Brandon Schultz, Ridgewood
Two years ago, Schultz moved to the area from Minnesota. He was more of a sprinter then.
Former Ridgewood coach Sue Vien wanted to change that. She put a hurdle in front of Schultz and asked him to clear it. He did. His technique was impressive enough that Vien turned him into a hurdler.
It was a good move. Schultz has turned into one of the top hurdlers in the state. He already has set school records at 110 and 300 meters. Last season, he finished second in the 110 hurdles at the Class 2A state meet.
He has continued to dominate both events this season. Schultz, a senior, won the 110 (14.78 seconds) and 300 hurdles (40.01 seconds) at East Lake's Early Bird Track Invitational.
"When I first moved down here it was tough," Schultz said. "The competition was better and the practices were a lot harder. But it definitely helped me become better."
Schultz gave up playing football because his coaches in both sports thought he had a better chance of becoming a hurdler in college. He has been accepted to Bethune Cookman, but he does not have any scholarship offers yet.
"I want to run in college and hopefully my opportunity will come," Schultz said. "This year I want to keep improving and try to win both events at states."
Jackie Laihinen, Carrollwood Day
Laihinen had to make a big change two years ago when she moved with her family from Wisconsin to Tampa. A basketball player up north, Laihinen enrolled at Carrollwood Day and played on the basketball team. The Patriots struggled through a 5-14 season.
Then she was in for a second big change in as many years. Karim Nohra took over as head coach after a successful run at Academy at the Lakes. Five new freshmen enrolled and all five would form the varsity team's starting lineup.
Laihinen not only had to get used to a new coach, but a whole new team.
"It was different at first but I got used to it," Laihinen said. "It's actually been a lot of fun.''
The Patriots are 26-2 and play Tuesday night in the Class 3A state semifinals. Laihinen came up big against Orlando Christian Prep with nine points in a 51-43 win in the region final. She is one of several players for the Patriots who can score, but is not normally the team's top scorer.
That's fine with her. She remembers how it was last season and she's looking forward to being part of Carrollwood Day's first state tournament.
"We're all very excited," she said. "We can't wait to get there."
Games at 7 p.m. tonight.
Region boys basketball semifinals
8A: Bartow at Sickles
8A: Tampa Bay Tech at St. Pete
7A: Hillsborough at Mitchell
7A: Largo at Port Charlotte
6A: Nature Coast at Central
6A: Cape Coral Mariner at Lakewood
5A: Tampa Catholic at Community School of Naples
Region boys basketball finals
4A: Orlando First Academy at Seffner Christian
2A: North Florida Educational at Bayshore Christian