Tigers plan to take their games to the next level
Five Grand Junction High School student-athletes will be heading to the next level to play college sports.
Four signed letters of intent this week and the fifth will sign Monday when her parents arrive from Texas.
Softball players Morgan Zanski and Elisha Jahnke, and volleyball player Aleah Quast signed Thursday at a high school ceremony surrounded by family, friends, classmates and teammates. Baseball player Owen Taylor signed Wednesday and volleyball player Courtney Gopinath will sign Monday.
Zanski and Jahnke had successful senior seasons on the diamond, helping the Tigers to the Southwestern League title and a trip to the state tournament.
“We had nine seniors on the team, and we made it to state, so that was really special,” Zanski said.
“It was good to experience that with my friends that I’ve been playing with since I was 10 years old,” she said.
She will pitch for Salt Lake Community College next season.
Jahnke was one of the most dominant pitches on the Western Slope and was the Southwestern League player of the year this season. She was 11-4 with a 2.66 ERA and also was a major contributor at the plate, hitting .405 with 22 RBI.
Zanski, who hit .338 and was named to the All-SWL second team as a catcher, will be going to Adams State University.
Competing at the next level is exciting for Jahnke.
“I’m looking forward to harder competition and basically you go to school and play softball,” she said.
She said she’s leaning toward pursuing studies in the health science field.
Family was a big influence for Zanski attending Adams State.
“Both my parents and my grandparents went there,” said Zanski, who intends to study special education with the goal of becoming a teacher.
She said earning a scholarship was a culmination of lots of hard work.
“I have spent so much time on the little things, hitting and fielding, the reward really pays off,” she said.
The Grand Junction volleyball team also had a successful year and Quast and Gopinath were two big reasons why.
Both were voted to the All-Southwestern League second team this week.
Quast, who led the Tigers in digs, will attend the Milwaukee School of Engineering, a Division III school, in the fall.
“I’m incredibly excited,” she said. “It’s always been my goal and a dream of mine (to play college volleyball). It’s just a great opportunity to continue playing a sport that I love,” she said.
After visiting the school and coaches, she said she “fell in love with the school.”
“I’m looking forward to more competition and still staying with a family environment with the team,” she added.
Gopinath moved to Grand Junction from San Antonio, Texas, and had a good year, helping lead the Tigers to the regional round of the playoffs.
She will sign to attend and play volleyball for Colorado State University-Pueblo.
She said she always wanted to go to school in Colorado and her grandparents live in Grand Junction.
Earning a volleyball scholarship was what she’s been working toward.
“I’m super excited because I’ve been playing for so long and I’m excited to continue that in college,” she said. “Ever since I was little I’ve wanted to play college sports.”
She originally planned to graduate and leave school at the end of the fall semester but she said that she’s enjoying her senior year so much that she’s staying through the spring. She plans to run track in the spring.
Right now, she’s undecided on a college major. “I have a lot of time to find out,” she said
Taylor had verbally committed in June to play Division I baseball at the University of Kansas. He made it official on Wednesday by signing a letter of intent.
The hard-hitting shortstop will have another season with the Tigers. Last spring, he hit .483 with four home runs and 31 RBI.
Taylor, whose grandfather was Gene Taylor, said in June that baseball has shaped much of his life.
“Baseball has always been big in my family,” he said in a Daily Sentinel article in June. “It’s the love of my life.”