From McCook to Ole Miss, local athletes are moving on
National Signing Day brings together high school senior student-athletes who are achieving the same dream: to continue playing their favorite sport at the collegiate level.
The first Wednesday of February is reserved for signing ceremonies on campuses around the country. Locally, it began at Granite Bay just after sunrise, and it continued just after lunch at Oakmont and just after the final bell at Roseville.
“These people have done what it takes to be the best of the best,” Granite Bay Athletic Director Tim Healy proudly announced to a career center full of parents, siblings, Grizzlies coaches and friends, adding that the 14 seated seniors boasted a combined grade-point average of 4.0.
These young men and women chose their colleges for a variety of reasons. Some want to stay in California, while others are ready to get out of Dodge.
Roseville soccer star Paige Crouch had the University of Arizona in her sights as a sophomore, gave a verbal commitment as a junior and stuck to her word through a handful of other scholarship offers. The Wildcats didn’t buckle when Crouch’s knee did last spring, which only drew her in more.
“They said they wanted me 100 percent,” said Crouch, who’s 100 percent healthy after tearing an ACL last spring. “That’s one of the reasons I love them. They helped me through the recovery.”
Karlie Garcia, a two-time All-American in cross country at Oakmont, didn’t answer some phone calls from college suitors based on far-away area codes, but something made her answer when Mississippi called. She then “fell in love” with the Southern accent on the other end of the line.
“I was meant to be there,” she said.
Soccer player Tommy Thompson is graduating from Granite Bay a year early and joining brother Tanner at Indiana University, which won its eighth NCAA championship in December. Dad Greg led the Hoosiers to their first NCAA title in 1982, scoring both goals in a 2-1 win over Duke in eight overtimes.
William Jessup’s strong religious beliefs played a major role in Nicole Pasdera’s decision to sign. She’s playing her senior year of soccer at Oakmont.
And McCook Community College in Nebraska has a good nursing program that will allow Roseville softball player Stephanie Johnson to earn her associates degree in two years.
And still for others, Granite Bay football hero Beau Hershberger and champion golfer Paige Lee among them — and maybe all of them, to a degree — signing eliminates the stress of being recruited and having to decide.
Said Hershberger, who will play football at the University of Nevada-Reno, “For a while, you never know where you’re going to end up.”
Here is a capsule look at all 20 student-athletes who signed Wednesday:
Karlie Garcia, cross country, Ole Miss
Garcia burst onto the cross country scene in her freshman year, and she battled through an illness in her sophomore year to become a two-time All-American.
Last fall, Garcia sustained a stress fracture in a foot and spent several weeks in a boot. She ran in just three races during the season, but one was the Foot Locker West Regional Junior/Senior 5K on Dec. 1 at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut. Garcia won by 14 seconds.
“She’s easily the most accomplished female we’ve had come through,” cross country and track and field coach Ryan Nugent said. “The second I saw her run for the first time, I knew we would arrive at this moment.”
Garcia said she was offered scholarships by Santa Clara, Saint Mary’s and Loyola Marymount, but no one says “y’all” on those campuses, and she experienced everyday common courtesy at Ole Miss.
“I didn’t open a door for myself at all,” Garcia said of her visit.
Nicole Pasdera, soccer, William Jessup
Pasdera, an outside midfielder, said she chose Jessup because of its “strong religious beliefs, and I really like the (soccer) program.”
Oakmont coach Sondra Myles believes Pasdera, an All-Capital Valley Conference selection in 2011 and honorable mention last spring, will be an asset to Jessup’s team.
“She had a goal set that she was going to play college soccer,” Myles said of Pasdera.
Paige Crouch, soccer, Arizona
As a freshman in 2010, Crouch was the team MVP in helping the Tigers win the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship. The forward totaled 40 goals and 31 assists over the next two seasons and was headed for more until tearing an ACL.
Now back to 100 percent, Crouch won’t play soccer this season. She’s on the track team and said she’ll run the 100, 200 “and hopefully a relay.”
Crouch said she “wanted to get out of California” and had at least a half-dozen offers from all over the country, but Arizona stood out.
“I fell in love with it the day I went there,” she said.
Stephanie Johnson, softball, McCook (Neb.) Community College
The Tigers are 57-23-2 in Johnson’s three years at the varsity level. The second baseman hit .305 with just three strikeouts in 67 plate appearances last season.
Johnson decided on McCook over West Liberty University in West Virginia.
“They have a very good nursing program where I can get my associates in two years,” she said.
Chanisse Hendrix, soccer, Colorado College
Pointed in Hendrix’s direction, Colorado College saw the center forward play in a tournament and liked what it saw. Her 3.78 grade-point average helped, too.
A former team captain at Roseville, Hendrix also considered Cal Poly San Luis Obispo before settling on Colorado Springs.
“Hopefully, I’ll roll right in and play (as a freshman),” she said.
Lauren Stafford, soccer, Montana State Billings
Stafford, a skilled defensive player and an All-SFL choice last spring, also plays for Placer United and said Ron Benjamin, Placer United’s director of coaching for girls, “has a million and one connections.”
One must be Montana State Billings. Stafford stayed in a dorm during her official visit and said the university has “all the majors I’m pursuing.”
Brett Bautista, baseball, San Jose State
The outfielder received offers from USF, Fresno State and Cal Poly SLO, but the environment, the beautiful campus and new head coach Dave Nakama wooed Bautista.
“Just the way he coaches his players,” Bautista said of Nakama, an infield guru and former assistant coach at Stanford. “He’s here to win.”
Trent Brendel, track and field, Cal
Brendel assembled an impressive senior season on the cross country team, winning the Del Oro and Stanford invites, the Sac-Joaquin Subsection meet for the second year and the section title for the first time before finishing 10th in the Division II race at the state meet.
A 4.45 GPA student, Brendel has his eyes on academics, though Cal’s “phenomenal” facilities endeared him to Berkeley, too.
“Cal is extremely prestigious, and I’m an academic guy, and I want to get a job,” Brendel said, adding he was set on the University of Portland for a while until visiting Cal two weeks ago. “It was an amazing experience.”
Hannah Calton, swimming, Loyola Marymount
A cousin of Granite Bay football player J.R. Calton, Hannah wanted to stay in California and be close to the beach. She visited UC Santa Barbara and the University of San Diego, but Loyola Marymount was her favorite.
“I felt so welcome,” said Calton, who plans to major in communications and swim the 100 and 200 butterfly and probably the 200 freestyle.
Lauren Fitzgerald, swimming, Rice
Fitzgerald visited some impressive schools: James Madison, Virginia and USD, but she’s heading to Texas.
“It’s somewhere where I’ll be able to get better,” she said.
Chloe Forlini and Lily Forlini, tennis, Air Force Academy
The twins became the first duo to win four Sac-Joaquin Section doubles championships, and they’re sticking together in college.
After their freshman year at the Air Force Academy, they’re required to choose between parachuting and flying gliders. The vote was 2-0 for parachuting.
Beau Hershberger, football, Nevada-Reno
Nevada wants Hershberger to gain weight, and the workout machine has bulked up to 235 pounds since helping Granite Bay win its first CIF Division I state championship in December.
Hershberger is being marked as a Wolf backer, a combo linebacker/defensive end similar to what he played with the Grizzlies.
Lauren Kinloch, track and field, UC Davis
Kinloch’s brother, James, is a discus and hammer thrower at Sacramento State. Their dad, Stephen, threw for the Hornets, and mom Jennifer attended Sacramento State.
And there was Lauren Kinloch on Wednesday, wearing a sweatshirt reading “UC Davis,” for which she plans to throw the discus, hammer and javelin.
Lauren and James plan to have fun when the Aggies and Hornets meet in the Causeway Classic meet. They’ll have T-shirts printed that say, “I hate my sister; she goes to UC Davis,” and “I hate my brother; he goes to Sac State.”
It’s all in fun, of course.
“He’s really proud of me,” Lauren said of her brother.
Aaron Knapp, baseball, Cal
As much as the sights, sounds and reputation of Berkeley can entice students to Cal, the university had something — rather, someone — going for it UC Santa Barbara and Oregon State couldn’t match with their offers to Knapp: older brother Andrew Knapp.
“If he wasn’t there, I don’t know if I’d be there,” said Aaron Knapp, the Sierra Foothill League MVP last spring. “I haven’t played on the same team with him since I was 9.”
Knapp recently had surgery to repair his right labrum and won’t play for the Grizzlies this spring, though he said he hopes to be able to hit at some point.
Paige Lee, golf, UC Davis
The three-time Sierra Foothill League MVP and three-time state tournament qualifier fulfilled her desire to stay on the West Coast. She considered UC Irvine and Oregon, but UC Davis’ team chemistry won out.
“They’re easygoing,” she said of the players. They work well together.”
Brigid Lummis, soccer, Sonoma State
The center midfielder considered Azusa Pacific and Chico State, but she attended two camps at Sonoma State, met all the players and was sold.
It didn’t hurt that her dad works an hour away.
Katrina Reeves, lacrosse, San Diego State
Reeves, who has a 4.1 GPA, gave a verbal commitment as a junior to San Diego State over Stanford.
“It’s close to the beach,” she said. “The girls on the team made me feel like I belonged there.”
Tommy Thompson, soccer, Indiana
Having trouble with your high school student, parents? Show them Tommy Thompson.
The junior is graduating a year early to join brother Tanner at Indiana, a freshman who helped the Hoosiers celebrate the university’s eighth NCAA championship in December. Brother Tyler is playing on scholarship at Stanford. In addition to playing for Indiana’s first NCAA title winner in 1982, dad Greg also played for the United States in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Tommy had an academic plan for high school and saw it through. He took Spanish I and Geometry in the eighth grade, took two online electives and described Granite Bay’s block system as “great.”
Tommy is doing all of this with a goal in mind: He wants to play professional soccer.
“Indiana is going to take me to that level,” he said. “It’s just something I feel I have to do.”
Contact Bill Poindexter at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at BillP_RsvPT.
NATIONAL SIGNING DAY
Signing ceremonies were held throughout school hours Wednesday — at Granite Bay in the morning, Oakmont just after lunch and Roseville as school ended — and 20 student-athletes were honored for signing national letters of intent. Here’s a list:
- Brett Bautista, baseball, San Jose State
- Trent Brendel, track and field, Cal
- Hannah Calton, swimming, Loyola Marymount
- Lauren Fitzgerald, swimming, Rice
- Chloe Forlini, tennis, Air Force Academy
- Lily Forlini, tennis, Air Force Academy
- Beau Hershberger, football, Nevada-Reno
- Lauren Kinloch, track and field, UC Davis
- Aaron Knapp, baseball, Cal
- Paige Lee, golf, UC Davis
- Brigid Lummis, soccer, Sonoma State
- Katrina Reeves, lacrosse, San Diego State
- Tanner Thompson, soccer, Indiana
- Tommy Thompson, soccer, Indiana
- Nicole Pasdera, soccer, William Jessup
- Karlie Garcia, cross country, Ole Miss
- Paige Crouch, soccer, Arizona
- Stephanie Johnson, softball, McCook (Neb.) Community College
- Chanisse Hendrix, soccer, Colorado College
- Lauren Stafford, soccer, Montana State Billings