A passion for sports
Local grads sign college letters of intent
Grand Junction High School graduate Whitney Jackson and Fruita Monument High School grad Niki Hunt will continue to jump as far as they can. Grand Junction grad Deshaun Harris will continue to throw heavy objects as far as he can heave them.
And Fruita Monument grad Eiley Durham will continue to bump, set and spike a volleyball.
Each will do so in college, which they announced Thursday when they sat down at a table on the Grand Junction High School track to sign letters of intent to compete in sports that have become their passion.
Jackson and Hunt, whose best events in high school were the long jump and triple jump, will compete in track and field, Jackson at NCAA Division I University of Northern Colorado and Hunt at Division II power Western State Colorado University.
Harris, who placed third in the shot put at the Class 5A state meet in the spring, will compete in track and field at Lindenwood University in Belleville, Ill., an NAIA program.
Durham, a second-team All-Southwestern League selection as a senior, will play volleyball for Division II Edinboro University in Edinboro, Pa.
Jackson wanted to go to a Division I program, and competing in track and field at that level fulfills a dream that developed when she started to like track in the eighth grade. That was the year she started jumping. The following year she realized the sport was her passion, and she wanted to devote herself to it.
“Words can’t even describe how happy I am to be doing this,” said Jackson, who qualified for the Class 5A state meet in the long and triple jumps. “I couldn’t be happier.”
Hunt emerged during her senior season as worthy opponent for Jackson in the jumps, but the two had a friendly rivalry, the product of training together for the Grand Valley Thunderbird Winter Track Club, coached by Fruita Monument assistant track coach Sean Mulvey.
Hunt said her success from the outset of her senior season, which culminated in the Class 5A state meet in the triple jump, had her thinking maybe she could “try to go to college for this.” She said she wasn’t being recruited, “so I thought I could be a walk-on for somebody.”
Western State came calling in early May, and walk-on talk gave way to scholarship talk.
Mulvey said the best days are ahead of Jackson and Hunt.
“They both have great potential to get much better in college,” he said.
Harris, who was listed at 6-foot-3, 275 pounds during football, is thrilled to be able to keep competing in a sport he’s come to love.
“Track is what I go to bed thinking about. I wake up thinking about it,” he said. “I love track, and I’m excited to be able to keep doing it.”
Grand Junction track coach Sean Henry said Harris has “gotten better every year by leaps and bounds,” and his work ethic and competitive nature are well-suited for the collegiate training that awaits.
“I think that’s going to take him a long way,” Henry said.
Durham said Edinboro entered the picture after her high school classmate, Rebecca Arotin, told her about the university, where Arotin is headed to play soccer.
Durham visited the school in March and thought it was a good fit. So, she decided if they wanted her, she’d walk on. Edinboro wanted her, and Durham said she’ll vie for a spot as an outside hitter, her high school position, or defensive specialist.
Durham said she has played volleyball for six years and realized as a freshman she wanted to play in college, so she dedicated herself to the sport.
Fruita Monument volleyball coach Bob Richardson said that dedication stood out and helped her improve every year and become a good, all-around player.
“The thing about Eiley, she loves to play volleyball,” Richardson said. “She’s a dedicated kid, a dedicated athlete. She just focused on playing volleyball.”