BC student-athletes take it to the next level

Writer Tom Scanlon

 
School is like a Samuel Beckett play: just when you think it’s ending, it’s only beginning. Take the Boulder Creek High School class of 2016, which is finished, finally — done!

Yet after the flurry of May with its final exams, prom and graduation, things are really just about to begin for the BC grads. Most of them will take on the challenges (and, hopefully, rewards) of higher education by enrolling in colleges and universities. And a chunk of them will be playing college athletics, competing against bigger, stronger, faster athletes.

At the end of April, the school honored 11 “spring signing” seniors who inked letters of commitment with various colleges. One of them, basketball star Nick Johnson, will go north to Prescott’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

“I chose ERAU because the basketball coach, Eric Fundalewicz, started recruiting me to play basketball there at the beginning of my junior year,” Johnson said. “I looked into the school a lot and it seemed like a great fit for me with endless opportunities.”

Though the school first became known for training pilots, Johnson will study in another one of its fast-growing programs: “I will be majoring in cyber security and would like to someday be in the CIA or Homeland Security.”

Three volleyball players committed to playing at the same school — Grady O’Neil, Liam Santa Cruz and Bryce Whitman — are off to Ohio’s Lourdes University. Teammate Andrew deLeon will play at Iowa’s Loras College.

Coach Troy Dueling said Whitman is “probably the most levelheaded kid I’ve ever coached; he’s a humble but good leader.” He called Santa Cruz “the most dominant pit attacker in the state. He’s fast, he can elevate and is really able to be dynamic on the court.” As for O’Neil, Dueling called him “absolutely lightning on the court, probably the best defender Arizona has.” And deLeon already thinks like a coach, Dueling said: “He almost knows what I’m thinking, where I want the ball to go.”

From the girls’ volleyball team, Courtney Jones signed to play at South Mountain Community College.

Going farther away is Joelie Bennett, who will join the golf team at Millersville University, outside of Philadelphia. Her college coach, Scott Vandegrift, gushes about the tall, athletic young lady with the smooth, powerful swing: “I think she’ll be a star.”

Three baseball players were recognized at the spring signing day: Easton Buckley will play at Glendale Community College, Bryan Levine at Grand View University and Troy Osterode at Mayville State University.

Levine had a strong senior season, batting .337 and going 3-2 with a 3.13 ERA. Osterode contributed on the mound with a fine 2.93 ERA.

Joe McDonald, the veteran baseball coach, praised his college-bound seniors.

“Troy is a two-year varsity player that has 15-plus appearances over the last two seasons,” he said. “He is a kid that has worked hard to get to where he is today, one of the most competitive kids between the lines in all my years.

“Bryan really has gotten the most out of his time here at Boulder Creek. He is a great kid with a passion for winning. He led our team in hitting as a junior and is having a great senior year.

“Easton is a young senior who knows what his goals and dreams are. He works hard to improve each day and will be a solid pitcher at the next level. A great student-athlete and a great kid.”

Emily Martin, a standout in the pool at BC, will continue her swimming career at Northern Arizona University.

“Emily has been a top swimmer in the state since before her freshman year,” said her high school coach, Scott Newell. “She has a natural feel for the water and will continue to improve at NAU just like she has improved all four years of high school. She has become more of a leader this last year and that should help her to succeed in swim and school the next four years.”

After the signing day ceremony, Ashley Jones committed to playing basketball at Pacific University, while Madison Rasimas signed on to play soccer at Colorado Mesa College.

The spring signers join 10 other “fall signing” seniors who made commitments earlier in the year to juggle sports and books.

Georgia Smith will compete in equestrian at Baylor University. Cory Crooks, who won a state title this spring, will continue his wrestling career at Iowa State University, California Polytechnic State University or Arizona State University. (He had planned on attending Grand Canyon University until the school dropped its wrestling program.)

Rachel Kjolberg signed on to play volleyball at California State University, Monterey Bay. Cooper Langston plans to continue his golf career at South Mountain Community College. Haley Villegas will play basketball at Embry-Riddle.

Four stars from the powerhouse softball team will be on diamonds in college: Brianna Binns, Metropolitan State University of Denver; Madison Daigneau, University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Hilary Stewart, Arizona Christian University; and Emily Zembik, University of Rhode Island. Binns and Stewart pitched the Lady Jags into the softball playoffs. Zembik and Daigneau (.505 average in the regular season) were part of a slugging lineup that batted .375 during the season.

Mitchell Allen will play baseball at San Diego State University. One word for Allen’s senior season: wow. Allen was an absolute masher this season, with 51 hits in 106 at bats for a stunning .481 average. And Allen wasn’t just getting base hits; he was crushing the ball, with 20 doubles and 6 home runs. The big first baseman has the size that major league scouts desire, so his baseball career may continue even after college.

In addition to those athletes previously named, seven from the BC football team plan to play in college: Nicholas Angieri, Colorado School of Mines; Brandon Decker, Hamline University; Tucker Hartmann, La Verne College; Gunther Johnson, University of Arizona (preferred walk-on); Blake Labno, Cornell College; Troy Reed, University of Chicago; and Travis Ward, Briar Cliff University.
Johnson was the Jaguars’ stellar quarterback for three seasons. As a senior, he put up big numbers, throwing for 2,308 yards and 19 touchdowns, clinching a standout career that included 28 TD passes as a junior. Reed was often his go-to guy, leading the team with 52 receptions for 618 yards and 6 TDs. Ward was also a weapon in the potent offense, with 27 catches and 3 TDs.

On the other side of the ball, Hartmann led the Jags with 76 tackles (48 solo), just ahead of Labno, who was in on 66 tackles (34 solo). Angieri, a defensive back, had an outstanding senior season, with 46 tackles and 5 interceptions. He was also a dangerous return man, averaging 36.2 yards on kickoff returns. Angieri was first team all-section and BC’s defensive player of the year.

Congratulations and best of luck to all of the BC student-athletes taking it to the next level.

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