Future Game Changers

Call it Where Are They Now: The Prequel, in which SI travels 10 years into the future and looks back at how the stars of tomorrow got their start today. Dizzying, to be sure, but so is the potential of the eight teenagers-to-watch profiled on these pages. Read on, and someday soon you will be able to say that you knew them when.
July 09, 2012

Sarah Hendrickson

17 | Ski Jumping | Park City, Utah

ACHIEVEMENTS: In 2011, the inaugural season of women's World Cup ski jumping, 5'3", 95-pound Sarah Hendrickson made a big mark. She won the World Cup opener last December in Lillehammer and then the overall season title with nine wins in 13 events. The top-ranked ski jumper in the world and the youngest skier ever named to the U.S. ski team in a Nordic sport (at age 14 in '09), Sarah is a senior at the Winter Sports School in Park City.

FIRST STEPS: Sarah was just two years old the first time she put on skis, so tiny that she was barely able to lift her skis and boots off the snow. "She has a confidence that comes out of not even remembering learning how to ski," says her dad, Bill.

EVOKES: 2002 and '06 Olympian Clint Jones. "They have the same gifts," says Alan Alborn, head coach of the No. 1--ranked U.S. women's ski jumping team. "They're just natural athletes and have the same mental toughness."

COACH'S COMMENT: Alborn has worked full-time with Sarah for the past year but first coached her when she was 12. "[Sarah] was quiet in person, but when you saw her in action, it was pretty impressive," he says. "She stood out of the crowd with her level of talent and awareness."

WHAT'S NEXT: Women's ski jumping will debut at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia, and Sarah will be one to watch.

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Jeremy Martinez

17 | Catcher | Fountain Valley, Calif.

ACHIEVEMENTS: In March, Jeremy helped the Mater Dei Monarchs to USA Baseball's inaugural High School Invitational title, batting .538 in four games; for the 2012 season he hit .388 with 18 RBIs. Named the No. 1 player in the class of 2013 by ESPN, he was a member of last year's USA 18U National Team, which won a gold medal at the Pan-Am Games.

FIRST STEPS: Growing up, Jeremy played for the O.C. Juice, a travel team managed by his father, Joey. "I told him that natural ability would take you to one level, but that work ethic would take you to another," says Joey. "He's really taken that to heart."

EVOKES: Pudge Rodriguez, behind the plate, and Albert Pujols, with his batting stance. Mater Dei head coach Burt Call also sees another comparison. "Yadier Molina is an elite defensive catcher with a plus bat, and Jeremy has all the tools to develop into a similar player."

COACH'S COMMENT: "His baseball instincts are off the charts," says Call. "When he's catching, he can anticipate plays before they happen. At the plate he's very disciplined, and it seems like the tougher the pitcher, the more success he has."

WHAT'S NEXT: Jeremy is competing for a spot on the 18U National Team for the world championships in South Korea in August. He verbally committed to USC at the end of his freshman year but is expected to be taken in the early rounds of the 2013 MLB draft.

Arielle Gold

16 | Snowboarding | Steamboat Springs, Colo.

ACHIEVEMENTS: Arielle won silver in the halfpipe and slopestyle events at the inaugural Winter Youth Olympics in Austria in January and followed that with gold in the halfpipe at the junior world championships in Spain in March.

FIRST STEPS: She first hit the slopes on skis at age three but soon wanted a bigger challenge. "It wasn't good enough just to get down the mountain, she always wanted to find the jumps," says her dad, Ken.

EVOKES: Olympic halfpipe winner and four-time X Games superpipe champion Kelly Clark. "They're very similar in their competitive mind-set," says Ashley Berger, who has coached Arielle for seven years. "Their style is different—Arielle has a very smooth and powerful style—but I feel like she is the new generation of what Kelly has been to the sport because she's very competitive and she's very focused."

COACH'S COMMENT: Arielle's speciality is a frontside 900 mute, a triple rotation while grabbing on to the front edge of the board with her lead hand—a very challenging hold. "I can count on one hand the number of women who can do a frontside 900, period," Berger says. "To do it with a grab like that is pretty singular."

WHAT'S NEXT: This fall and winter Arielle will enter several Olympic qualifying events on the FIS World Cup circuit to put herself in contention for the 2014 Games. And there's always a new trick to master. "That's what keeps me coming back, doing things that scare me," Arielle says. "I guess I'm a bit of an adrenaline junkie."

Travis Wittlake Jr.

12 | Wrestling | Coos Bay, Ore.

ACHIEVEMENTS: A seventh-grader at Millicoma Middle School this fall, Travis, known as Junior, won back-to-back national titles in all three styles of wrestling (folkstyle, freestyle and Greco-Roman) in 2010 and '11 to become only the sixth wrestler to win two straight triple crowns. He won the 2012 titles in freestyle and Greco-Roman. He has a 343--1 career record over the past three years with the club team coached by his father, Travis Wittlake Sr.

FIRST STEPS: Junior began his wrestling on the living room rug with his dad, and he began competing when he was four. It quickly became a serious pursuit. "At tournaments there are kids running around playing behind the bleachers, and he was never one of those kids," his mom, Christie, says. "He would watch other kids wrestle and try to learn from them."

EVOKES: Cael Sanderson, an Olympic gold medalist and the only undefeated four-time champion in NCAA history. "Like Cael, Junior wrestles really well on his feet with his takedowns, and he shoots a lot of ankle picks and duck unders," says Wittlake Sr.

COACH'S COMMENT: "There was a kid from Portland he never could beat," says his father. "He lost to him six or so times over the course of four years, and he finally just set a goal to defeat him and, eventually, he did. That took a lot of focus and commitment for a little guy."

WHAT'S NEXT: He'll compete on USA Wrestling's Tour of America folkstyle circuit this fall.

Jabrill Peppers

16 | Football | Midland Park, N.J.

ACHIEVEMENTS: The top player at his position and No. 3 overall in the class of 2014, according to 24/7 Sports, Jabrill was named the Air Force national sophomore of the year in '11 after being national freshman of the year in '10. He led perennial powerhouse Don Bosco Prep to the No. 1 final national ranking and a second straight state title this past season as a running back and corner, before transferring in February to nearby Paramus (N.J.) Catholic.

FIRST STEPS: Jabrill grew up in East Orange, N.J., watching his cousins play football in the park. He once scored a game-winning touchdown in Pop Warner while wearing only one shoe—high-stepping out of a defender's grasp and his own cleat. "He never looked back, he just kept running," says his mother, Ivory Bryant.

EVOKES: Brian Dawkins, the former NFL All-Pro safety. "Jabrill plays with such passion and energy, and he's all over the field," says Paramus Catholic coach Chris Partridge.

COACH'S COMMENT: "He's a natural leader, a great athlete, and he's meshed very well with our team," says Partridge. "But as talented as he is, he's even more dynamic off the field. He's a principal's list student, he has a tremendous work ethic and he's got a good heart."

WHAT'S NEXT This fall Jabrill will move to strong safety for the Paladins, who are coming off a 6--5 season and their first state playoff win since 2006, though they lost to Don Bosco in the second round. They'll face Jabrill's former team again on Oct. 12.

Taylor Townsend

16 | TENNIS | Stockbridge, Ga.

ACHIEVEMENTS: The No. 1--ranked junior, she won the girls' singles and doubles titles at the 2012 Australian Open to become the first American to sweep those at a Grand Slam event in 20 years.

FIRST STEPS: As a toddler, Taylor tagged along to her older sister Symone's lessons and became, in her mom Shelia's words, "a club rat" by age five. Taylor now lives and trains at the USTA Training Center in Boca Raton, Fla., where she will be a junior in the fall.

EVOKES: She is often hailed as the next Venus or Serena Williams, but her aggressive style of play at the net more closely mirrors that of her idol, Martina Navratilova, who also wore glasses, played lefthanded and wasn't afraid to charge the net. "She can keep [opponents] off-balance because they don't know what she's going to do," Shelia says.

COACH'S COMMENT: "Taylor is athletic and works hard, but her greatest quality is her attitude. She has a champion's mentality," says her coach, Kathy Rinaldi, a former world No. 7.

WHAT'S NEXT: Taylor is playing in the juniors at Wimbledon. Then it's on to two tournaments on the pro circuit, the hardcourt nationals in San Diego in August and the U.S. Open in September.

Jahlil Okafor

16 | Basketball | Chicago

ACHIEVEMENTS: Ranked by Rivals.com as the top big man and overall No. 3 player in the class of 2014, the 6' 10" sophomore averaged 21.9 points and 12.3 rebounds for Chicago's Whitney Young High, leading the Dolphins to the Illinois Class 4A Sectional semifinals. Jahlil scored 14.6 points and grabbed 9.2 boards at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship last summer, helping the U.S. to a gold medal.

FIRST STEPS: A distant cousin of NBA center Emeka Okafor, Jahlil was playing with a basketball before he turned one, and the first of his three AAU national titles came in third grade.

EVOKES: Shaquille O'Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon. "Jahlil is capable of dominating a game [like Shaq]," says Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter, "but he's closer to Olajuwon in his skill set. He'll be able to beat college and pro players because of his incredible technique."

COACH'S COMMENT: "He's so hungry to get better," says Slaughter. "Last summer he was playing on the junior USA team in Mexico, and the night he got back to Chicago he called me up to make sure he could get in the gym the next afternoon."

WHAT'S NEXT: Although he has received recruiting letters from every major school, Jahlil is in no rush to make a decision. "I just want to focus on getting better and having fun," he says. This week, he is playing on USA Basketball's U17 team at the world championships in Lithuania.

Jane Campbell

17 | Soccer Goalie | Kennesaw, Ga.

ACHIEVEMENTS: Jane had five straight shutouts and even scored an assist as the U.S. Under-17 Women's National Team won the CONCACAF title in Guatemala City. The victory earned the team a berth in the 2012 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in September, a championship the U.S. has never won.

FIRST STEPS: The only girl in her town's Little League, Jane was a multisport athlete and began playing soccer as a toddler. She tried the keeper position when she was 10 and quickly excelled, earning a call-up to the invitation-only 14-and-under Top-100 camp. The daughter of former Navy fighter pilots, Mike and Crystal, Jane thrives on high-intensity situations. "I like the pressure that comes with the position," she says.

EVOKES: "She has the potential to be the next Hope Solo," says her U-17 coach, Albertin Montoya. "I don't think there is anyone who comes close to Hope's explosiveness, quickness and decision-making in the women's game right now, and Jane has very similar qualities."

COACH'S COMMENT: "I rate her as probably the best goalkeeper in the world in this age group," says Montoya. "She's got a combination of everything that's needed to be world class: she's got the size [5'9½"], but then she's got the quickness and light feet."

WHAT'S NEXT: A senior this year at the Darlington School in Rome, Ga., Jane verbally committed to Stanford. But first she'll attend three weeks of training camp this summer in an effort to win the starting keeper spot at the Under-17 World Cup in Azerbaijan this fall.

For video, photos and additional athletes' stories, go to si.com/highschool

PHOTOPhotograph by CHRIS JAMESON PHOTOPhotograph by PETER READ MILLER PHOTOPhotograph by LUCAS J. GILMAN PHOTOPhotograph by ROBBIE MCCLARAN PHOTOPhotograph by MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTOPhotograph by SIMON BRUTY PHOTOPhotograph by AL TIELEMANS PHOTOPhotograph by TODD BIGELOW

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