Senior Spotlights

Our hearts go out to the seniors who had their high school careers end prematurely.

We are honoring our athletes from the Class of 2020 with our Senior Spotlights.

Our Senior spotlights will air on local radio in Gainesville, Ocala, and the Tri-County area.  Special thanks to SunState Federal Credit Union for giving us a platform to honor them.  Email mike@ThePrepZone.com for more info.

Click on each athlete’s name to hear their Senior Spotlight (schools are in alphabetical order):

Name: Jillian Cassube
School: Bell High School
Sports played: Volleyball, Basketball, and Softball
Achievements: 2019 Gainesville Sun Small School Player of the year for Volleyball, two time first team all area for volleyball, second team all area for basketball, broke and currently hold school record for single season kills for volleyball, Meldon Law Scholar athlete of the week
Favorite senior moment: The time Mel and I played snap ball for a week straight at practice
Favorite Quote: “Be phenomenal or be forgotten” – Eric Thomas
Plans after high school: to attend Valdosta State and play volleyball while obtaining my bachelors degree in heath science, then moving to chiropractic college and working for my DC

Name: Aubrey Brown
School: Bell High School
Sports played: Softball, Volleyball, Basketball, & Cross Country
Achievements (Academic and/or Athletic): She had also been a part of FFA, FCA, HOSA, Beta, and 4-H. Aubrey has also received a Softball Scholarship to play Webber International University in the fall.
Favorite high school sports moment: Senior night last year when the Lady Bulldogs were down by two and she hit one over the fence. She had a total of 6 RBI in that game alone.
Plans after high school: Aubrey’s future plans are to attend Webber International University on a Softball Scholarship in the fall. She will be working towards getting her BSN.
Softball head coach Krystal Holley: “I’m excited Aubrey has received the opportunity to play at the next level. It’s a chance not all high school athletes get to take. She will do great things at Webber. We are proud of her and all her high school accomplishments.”

Name: Presley Paulling
School: Bell High School
Sports played: Softball, Cheerleading, Volleyball
Achievements (Academic and/or Athletic):
Presley is this year’s 2020 Senior Class Valedictorian!
She participated in the Beta, Hosa, FCA, served 3 years as class officer, Student Ambassador, and Yearbook Club. She also successful completed the Health Academy Program and will Graduate with her CNA license later this month.
Presley was voted “Mostly likely to Succeed” by her classmates!
Plans after high school:  Presley’s future plans are to attend the University of Florida in the fall. She will be working towards majoring in Biology or Microbiology and then pursue a job in Health Research.
Softball coach Krystal Holley: “Presley you are such an inspiration to others! Thank you for your hard work, and leadership you have shown throughout our season! I’m so proud of you! Kick the door wide open and enjoy every minute of being a Florida Gator!”

Name: Gabby Leffler
School: Bell High School
Sports played: Softball, Basketball & Weightlifting
Achievements (Academic and/or Athletic): She was in the criminal justice program and was FCA; Gabby was voted “Most likely to stay in Bell” by her classmates.
Plans after high school: Her future plans are to attend Santa Fe College & her goal is to become a special education teacher.

Name: Hailey Pope
School: Bell High School
Sports played: Softball, Volleyball, and Soccer
Achievements (Academic and/or Athletic): She participated in the Beta, Criminal Justice Program and she successfully completed the Health Academy Program at BHS. Hailey received her CNA License earlier this year from the program; Outside of school in her spare time Hailey loves to barrel race.
Favorite high school sports moment: My favorite high school sports moment was in our softball game when the ball was hit to me (at shortstop) I chased a girl down to home and tossed the ball to Michelle Heilig (catcher) and she tagged her out. Then a second later we threw a girl out at second and it closed out the inning!
Plans after high school: Hailey’s future plans are to attend Santa Fe Community College in the fall. She plans to become a Radiology Technician

Name: Autumn Oglesby
School: Belleview High School
Sports played: Softball
Achievements (Academic and/or Athletic): 4-year varsity player; Ocala Star-Banner pitcher of the year for two years in a row.
Favorite high school sports moment: my favorite high school sports moment was the van rides to panama.
Favorite quote: I cannot pick just one but every time my coaches believed in me to get the job done.
Plans after high school: My plans are to go to Rasmussen College and earn my radiology degree.

Name: Gregory Knox
School: Buchholz High School (Gainesville)
Sports played: Baseball
Achievements: Scholar Athlete Award
Favorite high school sports moment: Beating Gainesville HS in 8 innings in 2019
Favorite quote: Coach Norman saying, “Don’t get hurt!”
Plans after high school: Gregory will attend Santa Fe College

Name: Corbin Grantham
School: Buchholz High School (Gainesville)
Sports Played: Football and Baseball
Achievements: 3 time 1st team All-Area football and baseball, 2nd team All-State football
Favorite High Schools Sports Moment: Winning State Championship freshman year at Trinity High School ( Louisville, KY)
Favorite quote: “It’s a great day to be a Bobcat!” – Head Coach Ron Brooks
Plans after high school: Will play baseball at Mississippi State

Name: Bailey Tucker
School: Buchholz High School (Gainesville)
Sports played: Cross Country & Track
Stats: 1:58 in 800 meter; 4:33 in 1600 meter
Achievements (Academic and/or Athletic): National Merit Scholar
Various stem and running awards
Favorite high school sports moment: Buchholz coming in 1st, 2nd, and 4th in the 800 meter at Flagler and realizing that our 4×8 team might have something special this year.
Favorite quote: “You got a string hanging from your shirt?” *looks down* “Oh wait, that’s just your arm.” – Head Coach Michael Lehning
Plans after high school: Attending The University of Chicago

Name: Max Fairchild
School: Buchholz High School (Gainesville)
Sports played: Cross Country & Track
Stats: 800m (2:14.18) & 1600 Meter Run (5:29.31)
Achievements (Academic and/or Athletic): lettering in track
Favorite high school sports moment: making new memories with my teammates since I transferred to Buchholz my junior year, and camp last summer was pretty fun (Brevard distance runners camp)
Favorite quote or favorite coach saying (include coach’s name if a coach said it): “Don’t train hard, train smart.” – Coach Michael Lehning
Plans after high school: I’m committed to run cross country and track at Brevard College so that’s my plan for after high school. Once college is done I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet.

Name: James Graetz (Evan)
School: Buchholz High School (Gainesville)
Sports played: Tennis
Achievements (Academic and/or Athletic): Made it to 4A state tournament junior year; district runner-up freshman and sophomore years; junior year won districts; National Honor Society, top 15% in class; Captain Tennis Team 2019
Favorite high school sports moment: Winning regionals to go to states junior year!
Favorite Quote: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Plans after high school: Civil Engineering at UCF

Name: Kaiden Baker
School: Chiefland High School
Sports played: Baseball
Achievements (Academic and/or Athletic): 100% Bright Futures, .400 Batting Average (senior season), BETA member, Rotary Club scholarship, AMVET scholarship, Republican scholarship, number 7 in class, accepted to UCF and FSU, attending UCF
Favorite high school sports moment(s): Going to state (Junior year – state runners-up)
Favorite quote: “March like a soldier.” – Head Coach Chad Brock
Plans after high school: Attend UCF to obtain a masters degree in Electrical Engineering

Name: Jacob Pitts
School: Chiefland High School
Sports played: Baseball
Achievements (Sports): FHSAA Class 1A State Runner-up (2019)
Favorite moments: My favorite moment was (in the Region Final) when we dog piled after we had clinched our ticket to the final four.
Favorite quote: “Hard work…dedication.” – Coach Rod Smith
Plans after high school: My plans aren’t college. My plans are to become a game warden for Levy County.

Name: Luke Reidy
School: Chiefland High School
Sports played: Baseball
Achievements (Academic and/or Athletic): Sum Cum Laude, 11th in the class, A/B Honor roll
Favorite high school sports moment(s): Beating Dixie County to go to state junior year and the whole state experience
Favorite quote: “Somebody with a glove.” – Coach Parnell
Plans after high school: Attend the College of Central Florida to get my AA degree, the transfer to Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College to earn my bachelor’s degree in Agribusiness Management

Name: Lance Minson
School: Columbia High School (Lake City)
Sports played: Baseball and Golf
Achievements (Academic and/or Athletic):
-4 time MVP for golf (Also birdie leader)
-Made regionals first 3 years and finished 15th at state my senior year (96 golfers in total)
-Scoring average of 39.2 freshmen year improved every season to 36.2 senior year
-Lake City Reporter’s Golfer of the Year 2016, 17, 19 (All area 2018)
-Gainesville Suns’s First Team All-Area 2017, 18, 19
-Lettered 4 years in baseball
-Junior year won offensive MVP with a .340 average and near .700 slugging
-Gainesville Sun’s first team All-Area Baseball Team 2019 (big school)
-Graduating with my AA through dual-enrollment
-100% Bright Futures with a 29 ACT and 3.7 GPA
Favorite high school sports moment (Golf): Shooting a 32 on senior night at my last home match then turning around the next day and shooting 33 at Haile Plantation
Favorite high school sports moment (Baseball): Either hitting a homerun against our rival school Suwannee or winning the district in 2019 after blowing out Middleburg and finishing off Gainesville for our 5th district championship in a row
Favorite quote:  “See ya bye” – Head Coach Brian Thomas (Probably telling us to take off running)
Plans after high school: Continue my baseball career with Embry-Riddle University and majoring in Aerospace Physiology, eventually transferring to a Physical Therapy school and pursuing a career in PT

Name: Coyle Giebeig
School: Columbia High School (Lake City)
Sports played: Baseball
Achievements (Academic/Athletic): National Honors Society and CHS 2019 pitcher of the year award
Favorite high school sports moment: Winning 5 district championships in a row
Favorite quote: “Never take anything for granted.”
Plans after school: Continue education at Santa Fe College

Name: Hunter Thomas
School: Columbia High School (Lake City)
Sports played: Baseball
Achievements (Academic/Athletic): 5 peat district champion, 3.0 student
Favorite high school sports moment: My favorite high school sports memory would he when we dog piled after winning our 5th district championship.
Favorite quote: “Play like it’s your last.” – Head Coach Brian Thomas (Hunter’s dad)
Plans after school: I will attend Glenville State college after high school to further my academic and athletic career.

Name: Tyler Yaxley
School: Columbia High School (Lake City)
Sports played: Baseball and Golf
Achievements (Academic and/or Athletic): maintained a 4.0, national honors society, winning districts on the golf team, going to state for golf, being apart of a 5 peat district championship series with baseball.
Favorite high school sports moment: rushing the field after the district championship during the 2019 season
Favorite quote: Everytime seeing coach baker and him yelling, “YAAX!”
Plans after high school: I’m going to attend Florida Gateway College and graduate with my AA degree, then transfer to the University of Florida to pursue physical therapy

Name: Morgan Hoyle
School: Columbia High School (Lake City)
Sports played: Softball & Girls Weightlifting
Achievements: 2019 Gainesville Sun First Team All-Area Softball & Girls Weightlifting (129-pound weight class); District 2-2A weightlifting champion, 5th at Region 1
Favorite high school sports moment: My freshmen year, when we came back and beat GHS in the regional semifinals.
Favorite Quote: “The harder you work the luckier you get.”
What you will miss most about playing at CHS: The three things I’ll miss most about playing at CHS are my teammates, my coaches, and the Columbia High School community cheering us on at home games. The love I have for this team this year is irreplaceable. It’s disappointing that our season got cut short, because this was one of my favorite teams. We all got along so well. I’m going to miss playing with my senior girls so much. I’m going to miss Coach Trudy (Andrews), Coach Wayne, and Coach Megan too. My four years of playing we’re all with the same head coaches, so the bond is something I’m going to really miss when I leave. Coach Trudy loved us as her own. I’m going to miss her a lot. I’m also going to miss the home game atmosphere. Caroline and I always used to joke around with each other about how we’re not supposed to have the home game jitters as seniors! But we did anyways. Playing in front of packed bleachers while everyone cheers after a big hit or a diving play is what I’m going to miss the most. Throughout my four years the whole community was behind us as a team, and that’s something a lot of high schools don’t have the privilege of experiencing.
Plans after high school: I plan to attend the University of Central Florida (undecided major)

Name: Alexander Dang
School: Eastside High School (Gainesville)
Sports played: Baseball
Achievements (Academic and/or Athletic): National AP Scholar, National Merit Finalist, Co- Valedictorian, Sunshine State Scholar, Team Captain
Favorite high school sports moment: starting pitching and beating GHS at home in 2019 for the first time since 2002
Favorite quote: “Throw him a chair!”
Plans after high school: Major in Molecular Biology and Minor in Economics at Harvard, and pursue an M.D./M.B.A. degree

Name: Joe Ukeiley
School: Eastside High School (Gainesville)
Sports played: Baseball
Achievements (Academic and/or Athletic): 2nd team all-area sophomore year, National Honor Society
Favorite high school sports moment: Junior year closing out the wins against GHS (first against the Hurricanes since 2002) and Leesburg
Favorite quote: “Your fault, my bad.” – Head Coach Sean Dobbs
Plans after high school: study mechanical engineering at Purdue University

Name: Lauren Shaw
School: Eastside High School (Gainesville)
Sports Played: Cross Country & Track
Statistics: 800m 3:07.46; 1600m 6:49.09; 3200m 14:38.93; 5000m 24:19.00
Achievements: Cross Country Team Captain, National Merit Finalist, Co-Valedictorian
Favorite High School Sports Moment: Qualifying for regionals as a team for Cross Country my senior year
Favorite Quote: “Have no fear and leave it all on the line” – Coach Kecia Johnson
Plans after High School: To study mechanical engineering in the University of Florida’s Honors Program

Name: Alissa Humphrey
School: Gainesville High School
Sports played: Softball
Achievements (Academic and/or Athletic):
-3 time MaxPreps Underclass All American
-3 time First Team 7A All-State
-2 time 7A State Pitcher of the Year
-3 time Gainesville Sun First Team Big School All-Area
-2 time Gainesville Sun Big School Softball Player of the Year
-2018 Florida Dairy Farmers 7A State Player of the Year
-972 Career Strikeouts, 0.89 Career ERA
-Cambridge/AICE Graduate
Favorite high school sports moment: 14 inning battle where I had 26 strikeouts against Lakewood Ranch, who was ranked 1st in the country at the time
Favorite quote: “No Keto, Get Fat” -THE Jason Nowling
Plans after high school: Play Softball/Kinesiology Honors at Jacksonville

Name: Bridget Filer
School: Gainesville High School
Sports played: Softball
Achievements (Academic/Athletic): Player of the Week, MVP; A/B honor roll, Student of the Week, Leadership Award, and Citizenship Award
Favorite high school sports moment:  1.) Playing in the Kissimmee Klassic tournament and 2.) winning the District Championship in 2019
Favorite quote: “The stronger people aren’t always the people who win, but the people who don’t give up when they lose.”
Plans after school:  My plans are to go to Santa Fe College and get my degree in Neuroscience Behavior and become a Pediatrician

Name: Katherine Gray
School: Gainesville High School
Sports played: Softball
Achievements (Academic and/or Athletic): Gainesville Sun first team All-Area in the 2019 season; Getting accepted to the University of Florida
Favorite high school sports moment: Last year’s (2019) district championship versus Middleburg. It was a close game that went into the 8th inning and I was up to bat when senior Natasha Fox scored on a past-ball. Alissa (Humphrey) had been pitching extremely well and I remember watching Tasha score and gaining that feeling of “Wow, back-to-back district champs, all the hard work has paid off!”
Favorite quote: My favorite quote would have to be “You are only as strong as your weakest link.” I don’t know who said it, but it factors into every aspect of my life, and is especially important and relatable when it comes to softball because it truly highlights the importance of teamwork.
Plans after high school: I will be attending the University of Florida to double major in Economics and Statistics, but after that who knows. While still in Gainesville, I plan on going to Cafes with freshman Cheyenne Boggs every Sunday, and will definitely be going to many games next season to watch this team do what we were cut short of doing, winning a state title. I will also be traveling to Jacksonville, very often, to watch my best friend, Alissa Humphrey, play at JU!

Name: Olivia Bryant
School: Gainesville High School
Sports played: Tennis
Favorite Memories: Falling asleep in my Chick-Fil-A lunch bag after the finals of the state competition in 2018; falling asleep in the van on a road trip with my head slumped forward and Lauren McCain asleep on my shoulder and Payton Bumgarner asleep on my other side; Payton asleep at our tournament in March in the cafeteria at the USTA national center; and making tik-toks with my teammates!
Stats: 4-year varsity player; State Team Finalist 2018; State Competitor for Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior years; 3-time regional champion; 3-time district champion (in singles and doubles); undefeated in singles in 2018 season.
Achievements (Academic and/or Athletic): Signed with Florida Southern College to play Division 2 tennis; Recipient of the Craig Oransky Memorial Scholarship; TV20 Athlete of the Week (Feb 2020); A-B Honor Roll.
Favorite high school sports moment: Getting to the finals of the 2018 State 3A tennis tournament
Favorite quote: My favorite slogan for every match is “Woosh Baby” and my favorite quote is “Free your mind and the rest will follow” by Coach Tracey Bryant (my mom!)
Plans after high school: Attend Florida Southern College with a major in Communications; play college tennis

Name: Payton Bumgarner
School: Gainesville High School
Sports played: Tennis (natural right hander who plays left-handed due to significant wrist injury).
Favorite Memories: Our coach telling us to put a song in our head; going to Cracker Barrel as a team; and Liv’s (Olivia Bryant) constant singing!
Stats: Four Year Varsity player; State Team Finalist 2018; District Runner-up 2017.
Achievements (Academic and/or Athletic): Top 18 of 2020 GHS high school graduates; Member of National Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society; Regional Officer for HOSA.
Favorite high school sports moment: Winning our regional match in 2018 to get into the state tournament.
Favorite quote or favorite coach saying: “Better Together” from Coach Bryant for our 2018 season; I also like “One cannot be brave who has no fear!”
Plans after high school: Attend the University of Florida

Name: Lars Hammersmark
School: Gainesville High School
Sports played: Water Polo & Swimming
Stats: Lars had 106 saves in the 2020 season.
Achievements: Lars is a USA Water Polo Academic All-American. He played in the 2018 USA water polo Junior Olympics in Riverside, CA. Lars is in the National Honor Society. He is on the A/B Honor roll in the Cambridge program. He was on the 2019 GHS boys swim team that won the district tournament. He is a captain & goalie on the 2020 boys’ water polo team.
Favorite High School Sports Moment: Lars’ favorite high school sports moment is winning the swim district championships in 2019.
Favorite Quote:  “Dos metros!” which means two meters in Spanish – Head Coach David Huelsman
Plans After High School: He will attend the University of Florida’s Civil Engineering program

Name: Rocky DiBernardo
School: Oak Hall School (Gainesville)
Sports played: Football, Basketball, & Baseball
Achievements (Academic/Athletic)
Athletic:
Varsity Baseball (8, 9, 10, 11, 12)
Varsity Basketball (8, 9, 10, 11)
Varsity Football (8, 9, 10, 11)
Gainesville Sun Baseball 2nd Team All-Area (10, 11)
North Florida Basketball Conference Player of the Week (11)
North Florida Basketball Conference Champions (11)
Oak Hall School Basketball Sharp Shooter Award (10)
North Florida Football Conference 1st Team All-Conference (10)
North Florida Football Conference 1st Team All Division (10)
Two-time North Florida Football Conference Player of the Week Nominee (10)
Gainesville Sun Football Team All-Area (10)
Sonic Player of the Game (10)
Oak Hall School Football Team MVP Award (10)
WCJB TV20 High School Football Play of the Week Nominee (10)
North Florida Football Conference Champions (9)
Oak Hall School Football 1st undefeated season in school history (9)
Academic:
Key Club Community Service (11,12)
Honor Roll (11, 12)
Academic Merit Award (11)
High Honor Roll (10)
Favorite high school sports moment: When Coach DiBernardo broke the white board at halftime in his first regular season game because he was so excited we were playing well.
Favorite quote: Coach Monte Towe: “Rocky, Heads or Tails?”
Plans after school: Will attend Wilkes University (Wilkes-Barre, PA) hoping to major in Engineering and will be playing baseball for the Colonels

Name: Zhai Smith
School: Oak Hall School (Gainesville)
Sports played: Football and Track & Field
Achievements (Academic/Athletic): Football Team Captain, 2nd team Class 2A All-State, 1st team All-Area, North FL All Star, Track All-Area & All-District,
Favorite high school sports moment: Football – 2nd round of the state playoffs; Track – State finals placed 2nd 4×100 & broke the school record
Favorite quote: “We are always going to compete with the intentions to win.” – Coach Al Rawls
Plans after school: Attending FIU we’re I’ll be running track as a sprinter

Name: Dave Mitchum
School: Santa Fe High School (Alachua)
Sports played: Baseball
Achievements (Academic and/or Athletic): District champions (2018); Gainesville Sun 2nd team All-Area (2019)
Favorite high school sports moment: Coming back from a 4-1 deficit in the last inning against Tavares in the second round of the state playoffs and moving on to the Elite 8 (sophomore season)
Favorite quote: “Your biggest enemy is the man in the mirror.”
Plans after high school: Attend Tallahassee Community College for baseball and academics

Name: Hallie Bryant
School: Trenton High School
Sports played: Softball & Basketball
Achievements: Gainesville sun small school player of the year (2018), Miracle Sports Class 1A offensive player of the year (2018), Miracle Sports 1A offensive player of the year (2019)
Favorite high school sports moment: Beating Sneads for the state championship in 2019
Favorite quote: “Don’t miss the bus.” – Head Coach Todd Bryant
Plans after high school: attend USF (University of South Florida) on a softball scholarship where I will study something health related

Name: Emily Barras
School: Trenton High School
Sports played: Softball and Basketball
Achievements (Academic and/or Athletic): 1st Team All State (softball) Player of the week (softball) Scholar Athlete of the week (basketball)
Favorite high school sports moment: Dance Battle against Bell during districts
Favorite quote: When Coach Todd sings the Ballad of Curtis Lowe
Plans after high school: Attending Mercer University undecided to play

Name: Zoey Maksimov
School: Trenton High School
Sports Played: Softball
Achievements: 2019 Class 1A state champion (softball), 2019 Gainesville small school 2nd team all area, Miracle Sports Class 1A Honorable Mention All-State
Favorite High School Sports Moment: Winning state
Favorite Quote: “Sometimes you never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory.” – Dr. Seuss
Plans after high school:  I plan on attending Santa Fe College to study dental hygiene.

Name: DJ Murry
School: West Port High School (Ocala)
Sports played: Basketball
Achievements:
—2018-19 Winter Academic Team
—Dual enrollment student 3.6 GPA
—College of Central Florida’s Dean’s List
—1st Team All County 2x
—MVP- 11th grade
—Offensive POY- 12th grade
—FACA All-Star
—North FL All-Star
—4th all-time scorer in school history with 945 points; 3rd all-time with 473 points his senior season
Favorite high school sports moment: Beating University (Orange City) to make it out the 1st round of districts for the first time in my HS career
Favorite quote: “Have a Next Play Mentality.” – Coach John Bauman
Plans after school: Play college Basketball (Stetson University) & major in Law to become a Criminal Defense Attorney

Name: Weston Smith
School: Williston High School
Sports played: Baseball
Achievements (Academic and/or Athletic): 2019 state champion; 4-year varsity player & 2-year starter
Favorite high school sports moment: Winning the 2019 state title in Ft. Myers
Coach Jim Smith (Weston’s dad): “Weston has a good knowledge of the game. He is unselfish, a great teammate, and a hard worker.”
Plans after high school: He looks to continue his academic and athletic career in college and has baseball workouts scheduled with some colleges in the region.