Signing Off: Student-Athletes remain together through college

Colin Batliner, Staff Writer

Continuing their softball careers together at Kansas City Kansas Community College, seniors Grace Roland, Adrianna Smith and Annika Smith will extend their time as teammates that has already lasted for six years.
Although Roland did not come to Miege until her junior year, the girls had played together since they were young, starting on a team named “The Classy Cats.”
Their commitment to KCKCC together was mostly incidental, Roland and the twins were not deciding together on a college, but when the twins committed Roland said that she didn’t want to leave them behind, so she committed shortly after them.
“They actually committed first,” Roland said. “Once I heard that they were going to KCK then I was all gung-ho about going there so we can all get together. It wasn’t something we had planned on, but it’s great to continue playing with them.”
The girls were in contact with the coach at KCKCC for a while before attending a camp at the school that they said made them more enthusiastic about going there.
“I was talking to the coach and then we went to the camp, and she liked how enthusiastic and competitive we were,” Adrianna Smith said. “She invited us to a visit event and offered us and [Annika and I] committed that day.”
More than anything, the girls said finally committing was alleviating because they finally reached what they had been working for, and they could stop worrying about getting themselves in view of colleges.
“I was excited and relaxed, excited that I finally got to my goal,” Annika Smith said. “Relaxed because I wasn’t going to have that pressure anymore that maybe I wasn’t going to make it.”
Among the student-athletes who are continuing to play in college, a major piece of advice they had for underclassmen was to promote themselves to coaches anywhere and everywhere.
“Reach out to coaches a lot and don’t be shy to talk to them,” Roland said. “Be different, show your personality, reach out the most and try and stand out. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself in a game. When they come to watch, they’re not watching for how well you’re doing; they come to see how well you work as a team and your work ethic.”                                                                    First-Team All-State soccer players, seniors Mauricio Salas and Victor Lopez will be continuing their careers together at Baker University where they will be rooming together in a dorm.
“I hadn’t made any commitment, and it was close between two schools,” Salas said. “When I found out he was going to Baker, I said, ‘Alright, I’ll just go there too,’ and committed pretty soon after.”
State Forward of the Year Lopez said that committing was relieving after being in contact with so many coaches.
“It takes off a lot of stress to finally stop getting yourself out there and communicating with all these different people,” Lopez said. “I was just glad to have somewhere I could keep playing soccer at and not have to worry about where that was going to be.”
Salas said he felt more happiness than relief when making his commitment because he could continue playing not only by himself, but with Lopez, who he has been playing together since they were 10.
“All my work had paid off, and my decision was made a lot easier because Victor made his choice first, so I convinced myself to go with him and play with him,” Salas said.
Reiterating what the Smiths and Roland said, both soccer players said the most important thing that helped them become a college athlete was getting their highlights out and talking to coaches.
“Talk to coaches, they’re not going to come to talk to you,” Salas said. “Videos can also be really good too.”
The last set of teammates to continue their careers together are seniors Jaylen Burch and Collin Keeney, who will be playing football together at Morningside University in Sioux City, Iowa.
Keeney and Burch, similarly to Salas and Lopez ended up at the same college coincidentally. They wanted to go their own ways, but stayed together to lengthen their careers together that started when they were in middle school.
“Our commitment to Morningside kind of just happened as a coincidence,” Keeney said. “Since we live together we both decided to do our own things, but we ended up going to the same place anyway. It just happened, it wasn’t something that we forced. We both decided that it was our own thing, so it didn’t stop either of us from going there.”
Because they wanted to go off and do their own thing, Keeney and Burch will not be rooming with each other, but will still keep the brotherly bond they formed that started by playing football together.
“Football brought me and Jaylen really close, and even though we didn’t plan it, I’m happy to continue playing with him at Morningside,” Keeney said. “Not forcing it and us coming together naturally is going to be good for us both.”
Keeney’s advice for football players who are aspiring college-athletes is to stay committed and lift weights.
“The best thing anybody can do is to stay committed to their workouts and their team,” Keeney said. “If you lift really hard it will put you above others more than anything else you can do.”