Inside the lives of committed Westminster athletes

Next fall, the class of 2018 will leave Westminster and head their separate ways for college. While the first year of college includes many new experiences, some members of this grade will also begin competing on new teams, as they have chosen to continue their athletic careers at their respective universities. Although the majority of the current seniors are unaware of where they will be attending college next year, as most offers of admission are not released until the spring semester, a select group of elite athletes have already committed to schools they will be attending and playing at next year. They have been through a lengthy recruiting process, where the culmination of their hard work, effort, talent, and years of loving their respective sport came to fruition as they have accepted recruiting offers.

Of these recruits, senior Ella Shamburger will be headed 70 miles east next fall to play on the women’s soccer team at the University of Georgia.

“I’m looking forward to the team at Georgia,” said Shamburger. “I already know a ton of them and can’t wait to get to know them better. I am also looking forward to our new uniforms because they are awesome.”

Another one of these highly talented athletes is senior Vishan Patel, who will be attending Columbia University to play squash next year. After receiving an offer from Columbia, Patel describes how he came to love the game of squash.

“I’ve been playing for about five years,” said Patel. “I think it was kind of a love at first sight. I used to play a lot of tennis and after seven years of that I guess it was too much. I tried squash and just came to love it. Over the years, after spending countless hours on court it just felt like a time where I could be myself and have fun, so it was nice to have something I could rely on to remove stress.”

Some other athletes had different experiences with their recruiting process. Though the recruiting process can be exciting for some athletes, it can be challenging and have roadblocks for many others. Earlier this month, senior Gabi Dolan committed to play volleyball at Georgia Tech starting in the fall of next year. Dolan shared a similar experience to fellow recruits as she recognized many challenges in the process, although she felt it was ultimately worth it.

“The process honestly sucks, but it’s so worth it if your sport is something you love,” said Dolan. “For volleyball specifically, it begins around eighth grade depending on your skill level and what caliber schools you’re looking at and can go all the way until spring signing day your senior year. It’s hard when you’re going to campuses and experiencing different styles of coaching that may be new and on the other hand keeping in mind your priorities. On top of school work, practices, traveling for tournaments, and having a social life, it puts a lot of stress on your life but it is so worth it when you find the right fit. I missed out on a lot of activities throughout the years because I was playing high-level volleyball and trying to get recruited, but ultimately it paid off. The recruiting process overflows into all areas of your life trying to network with coaches through Westminster sports, faculty, club coaches, and academia.”

Senior Delaney Graham will be headed to Duke University next fall to play on the women’s soccer team. Given the caliber of play and level of high competition in girls club soccer, the recruiting process began at an early age for Graham. For many girls soccer players, the recruiting process begins as early as freshman and sophomore year, when most students are still trying out new sports in high school. This kind of pressure can be challenging, but Graham’s experience ended in triumph.

“While it was a lot of pressure having to play in front of college scouts all the time, hearing from my coach after the game that so-and-so was interested in me was a really amazing feeling,” said Graham. “Because the soccer recruiting process happens so early in girls soccer, deciding where I wanted to go to school was difficult as a sophomore. After I saw Duke, I knew it was the place for me.”

She also shared why she is looking forward to attending Duke next fall.

“I am definitely looking forward to the team I am going to get to play with at Duke,” said Graham. “They’ve always been a big happy family, and I’m so excited to finally get to be a part of it next year. And although it’s become more and more competitive and intense as I’ve gotten older, it is a constant joy in my life that I would be a completely different person without.”

Junior Alexis Anglade is currently in the process of being recruited for fencing. As a saber fencer, she ranks number one in the nation in the Under-16 division, as well as tenth in the U.S. and twenty-third in the world in the Under-20 division. She recently won the 2017 Konin Saber Cadet European Cup in Konin, Poland.

“The recruiting process and fencing in general can be strenuous, since many of the tournaments take place outside the US,” said Anglade.

Anglade spends many weekends during the school year traveling to countries such as Costa Rica, Poland, France, Hungary, Russia, and Bulgaria to compete in high-level tournaments. College coaches have come to recruit her at these tournaments as well as in team camps and other fencing events.

“Coaches look at your success in tournaments, as well as your technique, athleticism, and potential,” said Anglade.

One of the challenges in being recruited in a sport like fencing is that not every college has a collegiate fencing team. Since most colleges have football, basketball, and soccer teams, most students who are looking to play those sports in college will be presented with more options. However, schools with high-level fencing teams are more limited, narrowing potential college options.

“Not all colleges have fencing, but a lot of the colleges that do are also really great schools,” said Anglade. “Nearly all the Ivy League schools have fencing teams, and so do schools like NYU and Notre Dame.”

Anglade sees this as a pro because it gives her an advantage to gain acceptance to a competitive school such as Princeton or Harvard.

Though the process has many ups and downs, there is an overwhelming feeling of triumph when signing day rolls around in January and it is time to make their commitment official.