang right now, because she’s one of the newest and I was in the same event with her before.

OFM: Did you play in a lot of tournaments this summer?

ML: Yeah, a ton. I had three second-place [finishes] … and I was pretty consistent. The only thing I’m not happy about is that I didn’t win any; I let them slip out of my hands.