The tricky part for many of them was picking the college.
Some, like Cherokee soccer player Victoria Cassidy or Sequoyah baseball player Jacob Cagle, both chose to stay close to home and signed with Reinhardt. The story was similar for Etowah baseball player, Will Campbell, who signed with Kennesaw State.
Creekview twins Austin and Avery Smith wanted a place where they could continue to be baseball teammates and found it at Georgia Highlands. Still, others like Etowah swimmers Taylor Weiss and Megan Young, who are going to Arkansas and Georgia Tech, respectively, it was the chance to perform on a national stage that was appealing.
Etowah’s John Oliver and Creekview’s Michael Shaw chose not just a school, but a career in signing to play football at the Air Force Academy.
Whatever motivated their decisions, the end result was a room full of smiles.
“My dad just kept telling me that I would find the right school, that it would just come along,” Etowah basketball player Taylor Kimber said. “He said, once I stepped on campus, I would know if it was the right school for me, and I knew the minute I stepped on the campus at the University of Alabama-Huntsville that it was the place for me. All the girls are very nice and I couldn’t ask for better girls or a better coach.”
Kimber said her parents helped her through the exhausting recruiting process.
“I couldn’t have done it without them,” she said.
Avery Smith said that he had more college options than his brother, Austin, but it was important to them to stick together.
“I really want to play with (Austin),” Avery Smith said. “I mean, we have been together our whole lives, so it wasn’t really a decision. I had options for pitching, but we wanted to play together.”
They won’t be the only Cherokee County players making the move to Georgia Highlands. Sequoyah’s Tristan Roberts and Etowah’s Jake Swan will also be joining the baseball team, while Creekview’s Tiffany Jordan will play softball.
Wingate University in North Carolina was also a popular choice. In this case, it was lacrosse players drawn to the NCAA Division II school. Etowah’s Will Sheridan and Zach Lord will be joining the team there, as will Woodstock’s Jaclyn Chiesa.
Cherokee softball player Savanna Dover and Etowah lacrosse player Matt McCarthy didn’t let the location of a program hold them back. Dover will be headed to Southern Illinois, while McCarthy is joining the team at LIU Post in Brookville, N.Y.
For athletes like River Ridge’s Jessica Mlaska and Steven Spears, choosing a college also meant choosing a sport. Both were standouts in two sports.
In the end, Mlaska chose to play basketball at Georgia Southern, giving up volleyball. Spears chose football over basketball when he picked Davidson.
Spears’ decision to go to Davidson will also result in a position change. A high school quarterback, he will now play exclusively as a defensive back.
Spears said he didn’t get his offer until a few weeks ago.
“The recruiting process was going slowly, then all of a sudden it just picked up,” Spears said. “I really found a place that I like in Davidson College. You grow up playing one position and focusing on one position, then you decide that you want to play college football and will do whatever it takes, and then you just play any position they want you to.”