It was the first day student-athletes could officially confirm their college choices. Letters of intent can be signed until Wednesday, Nov. 21.
Four Kimball High students signed their papers Wednesday afternoon. Kimball athletic director Steve Thornton said it’s the first group of Jaguar athletes to commit to NCAA programs, and he expects others to commit when the signing period for football and other sports opens in February.
Three players on West High’s softball team signed their letters Wednesday night, after an emotional tribute to the coaches, teammates and parents who kept them motivated through their years on youth and travel teams.
• United States Military Academy, West Point, N.Y.
• Patriot League, NCAA Division I
Michaela Loomis has always had her eye on West Point. Her father, Col. Tom Loomis, is a 1982 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy.
“I’ve been to West Point a couple times before this, and I’ve always loved it,” she said. “Ever since I was little, I’ve said that I want to go to college at West Point. It’s kind of surreal that it’s actually happening.”
Her swimming ability got the attention of West Point’s coaches. She placed second in the Sac-Joaquin Section’s 2012 championship meet, missing first place by three-tenths of a second, and she is also an academic standout at Kimball, carrying a 4.3 GPA.
Her athletic and academic achievements allowed her to forgo the usual Congressional nomination needed to get an appointment at the military academy, but she still had to show leadership experience and submit a personal statement outlining her qualifications.
U.S. Military Academy cadets do not pay tuition, but they make a commitment to serve as officers on active duty in the U.S. Army for at least five years after graduation.
Loomis hasn’t decided on a major, but she hopes to pursue studies in the medical field and also minor in engineering.
• Texas Southern University, Houston
• Southwestern Athletic Conference, NCAA Division I
Anisha Richardson’s path to a college softball scholarship started when she was 4 years old and her father, Lamont Richardson, became her first coach.
She has played with All-American Sports Academy teams and the Runnin’ Rebels. Her four years at Kimball High include a starting role as a sophomore on the Jaguars’ first varsity softball team in 2011.
She said Kimball coach Joe Hernandez helped her expand her abilities.
“I have always been a first baseman, and he had me play third base,” she said. “After playing third base in high school, I started playing that in travel ball, and that’s been my position ever since.”
Richardson connected with the Texas Southern coaches during a tournament in Tennessee in 2010 and has been in touch with them since. She expects to continue playing infield, and she will study pre-law.
“When I went to visit the school in spring of my junior year, I fell in love with it,” she said. “The girls are really nice on the team, and the coaches are personable.”
• University of Virginia, Charlottesville
• Atlantic Coast Conference, NCAA Division I
Ariana Hawkins had already made a verbal commitment to the University of Virginia Cavaliers during her junior year.
She has been a standout infielder at Kimball, earning Valley Oak League most valuable player honors in 2012, and with the Grapettes and All-American Sports Academy travel teams.
During her sophomore year, she saw that the Virginia scouts were regulars at all of her games. Her new softball opportunity also puts her at one of the nation’s top academic institutions.
“I looked it up and got interested,” she said. “This school is actually pretty amazing.”
Hawkins will study biology with the goal of becoming a medical examiner after graduation. She plans to continue playing shortstop with the Cavaliers and also expects to be a team leader, as she has been for the Jaguars since Kimball established a varsity program in 2011.
“It’s been a great experience, being a part of something that’s growing,” Hawkins said.
• University of Alaska, Anchorage
• Great Northwest Athletic Conference, NCAA Division II
DeVante Baisa knew his experience with the Kimball Jaguars and club teams, including the Tracy Outlaws, Bay Area Blue Devils and West Valley Basketball Club, would lead him to a college team.
He had checked out colleges in the California State University system, and then he met the University of Alaska Seawolves assistant Coach Cameron Turner at a tournament in Los Angeles this past summer.
“He saw the skill set that I had and was really impressed,” Baisa said Wednesday. “He gave me a call later that day, and from there things progressed, and I’m here today signing.”
His athletic scholarship also allows him to study computer programming at Anchorage.
“This school is really nice, and they offered a lot for me,” Baisa said.
The Jaguar basketball team took a break during practice to attend Wednesday’s signing ceremony, which Baisa said is just one example of the encouragement he gets from his team.
“It’s good when you’re going to college to have support from all of your teammates,” he said.
• California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
• Big West Conference, NCAA Division I
Folks at West High’s National Letter of Intent signing party on Wednesday traced Ashley Tornio’s success on the diamond back to her days as a 6-year-old with the Tracy Express under-8 Lady Bugs.
She was playing travel ball by age 8 and counts the Delta Breeze, Grapettes and All-American Sports Academy among the teams where she perfected her game.
Her growth as a player took hold when she joined the West team as a freshman, starting at shortstop.
“It was definitely challenging,” she said. “Being one of two freshmen on varsity it was hard. You had to earn your spot.”
Her determination paid off in her pursuit of her college softball team. Cal Poly was always her top choice. She looks forward to living on the Central Coast and saw Cal Poly as the best place to pursue biomedical engineering studies.
“This is the school that I’ve always wanted to go to,” Tornio said. “I’ve emailed other schools, but this is the one that I did not give up on.”
• East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C.
• Conference USA, NCAA Division I
Ciara Ervin grew up on the softball diamond, starting at age 4 with the Tracy Express. She built her skills with club teams, including the 10U Mystique, plus the Grapettes and All-American Sports Academy, where her father, Robert Ervin, coaches softball.
She said the East Carolina coaches have tracked her through her travel and high school seasons, including her freshman year at West, when she was a starting outfielder.
“The time they actually contacted me, I found the immediate connection,” Ervin said. “As soon as I visited the campus, it was love at first sight. They’re exactly everything I wanted them to be. They’re outgoing and fun, but then they really play hard and have dedication to the game.”
She expects to continue playing outfield when she joins the Pirates, and her scholarship will give her the opportunity to study health and fitness.
• Portland State University, Portland
• Pacific Coast Softball Conference, NCAA Division I
Celina Carrisosa grew up watching her mother and cousins play softball before she joined a Tracy Express 8-and-under team.
“I fell in love with the game the first time I stepped on the field,” she said.
She adds that her mother, Cathy Carrisosa, held her to a tough standard as a travel ball coach, which drove “Nugget,” as her coaches and teammates know her, to work harder for a starting spot on the 2010 Wolf Pack team as a sophomore infielder.
About a year ago, she was invited to a Portland State Vikings softball camp, where she was one of 100 players looking for a place on the team.
“One night, I was on the phone with the assistant coach, and we were just having a normal conversation, and she said ‘We have a spot for you on our 2013 roster,’” Carrisosa said. “It was a shock, definitely, but it was well worth the wait.”
Her scholarship also allows her to major in criminal justice and minor in nursing.
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.