Family, friends, teammates, administrators and coaches … support showed up en masse during Thursday’s second round of college signings throughout Lorain County.
One of the most emotional signings of the day came when Clearview’s Heather Younkin signed her letter of intent to play volleyball at Kent State University.
The Clippers senior signed her paper and gave her father, Jesse, a hug, he broke down in a wave of emotion and she did the same a short time later.
“I’m just lucky to have them here,” Younkin said of her parents, who each survived a medical crisis during her early teenage years. “Without them taking me everywhere, supporting me, paying for everything … I really wouldn’t be where I was without them.”
Also signing with colleges Thursday were Elyria’s Armando Torres (Eastern Michigan, wrestling), Isaiah Walton (UC Davis, basketball) and Alexis Middlebrooks (Cleveland State, volleyball), and Keystone’s Tyler Gullett (Toledo, baseball), Carleigh Herrington (Eastern Michigan, softball), Emily Cornish (Cedarville, softball) and Nicole Neri (Concord, softball).
“The girls are like family, everybody knows everybody at this school,” Younkin said shortly before huddling together with the Clippers volleyball players for a picture. “So without the team, I probably wouldn’t have gotten where I’ve gotten. We’re all looking out for each other.”
All the players took pictures with their high school coaches, parents and teammates, and all talked about the end of their recruitment processes.
“I’ve got that all behind me now,” said Torres, who was the Division I state runner-up at 113 pounds. “(Now there’s) no pressure at all. I can go in and wrestle and not have to worry about colleges looking at me. I’m just going to go out there and just win every match for me.
“I just want to skip to March and be in the (state) finals again. That’s what I’m looking forward to … that state championship, and not going through what I went through last year.”
Walton averaged 17.9 points per game last season, and finished with 139 rebounds, 81 assists, 44 steals and six blocked shots. He definitely won the award for farthest campus out of Thursday’s signees.
“I don’t think the distance is too much … college is college. I think it’s going to help me grow up,” Walton said. “(My family and friends have) already talked about coming to see me play. We have this main stream thing where they can watch our home games. I think we might come back to the East Coast soon.”
Middlebrooks set the school record for most blocks in a season and career, grabbing all-county, all-district and all-state awards along the way. She will be graduating early and enrolling at CSU on Jan. 11.
“It’s nice because I’m going to get right back into volleyball,” she said.
Middlebrooks also stars on the Pioneers girls basketball team, but she will forego her senior season because of her early college enrollment.
“It was tough deciding not to play this year — it’s going to be hard watching them — but in the end I think it’s going to be worth it for me and my college career,” she said. “I’m the first volleyball player they have at CSU that’s going to go in early. I think it’s an advantage for me over the other freshmen that’ll be going in next year.”
The Wildcats softball players captured a Division II state championship during their sophomore seasons, and were all dominant players on last year’s team.
Cornish was a 15-game winner on the mound, Neri batted .360 and drove in 29 runs, and Herrington batted .446, drove in 62 runs and scored 44 times.
Herrington said she was excited about her college career, but she was going to enjoy her last season of high school softball.
“I don’t even like thinking about it, obviously, I’m going to be so upset,” she said. “Come Senior Day I’m going to be crying like a baby. I’ve been blessed with this program at Keystone High School and the program I’m going to at Eastern Michigan, so I couldn’t be happier.”
Gullett went 7-0 with a 0.81 ERA and 51 strikeouts on the mound for the Wildcats last season. He also batted .494 with 14 home runs, 64 RBIs and 24 stolen bases.
He didn’t take the recruitment process lightly.
“It was definitely a lot of pressure because you’re going to be there for the next four years of your life,” he said. “It was a lot of fun though, going to those different colleges and visiting, getting to hear the offers … but it was a lot of pressure.”