The event coincided with National Signing Day — the first day a high school senior can sign a binding contract with an NCAA program.
As it has in the past three years, Etowah led the county with 15 athletes making their commitments official. With four players from both the girls soccer and softball teams, the Eagles had nearly twice as many representatives as any other school.
Principal Keith Ball was proud of his students’ achievements.
“(I attribute it) to the kids’ commitment since they were little playing the sports, and our coaching staff and athletic program as a whole,” he said. “They really stick with it.”
Perhaps most notable were the number of female athletes who signed — 10 out of the school’s 15 athletes.
“I think we will always have more female athletes sign than male,” Ball said. “Between cross country and track, soccer, softball — and now lacrosse taking off — I think that is going to be the trend.”
Caroline Waters (Georgia) headlined the group of soccer players, which also included Jaclyn Miller (Massachusetts). Kaitlyn Hughes (Kennesaw State) was one of the four softball players, while swimmer Hannah Martin made her commitment to LSU.
Maveric Rechsteiner (Brewton-Parker) was the only wrestler from the county making his commitment, while Tanner Shelton (Georgia Tech) and Bryan White (UNC Greensboro) made baseball commitments.
Creekview recognized eight athletes — six coming from the baseball team, and coach Mike Nayman expects two more of his players to sign letters of intent before the end of the season.
Nayman expects the Grizzlies’ baseball program to continue producing high-quality players.
“We have an outside chance of getting all eight seniors the opportunity to play at the next level,” he said. “As a coach, you always want the team to do well and then you want your guys to individually achieve their dreams and these guys are doing that.”
This year’s commitments include three players going to Division I programs — Ryan Zentko (Georgia Tech), Ben Carraway (Virginia) and Steven Whitaker (Coastal Carolina).
Also signing from Creekview were baseball players Chase Puckett (Reinhardt), Ryan Stevens (LaGrange) and C.J. Sims (Shorter); softball player Madison Luck (Reinhardt); and cross country runner Sidney Bosley (Concordia University).
River Ridge will be sending seven members of its first graduating class to the next level, including basketball players Parker Nayman (Flagler) and Jordan Livesay (North Georgia).
Coach Jason Taylor said the day was bittersweet as he was both happy to see them rewarded for their skill, but sad to know they are leaving his program.
“I’m really excited for them and everything they have done for our program through the years,” said Taylor, who coached Livesay for four years and Nayman for three after she transferred from Creekview. “It’s really bittersweet to seem them go.”
In addition to three Cherokee football players, the Warriors’ other athletic teams will be sending five players to college. Eli Dickens (Reinhardt), Mason Ward (Georgia College and State), and Alex Murfin (LaGrange) signed to play baseball, while Naomi Catt (Alderson-Broaddus) and Anna Rowe (Georgia Perimeter) will play softball.
A pair of Woodstock basketball players — Clara Young (Samford) and Brianna Lakes (Charleston Southern) will be taking their game to the Division I level.
Young, the Lady Wolverines’ all-time leading scorer, and Lakes, who holds four team records and is expected to surpass both 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds before the end of the season, testifies to the strength of the program.
Lakes said the choice was hard for her, but she is excited.
“I’m going to work hard to make myself the best player I can be,” she said.
Woodstock’s Makensie Block, a three-sport star in cross country, basketball and track and field, will compete in cross country and track at Troy, while baseball player Troy Kizer is going to Young Harris.
Sequoyah had six athletes — including four softball players — sign letters of intent.
Olivia Black (UAB), Courtney Gibbs (Valdosta State), Elizabeth Prance (Georgia Highlands) and Jessica Ricks (Georgia Highlands) all signed to play softball. Maggie Hartman signed to play basketball at Harvard.
Meanwhile, Kostya Benton traveled the furthest to make his commitment. A four-year member of the Chiefs’ soccer team, Benton is originally from Russia.
“It’s really exciting,” said Benton, who is looking forward to his senior season. “I came from Russia to here, so it’s a pretty big opportunity for me. It was my biggest goal.”
Benton said he chose Point University, an NAIA program in West Point, because of its size.
“It will be easy for me to get used to and transition better,” Benton said.