FRANCONIA >> Last season, when Souderton Area High School held its annual student-athlete signing day, the school was pleasantly surprised to be able to showcase 21 students that had used sports as a vehicle to further their education in college.
This year, that number nearly doubled, as the Indians gathered on Thursday to celebrate 37 student-athletes signing their letters of intent to play at the next level.
All levels of athletics were represented at the event, from Division I to Division III, which is part of the reason the numbers have increased recently.
“It was always D1 and D2 students that we honored here, but my first year as athletic director was last year and I opened it up to D3,” said Souderton athletic director Dennis Stanton. “Being a former D3 person myself and understanding their commitment to sport as well, I wanted to make sure we got them up there too, and that’s when the numbers jumped to 21 in 2016. Then, this year, we’ve had just a great year in our athletics and that’s why you see such a huge number up there with 37 kids continuing to play in college.”
Student-athletes went around sharing the schools they picked and the reasons they decided to attend those institutions. The answers varied from athlete to athlete and ranged from prospective majors to the feel of the campus, but Syracuse lacrosse commit Jakob Phaup only had one thing on his mind when he chose the Orange — winning.
“I loved everything about Syracuse but I really chose them for their winning history,” said Phaup. “Those 11 national championships they have really was the main reason. Every year they’re competing and in the tournament and I want to be a part of that.”
The day marked a significant milestone in most of these student-athletes’ lives. For a large number of them, this has been a dream for a long time and while they may have made their decision earlier in the year, Thursday was a chance to step back and realize what they accomplished up to this point.
“Since I was a kid its always been a dream of mine to play at the highest level and this is the next step towards that goal,” said Slippery Rock football commit Koby Khan. “It feels awesome to have this opportunity. It’s very humbling, but at the same time I’m excited to finally get on campus and join the team.”
The event also served as a sigh of relief for some. The recruiting process is a long strenuous task that can weigh on kids and takes a lot of hard work and decision making to come to a final commitment.
Some enjoy being courted by schools and hearing what they have to offer, but others just wanted to put it behind them.
“This whole time of deciding has been very stressful so it feels good to make it official today and be done with the whole recruiting process,” said Emory track and field commit Moira O’Malley, who was also considering Virginia and PSU. “I wanted the smaller school feel that comes with Emory and I’m glad to be finally committed and done with it all.”
The large number of student-athletes committing to play in college is a reason to celebrate for their friends and family, but also for the school.
Not only has the athletic program done a wonderful job opening doors for the kids they honored on Thursday, but they’ve started an upward trend they hope to continue down the road.
“All these kids have done an outstanding job both in the classroom and out on the fields as well,” said Stanton. “These kids now have a chance to do something not many kids have the opportunity to do and that’s play at the next level and they all earned it. They represent our school with class, character, and integrity and I think the kids behind them see that and take notice.”