Like all great baseball pitchers, Jaylon has nerves of steel. His ability to stay cool has helped him with a challenge much tougher than striking out a batter: fighting cancer. In December 2008, Jaylon was diagnosed with leukemia. After years of treatment, he was declared cancer-free in March 2012, but the disease soon returned. Even though Jaylon is fighting cancer again, he has remained calm and focused ? the same approach he uses on the mound. In July 2012, about two weeks after the cancer came back, he helped his team win the District 19 championship. With the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth inning, Jaylon got his opponent to strike out swinging. "All I was thinking was to get the batter out and move on to the next round," he says. Jaylon is now in the home stretch of his treatment, and baseball continues to be a big part of his life.
He threw out the first pitch at the 2013 Little League World Series international championship game and won the 2013 Little League Good Sport of the Year award.
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Julian Newman, 12
Though he's only 12 years old and 4?10?, Julian plays high school basketball for Downey Christian School. And he's not just part of the varsity team, he's a star. "He's the best shooter and ballhandler on our team," says his father, Jamie, who also coaches the squad. It might sound impossible to play against opponents who are several years older and much taller, but that's all Julian has ever known. Since he started playing basketball at age three, he's been competing against older players. His dad says that Julian once scored 91 points in a middle school game, even though he was only in elementary school at the time. Even against high schoolers, Julian has excelled. Last season, he averaged 12.5 points and 11.5 assists per game. Julian makes it seem like no big deal that he's schooling older kids. "Just go by them and look for an open man," he says. Julian's future goals are to play college basketball for University of Kentucky coach John Calipari and then go on to the NBA. He'll probably always be an undersized guard going against bigger competition, but that shouldn't matter. With his skills, work ethic, and love for the game, Julian will continue to stand tall.
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Winter Vinecki, 14
For the past five years, Winter has been bringing global awareness to prostate cancer, a disease that her dad died from when Winter was nine years old. Through her nonprofit organization, Team Winter, the two-time IronKids triathlon national champion has helped raise close to $500,000 and is on a quest to become the youngest person to complete a marathon (26.2 miles) on every continent. Winter already has six under her belt. She is also the youngest person to finish a marathon in Antarctica, and she set a women's course record at the Andes Adventures Inca Trail Marathon to Machu Picchu in South America.
When Winter is not pounding the pavement, she's flying high as an aerial skier. She trains at Utah's Olympic Park and qualified for the 2013 Junior World Championships as a member of the Fly Elite aerial skiing team. A scheduling conflict kept Winter from participating, but that doesn't change her goal: landing a spot on the 2018 Winter Olympic team. "I have a lot of goals and I don't want to put them off until I'm older," she says. "I'm doing what I love and doing my best to keep the memory of my dad alive."
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Gabriel Taylor, 12
As the captain of his school's football team, Gabriel has a knack for reaching the end zone. The Gulliver Academy sixth-grader accounted for 70 percent of the team's offense as a running back, scoring 13 touchdowns and amassing 900 yards in leading the squad to a 6--0 record this year. He was named team MVP. Gabriel also plays safety, where he had 60 tackles and broke up 10 passes. Playing the position has special significance for Gabriel. His brother is the late Sean Taylor, a safety for the Washington Redskins from 2004 to '07. Gabriel wears Sean's Gulliver Academy jersey number (1) and says he honors his big brother by "staying focused and giving my all on the field." That mentality helped Gabriel lead the Florida City Razorbacks to a Pop Warner title in 2012. In basketball, Gabriel averaged 15 points and 14 assists a game in 2012-13 for his AAU team. "He understands that assists are just as important as scoring points," says Alex Garcia, his AAU coach. "He is one of the most coachable kids I have ever been around."
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Semira Killebrew, 12
Semira Killebrew has always been ahead of schedule. She was reading and doing math as a toddler and is taking high school--level math even though she's only in seventh grade. So it makes sense that when she runs, she is the fastest on the track. Semira has set the record for the 55-meter race at the AAU Northern Indoor National Track and Field Championships in three straight years (2010 to '12), in a different division each time. She also won the 200-and 400-meters at those three events. At the 2013 USA National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships in July, she won the 100-meter race. "She's not letting anybody outwork her," says Michael Vinson, the head coach of the Indiana Storm Track Club, which Semira belongs to. Semira's goals include competing in the Olympics and becoming a doctor. She's well on her way to both, and given her track record, she'll accomplish those goals in record time.
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