National Signing Day: Futures determined for senior athletes

National Signing Day is a momentous occasion for many high school students across the country. Each year, a multitude of Westminster athletes take the next step in their athletic careers and make the decision to sign with a collegiate sports program.

Signing day is the occasion, usually the first Wednesday in February, in which the athletes sign a binding letter of intent to play a sport at a college or university. This year, 17 Westminster athletes committed to schools all across the country for a variety of sports, ranging from football to wrestling to crew.

The ceremony itself began with an extension of sincere congratulations to the athletes and their families from Principal Ross Peters, standing in for Rusty Hudson, our athletic director. Next up was Coach David Drake, who had the pleasure of announcing each athlete, their sport, and the school that they would be attending.

Chip Capper and Merritt Huber have committed to play baseball at Georgia Perimeter College and Wofford respectively. Capper, who suffered a partially torn UCL, has made a remarkable comeback to play in college.

The only Westminster basketball player to sign was Robert Howell, who will attend Emory at Oxford next fall. He will be the fifth generation of Howell to attend Emory University, which was one of the reasons for his decision to attend and play.

Two Westminster seniors will row in college. Morgan Bean will be on the crew team at Harvard University while Leigh Shanor will row in the newly formed lightweight crew program at Boston University.

Gaffney Taylor, a specialist on the springboard, will dive at the University of Tennessee next fall. Taylor has had notable achievements in the realm of diving: she is the 2011 one meter dive national champion in her age range, two time All American diver, and has broken 11 Westminster dive, school, pool, and state records.

Two of our seniors committed to play football in college. Harrison Butker, ranked as number three in the nation on ESPN’s list of high school kickers, will kick for Georgia Tech. Also playing football is Tripp Riddle, who will play on the offensive line for Rhodes College.

Tripp H’Doubler and Jackson Heazel will play golf at the University of Missouri and Baylor University respectively. H’Doubler is one of the captains of the golf team and has won the individual state title in his freshman and sophomore years. Heazel was another of the captains of the Westminster team, and has been named to the all-state golf team the past two years.

Soccer players Marshall Glover and Tanner Kaplan have signed to play in college as well. Glover will play at Stanford University where his athletic and academic dreams collide in perfect harmony, while Kaplan will play center back on the Wofford soccer team.

“I have a lot of different emotions towards committing,” said Kaplan. “I am definitely nervous and anxious but I am mostly excited to be a part of the soccer program at Wofford.”

Two Westminster swimmers made the nerve-racking decision to swim in college, and both are heading out West. Jamie Christy, who committed officially in November, will swim at the University of Southern California while Nicole Stafford will join the Stanford swim team.

“After going through the school ceremony,” said Christy, “I realized signing to play your sport in college is actually exciting and a very big deal. It [the signing ceremony] made the commitment feel official instead of abstract.”

Sam Allen and Sahara Fletcher will be participating in track & field at Rhodes College and Ohio State University respectively. Fletcher has excelled in both cross-country, where she has won state three times, and track & field, where she is looking for another state victory in the current season.

Last but certainly not least, Justin Geeza has committed to attend Wabash College to wrestle. While Geeza was also recruited for football, his concussions have restricted that path for him.

The National Signing Day ritual is a formality for some and an open door for others, but aspiring college golfer and junior Patrick Bridges sums it up best.

“Although just a ceremony,” said Bridges, “Signing day gives athletes across the country an official beginning to their college athletic careers.”

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