Area prep athletes sign to continue sports, education in college
In a rare feat, the entire senior class for the Fruita Monument High School baseball team signed national letters of intent to play in college on Wednesday, joining three of their classmates for signing day festivities.
Two Wildcats signed with Hastings College in Nebraska, and both Gavin Brown and Ryan Biggs said they’re happy to know at least one future teammate.
Biggs said signing with his fellow seniors made the moment special.
“It’s super cool having all three of us here together,” Biggs said. “We’ve played together for a really long time. Gavin, he’s my best friend and we’ve been playing together since we were 4 years old. To be able to continue that is great.”
Brown echoed Biggs’ sentiment, adding the coaching staff and campus of the private liberal arts school were factors in signing.
“I went out and visited and I really liked the town,” Brown said. “The coaches were all super nice and I was able to talk to some of the players and they were all cool and everybody spoke highly of it, so I was drawn to it.”
Cade Oxford signed to play with a new program at Northeast Nebraska Community College and said he gelled with head coach Marcus Clapp, formerly the pitching coach at the University of Nebraska-Kearney. “Coach Clapp is a really good pitching coach and he’s starting a new program out there,” Oxford said. “I’m excited to be a part of that.”
Two seniors signed to play softball at two-year schools.
Taylor Laing signed with Midland College (Texas) and her teammate, Kelli DeCrow, signed with Bethany College (Kansas).
Laing said she wanted to study nursing at Midland and that she developed chemistry with the team.
“The coaches, coach (Tommy) Ramos and coach (Amanda) Evans, they were awesome,” Laing said. “I loved the atmosphere, the small town and community, and the girls were all great.”
DeCrow said she wants to study law, a track that Bethany provided, and said a focus on athletics was a tipping point. “The coach is amazing,” DeCrow said. “I went and viewed like a million schools, but what really got me is that Bethany is 98 percent athletes. It’s all based on us.”
Hannah Thornburg, who said she didn’t pick up golf in earnest until her freshman year of high school, will hit the collegiate links for Pacific University in Oregon.
“I have a lot of family out there and they also have a very good physical therapy program,” Thornburg said. “That was what drew me out there to begin with. Their golf program is pretty stellar, so it was a good all-around choice.”
Birgit Morris joined her older sister, Marta, at cycling powerhouse Marian University in Indiana.
The younger Morris said the quality of the program, and that it offered her field of study, drew her to the Knights.
“I couldn’t think of anything else that I would want to do with my cycling career,” she said. “Especially with all the opportunities that will be presented to me with all the different disciplines Marian offers such as mountain, road and track racing that I hope to participate in.
“I kinda just picked it by myself as it presented a cycling opportunity as well as having my intended major, nursing.”
Aly Shuman signed with Lewis University, a small Catholic university outside of Chicago to play golf, and study finance and international business. Shuman said academics were a focus when selecting a school, adding that she noticed the golf program’s success.
“They have an awesome finance program with a lot of ties in Chicago, so I feel like I can kinda create a name for myself out there,” Shuman said. “Their coach is a really smart guy who knows what’s up and their teams are strong right now. Their men’s team is tied for third in their super regional and their women’s team is trying to win their super regional.”
From the Tigers to the Tigers, Taegan Stewart signed with Doane University (Nebraska), an NAIA school, to play volleyball.
Stewart said she connected with coach Gwen Egbert and her staff.
“I really loved the coach,” Stewart said. “I talked to her a few times on the phone and finally got to talk to her in person two days ago. I was just a great experience. I got to practice with the team and I felt like I developed connections right away and it was just a blast.”
Cole Spears also signed a letter of intent and he’ll join another local player at Northeast Nebraska Community College, which starts a baseball program next year.
Spears said the opportunity of playing for a new program interested him and knowing another guy on the team makes college less of a challenge.
“Trying to be the first to make a name for the school, mostly,” Spears said. “And a coach who seems really caring and nice.”