The early signing period can bring out the creative side of high school athletes looking to prolong the suspense of their college choices.
By SAM MCDOWELL and KATHLEEN GIER
The Kansas City Star
Truman senior Paige Parker opted for another route. Only a few months after her freshman softball season three years ago, Parker committed to Oklahoma.
So, long before Wednesday — the first day high school seniors were eligible to sign letters of intent — the suspense had passed.
The excitement hadn’t.
“It’s really special to me that it’s official now,” Parker said. “It’s kind of weird that this day is finally here. I definitely feel a little different now.”
A year after winning the Women’s College World Series, the Sooners are adding another good one.
Parker, a lefty power pitcher, fired seven no-hitters for the Patriots this season and compiled a 23-1 record and 0.23 earned run average.
A year ago, she led Truman to its first state championship in school history.
Parker was one of four Patriots to sign letters of intent Wednesday. The remaining three came from the basketball team, which lost only one game last season.
Abby Hix signed with Georgia Southern, Becca Jonas signed with Drake and Kayla Harrell signed with Southwest Baptist.
The three Division I signees — Parker, Hix and Jonas — have been attending school together since kindergarten at Blackburn Elementary.
St. Teresa’s Academy senior Anna Kropf woke up Wednesday expecting it to be much like any other day.
It was far from it.
In a surprise ceremony Wednesday, Kropf was honored as the Evelyn Gates Award winner, given to the top volleyball player in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
Bishop Miege’s Kali Eaken, St. James’ Arianna Person and St. Thomas Aquinas’ Brittany Thomas were the other finalists for the award.
“It felt shocking, but it was also just a blessing,” Kropf said. “Everyone was trying to trick me into thinking that I didn’t win, so I was confused the whole day.”
The award was just the beginning of a memorable day. After initially planning to wait until February to make her commitment official, Kropf signed a letter of intent Wednesday to attend Duke.
Kropf had 214 kills and 54 blocks for the Stars, who won 23 matches this season.
Lange picks LSU
Lee’s Summit West senior Alex Lange had known for a while that his senior year was likely to include two major decisions about his future.
One down, one to go.
Lange signed Wednesday to play baseball at Louisiana State next fall.
A hard-throwing right-hander, Lange threw six shutouts in nine starts for the Titans last season. He struck out more than one batter per inning.
His stuff on the mound caught the attention of professional scouts, and Lange is projected to be selected in next summer’s MLB Draft. Afterward, he will be faced with the decision about whether to attend LSU or embark on a professional career.
That decision, however, won’t come until later, Lange said.
“It’s crossed my mind, but I’m just focused on the upcoming high school season,” Lange said. “I’ve been working really hard this offseason, and I’m trying to help us go win a state championship.”
Williams sets the bar
Dustin Williams said he’s not in it for the history books. However, he’s certainly carving his place in them.
On Wednesday afternoon, Williams became the first Gardner Edgerton wrestler to sign a letter of intent to compete in Division I athletics when he signed with Nebraska.
“This feels like the world is lifted off my shoulders,” Williams said. “I can’t wait to get wrestling again and seeing what I can do this year.”
This past season, Williams finished with a perfect 36-0 record and captured his second straight Kansas Class 6A state championship, this time coming in the 160-pound weight class. His first title came in the 145-pound weight class.
William never surrendered a takedown during the run, adding to the four All-American honors he earned along the way.
“He’s a great, all-around class act,” head coach Matt Yeamans said. “He’s done the right things, he’s a kid of great character, he’s a great student and his approach in the practice room is the same approach he has in everything he does. It’s been an honor to coach him.”
In his 15 years at Gardner Edgerton, Yeamans has sent just one other wrestler to a Division I school but he wasn’t on scholarship.
St. James’ pipeline
With the success that the St. James volleyball team has had in the past six years, it’s no surprise that they’re sending three more players to the college ranks this season.
Fresh off a sixth straight state title and an undefeated season in Kansas Class 5A, Brianna Lewis, Bristol Lewis and Arianna Person are signing letters of intent today to continue their volleyball careers. Bristol Lewis is headed to Division II Northwest Missouri State next season while Brianna Lewis and Person will be attending Belmont, a Division I school.
The Thunder finished the season 46-0, atop the PrepVolleyball.com Century Club national high school rankings.