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Next stop college for area prep athletes

Pac-10 schools are popular with local seniors on National Signing Day
By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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Wednesday began at high school campuses around the country with an annual attraction for early February: National Signing Day.

At Granite Bay, there were five student-athletes seated at a table in the career center, signing national letters of intent as school administrators, coaches and parents applauded and took pictures with cell-phone cameras.

At Oakmont, it was Jazmin Harper signing to run track and field while earning a coveted Stanford degree.

At Jesuit in Carmichael, it was Roseville resident Alex Dow signing with Seattle University to further his education and golf career.

“This is a great day for us. We get to celebrate 17 years worth of effort and work on everyone’s behalf,” Granite Bay athletic director Tim Healy said. “This is a day for you (the athletes). It’s a great tribute to your parents and yourself that you have made it this far.”

Granite Bay’s Nate Esposito (Oregon State, baseball), Connor Hallisey (Cal, soccer), Kendall Modiste (San Diego State, soccer), Chelsea Putman (Point Loma, soccer) and Katie Zingheim (Stanford, track and field) received full scholarships. Elliott Adams (Cal Poly, diving) received a partial scholarship.

Esposito, son of Granite Bay baseball coach Pat Esposito, is a catcher who hit .376 and earned an All-Sierra Foothill League honor last season. He also had four interceptions for the Grizzlies during football season, including a 74-yard return against Roseville in the regular-season finale that helped lock up an SFL co-championship with Del Oro.

Esposito is the latest in a recent string of Sacramento-area baseball players choosing Oregon State.

“I love it,” he said of Corvallis. “It’s a small town, but I love it.”

Hallisey and Modiste shared the SFL MVP award last fall for an unbeaten Granite Bay team that won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title and earned a national ranking.

“We’ve been working our whole lives,” Modiste said. “It’s exciting to be able to go to the next level.”

Hallisey traveled to Israel in December to play with the United States under-18 team. He said he took to Berkeley during his unofficial visit.

“I got attached and I wanted to go there right away,” he said.

Zingheim began pole vaulting about five years ago and has done it year-round. She was third in the state last spring and has a personal best of 13 feet.

“It’s incredible. It’s the best feeling,” she said of her scholarship to Stanford. “This is what I’ve been working toward for my entire high school career, so it just feels really good that the hard work has paid off and I get to continue at the collegiate level.”

Putman won’t play soccer this season, as she’s recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee. She tore the ACL in her left knee first. She plans to study nursing at Point Loma, a private, NAIA Christian school near San Diego. Putman found the campus – and the layout of the soccer field – to be “absolutely beautiful.

“You can kick a ball into the ocean,” Putman said. “It’s amazing.”

Dow was one of 10 Jesuit students to sign during a ceremony. A four-year golfer at Jesuit, he shot an all-time low round of 66 in December at Mission Hills in Palm Desert.

“I have always been impressed with the strength of his character, the drive and motivation that he uses to fulfill all commitments, and the eagerness he has to perform well,” Dow’s counselor, Jennifer Rasmussen, said in an e-mail. “He is humble about his accomplishments, optimistic about life and very appreciative of his surroundings.”

Roseville forward Amanda Ellsworth accepted a soccer scholarship from Idaho State. A two-time All-SFL selection, Ellsworth helped the Tigers win the Division II section championship last season and advance to the Division II final in 2009.

Drew Wixon, a noted water polo player at Oakmont, signed to play baseball at Covenant College in Georgia.
And, Roseville graduate Aaron Wagoner, most recently a defensive end at Sierra College, accepted a scholarship from Iowa Wesleyan.

Contact Bill Poindexter at billp@goldcountrymedia.com.