Who to watch this year as local high school sports heat up

It’s dark and humid as a small group gathers on the track. Even though it’s not yet 7 a.m., it’s already almost 90-degrees. Still, no one complains.

The teens set down their water bottles and begin a slow trot around the oval. Their black-on-black-sky silhouettes are just barely visible as they trace their way towards the backstretch. Once their muscles are warm, the pace picks up. The coach releases them for a set of 800s and the pack takes off—these future track stars are free to fly.

When practice is over the kids will shuffle off to summer jobs or volunteer work or classes at the local community college. For most scholar athletes, summer days aren’t carefree. Instead summertime is a time for getting ahead: in sports, in school, and in saving for college. And when school starts up again this fall, it will be back to all business, all the time.

That’s why we dedicated this whole issue of FitNation to the student-athlete. None of these kids on the track is running because it will look good on a college application. No one—we repeat—no one runs 800-meter repeats in August in Florida for a line item on a résumé. They’re here for the love of the sport and for the love of everything that comes with being on a team. And it inspires us.

Want to know whom you should be watching this year? Here are our picks—not just for their athletic prowess but also for the ability to balance school with sports and life in ways that even we adults could learn from.

Emily Buersmeyer

Age: 17

School: The Community School of Naples

Sports: Golf and lacrosse

“I’ve had plastic golf clubs since I was a year-and-a-half old. I just took to it, even as a kid I loved to practice. When I was about six my parents said, ‘you know, Emily there are tournaments, are you interested in trying that?’ I was like, I could win a trophy? That sounds awesome!”

“Golf has always been pretty natural for me. It’s never taken hours and hours for me to perfect. I think that’s part of the reason it’s so fun.”

“I started lacrosse in the fourth grade. Before that, I’d never played a team sport. I love the girls on the Community School Team, and I especially loved having my sister on the team. We’ve played together since we were born, so it’s like we always know where the other one is on the field.”

Tandiwe Kangwa

Age: 17

School: Attends Florida South Western High School, an accelerated school where kids take classes simultaneously at Florida Southwestern State College. Because her school doesn’t have sports teams she competes for Fort Myers High School.

Sport: Tennis

“I come from a tennis family. My family is from Zambia and my dad and my uncle played there. My dad taught me, he still coaches. I always knew I was going to play, both my older brother and sister played. I started when I was like three years old and I played in my first tournament at eight.”

“My best shot is probably my forehand, it’s my favorite shot at least. I like competing, that’s my favorite thing about tennis—and traveling. I probably like singles the best because you’re in charge of the whole court, but doubles is really fun too.”

“I want to work as a healthcare administrator someday. I like helping people and making other people happy. There’s an orphanage where I’m from in Zambia and I’m starting a club to help the children there. We’ll raise money and send them care packages. I also volunteer at Hope Hospice, the food pantry and the Humane Society.”

CLICK through and get to know more of these up-and-coming high school athletes.