On Wednesday, student-athletes all across the Plano area put pen to paper and realized a lifelong dream of playing college athletics.
That morning, those standouts were a litany of family and friends to celebrate that achievement during each high school’s National Signing Day ceremony.
Plano ISD conducted its festivities in the morning, with nearly 20 student-athletes across the three senior high schools recognized for an accolade that requires years of hard work.
“It’s amazing. Getting this offer and being wanted by a school to compete for them was a huge step for me,” said Emma Nolte, Plano Senior senior. “I didn’t realize how much I meant as an athlete to a school like that to where they felt I could make a difference.
“I wanted to do everything in my power to make that difference and get better, so the fact that someone wanted to have me there to continue to develop is a huge accomplishment.”
Nolte was one of six student-athletes recognized during Plano’s signing ceremony, inking a letter of intent to continue her track and field career at Samford. Nolte won a district title in the discus throw last season and expects to continue competing in that event in college, as well as the shot put, but anticipated having to learn the hammer throw and javelin throw, among other field competitions.
Beforehand, Nolte has been busy carving out a valued role on the Lady Wildcats’ soccer team. On Wednesday, she was joined by teammate and senior Caitlyn Hernandez, who signed with Austin College. Hernandez’s commitment was all too gratifying, with the defender diagnosed with Compartment syndrome during her freshman year.
A muscular condition in which excessive pressure builds up in Hernandez’s shins, head coach Heather Morse said the senior has had eight surgeries over the years, which has kept her sidelined for her senior campaign thus far. Hernandez is hopeful that she’ll be able to make her 2020 season debut at some juncture.
“It’d be crazy. I just miss it like crazy,” Hernandez said of the prospect of getting to play this season. “Just getting back to playing and everything — the whole process of it — it’s all I’ve known. … [Committing to college] has been one of my goals since I was a kid. I’m really appreciative that I’ve been get to this point and I’m just really excited.”
While the Lady Wildcats enjoyed a strong turnout on Wednesday, that elation was shared by a trio of Plano baseball signees with seniors Cole Foster (Auburn), Sam Marvin (Dallas Christian College) and Braden Anderson (Southwestern) all solidifying their futures on the diamond.
“It’s a great thing. Me and Cole have grown really close over the past year and it’s great to sign with him, plus me and Sam have gotten closer as the year has gone on,” Anderson said.
Meanwhile, senior Christian Sabatini secured the next chapter of his football career after finalizing a pledge to play for Louisiana. The Wildcats’ star tight end is hopeful to one day parlay his talents into a professional career and was plenty thankful for the development that has guided him to the college gridiron.
“It feels great to have people that have supported you and I’ve been really lucky to have so many good coaches over the years,” Sabatini said.
East, West sport big-time signing turnouts
Just a few miles east and west of the Wildcats’ campus, Plano East and Plano West enjoyed their own Signing Day festivities. The Panthers sported a gaudy nine signees across five sports, including multiple athletes headed to play football, softball and soccer, as well as run track in college.
Senior K’Von Hamilton, the defensive anchor for East’s football team, announced his commitment to Pittsburg less than 24 hours before Wednesday’s ceremony, and was joined by senior Carter Waid, who will continue his football career at Texas A&M Commerce.
On the softball diamond, senior Carson Armijo, who has been committed to UCLA since starring at East as a freshman, finalized her pledge to play for the Lady Bruins. Alongside her Wednesday morning was senior Jordon Manworren, whose softball career will continue on at Case Western Reserve.
East’s boys soccer team, entrenched in a bounce-back season, had two of its senior cornerstones ink letters of intent with seniors Samuel Camacho (Hardin Simmons) and Dario Martinez-Tamez (University of Texas at Dallas) both signing.
Seniors Grant Wilcox and Hudson Yarborough, meanwhile, will carry a pair of successful distance-running careers over to the college ranks after respectively committing to Oklahoma State and Dallas Baptist. The Panthers’ baseball team was also recognized on Wednesday, with senior Shawn Thomas signing with Eastfield.
West’s signing class ran four deep, with standouts from the Wolves’ baseball, softball and girls soccer teams celebrated. On the baseball diamond, senior Garrett Boone is headed to play Oklahoma Christian, while seniors Micayla Clark and Faith Counter will continue their softball careers at Maryville and Indiana Tech, respectively.
On the soccer pitch, Lady Wolves senior Noora Elibiary signed with Austin College.
PCA, JPII recognize star-studded signees
Prestonwood Christian seniors Riley Wilson, Dayton Toney and Graham Hill all went down to the wire with their respective signing decisions and were all too elated at the outcome during Wednesday afternoon’s ceremony.
All three will head well out of state for the next chapter of their respective football careers, with Hill — one of the breakout members of the Prestonwood defense — signing on to play for Georgetown, while Wilson and Toney continue their longtime bond in Hawaii.
“Dayton is my best friend. Ever since my sophomore year, we’ve clicked,” Wilson said. “It’s such a blessing to have someone to work with like that. We’ve been chasing our dreams ever since then and had talked about playing together, and now that it’s a reality, it’s pretty crazy to think about.”
The two had already made inroads toward Hawaii over the years, with Rainbow Warriors head coach Todd Graham — a former high school head coach at Allen — well entrenched in the Prestonwood program with his son, Michael, currently a junior at Prestonwood. That connection helped Graham land the Lions’ dynamic one-two punch at wide receiver.
“It means everything. The days you don’t want to work out are the most important ones where you really have to step up,” Toney said. “Just knowing how much everyone has done for me, it would be heart-breaking for me to not try and do the same for them and put on for the city, my friends and my family and represent Prestonwoood. They’ve invested so much in us and we want to go represent them well.”
Meanwhile, six student-athletes were recognized at John Paul II, including two from the school’s state runner-up football team. Senior Donavon Johnson, fresh off an all-state campaign at tight end, will continue his career in Kansas at Garden City Community College, while senior Kevin Harris, an all-district defensive lineman for the Cardinals, will head to Southwestern Baptist.
On the baseball diamond, senior Carson Collins is Big 12 bound after inking a latter of intent with Kansas while teammate and senior JD Herrod will play for Southern. On the soccer pitch, senior Kevin Patton will remain close to home after signing with Dallas, while senior Nathan Dominick — one of the linchpins of John Paul’s top-ranked boys basketball team — is headed out west to California-based Claremont Mudd Scripps.