The first of many
A celebration of athletics and academics were the order of the day Wednesday when Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy held signing day festivities for the first time in school history.
Four student athletes, McKinnon Martin, Nathaniel Devon, Anna Dedmon and Ellen Kirkpatrick all accepted offers to compete on the collegiate level in their respective sports.
“This is a great day for Thomas Jefferson,” said headmaster Joe Miamone. “We have always been a school that focuses on academics, but now we have students who are going to compete at the highest level of college athletics. Now, we have the best of both worlds.”
Athletic director Chris White echoes those sentiments.
“I’ve been involved with high school athletics for a long time and at a lot of different places,” he said. “This ranks right at the top of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had. To see where the athletic program has come from, I’m so proud of these young people right now.”
For their parts, the athletes say that academics and other factors, aside from athletics, played a major role in choosing which college to attend.
According to Martin, who accepted a preferred walk-on position to play football for North Carolina, academics were the top priority in choosing Chapel Hill.
“If it wasn’t for my academic background, I wouldn’t have the chance to play for North Carolina,” he said.
For Devon, who plans to suit up on the defensive line for Mars Hill College next season, many different factors led to his decision to become a Lion.
“Mars Hill is one of three schools in North Carolina that offers a major in Zoology,” he said. “That’s the main reason I decided to go there. Plus it’s close to home so my mom and my family will get to see me play. I’m a big boy and I love to eat, so I’m looking forward to the chance of being close enough to go back home and get a home cooked meal every once and a while.”
Coach Jerry Cash believes that Mars Hill’s close proximity to Rutherford County will benefit Devon.
“Nathanial is one of those kids who can get homesick,” Cash said. “I think him being so close will help him fight through some of that. If he continues to work hard and can stay focused on football, I think he will be an excellent player on the next level.”
Gryphon tennis standout Ellen Kirkpatrick committed to Covenant College in Georgia for yet another reason.
“I’m most excited about the mission trips and other similar opportunities Covenant has,” she said. “The chance to play tennis just sort of happened. I am excited to be able to keep playing, but I’m more excited about the mission trips.”
Kirkpatrick’s coach, Rita Stroud, is confident that she can make an impact on the tennis court as well as the mission field.
“Ellen is a great player and that’s why she is going to play in college,” said Stroud. “She is a leader and a passionate player. I’m very proud of her and I will miss her.”
While the other participants in signing day weighed other factors besides athletics when choosing a college, Anna Dedmon admits that it was the driving force behind her decision to become a Charlotte 49er.
“I’m going to Charlotte so I can play Division I soccer,” said Dedmon. “I’ve always wanted to play on the Division I level somewhere and Charlotte’s program felt like the right fit. I’m just so excited right now.”
No matter the motivation for choosing a college to attend, Miamone says he is proud of each of the student athletes and is hopeful that Wednesday was the first of many signing days in Avondale.
“I am so proud of these four young people because they have excelled athletically and academically,” he said. “They have shown that you can achieve success in both areas. They will be able to look back and say that they were the first of many athletes to sign from Thomas Jefferson.”