The stories of the 13 Arroyo Grande High School student athletes who signed their National Letters of Intent at the school Thursday are as diverse as the sports they play.
There is the tall and slender Claire Newlander, who decided not to play on the Eagles’ girls volleyball team her senior year, opted instead to play beach volleyball full-time outside of the school and signed with Long Beach State. There is Michael and Matthew Bautista, a talented pair of twins who had a number of college options but decided to combine soccer and service by signing with the Air Force Academy. And Cameron Hirahara, a baseball player with a 4.0 GPA who scored a 1,520 on his SAT who will play next season at Vanguard and pursue a degree in biology. They, along with three softball players, a pair of track and field athletes, two water polo stars and a basketball standout, all took the next step toward their college futures in a packed Arroyo Grande High School gym.
Most of the athletes who spoke with The Tribune on Thursday described the recruiting journey as long and difficult, but no one had to do more than the Bautistas. They began the application process in August and didn’t finish until late January. Over that time, they had to submit transcripts, secure an endorsement from now former California Rep. Lois Capps and interview with eight military officials — on top of soccer evaluations.
During that time the All-County Boys Soccer First-Team members considered other scholarship offers from Cal Poly, Santa Clara, Chico State and San Jose State.
Then one recent night, after speaking with their parents separately, they made their choices without knowing which school the other had chosen. As is the case with many twins, the two were on the same page.
“It was a really hard choice because a lot of the other schools we were looking at were so different than the Air Force,” Michael Bautista said.
Both Michael and Matthew said the fact Air Force Academy students don’t pay tuition while also receiving money for attending were big factors.
“Plus, after you graduate you have a guaranteed job,” Michael Bautista said, referring to the five years of required service in the Air Force for all graduates.
He said he plans to study computer science at the campus located just north of Colorado Springs and pursue an MBA, which the Air Force also pays for, while Matthew Bautista plans to study behavioral science.
During fall and early summer, Arroyo Grande middle distance runner Christian Ricketts mulled over his college options, which included the University of Portland and Tulsa University. In the end, the promise of competing at a solid program and a scholarship offer lead him to Southern Utah University in Cedar City.
“It is going to be different running up there. The altitude is 6,000 feet,” Ricketts said.
Ricketts credits much of his success in high school and his chance to run in college to his father and coach, Sean Ricketts
“It will we different not running for my dad next season, but I am definitely excited for the next step,” Ricketts said.
Three more Arroyo Grande softball players signed Thursday. Brianna Sa, Lauryn Schaffer and Logan Nunes signed with schools, joining senior Julie Lewis, who signed with Iowa State last year. Sa and Schaffer will attend Santa Barbara Community College together, and Nunes will attend Oregon Tech.
“I went first (to visit Santa Barbara) and came back and said it would be super cool if we could both go,” Schaffer said about paring up with Sa.
Nunes said she wanted to play softball in a neighboring state and after sending her highlights to Oregon Tech, she took a visit.
“I felt at home right when I got there,” Nunes said.
All three agreed it will be hard to leave.
“All of the seniors get along, too, so you have this elite level of talent with a good group of girls,” Nunes said.
“It will be hard to leave because our chemistry is so good this year,” Schaffer said. “We are all really close with each other.”
New digs for Newlander
Newlander took an unconventional road to her school of choice, Long Beach State.
After playing three years of varsity indoor volleyball, the senior didn’t play her senior year.
“Indoor wasn’t my thing anymore,” Newlander said. “My indoor coach said to get on the beach and fine tune my defensive skills. And I ended up liking beach volleyball more, so I decided to stick with it.”
Newlander said she felt more stressed out playing indoor and grew tired of injuries and was drawn to the growing sport. Newlander, who originally committed to TCU before the coach departed, will join Paso Robles beach volleyball player Tegan Curren, who signed with Long Beach State in February.
Cross Country/Track & Field
Talley Hill, Kansas
Hill considered Arizona State and Oklahoma before deciding on Kansas. The middle distance runner said she took in a basketball game at the legendary Allen Fieldhouse and “fell in love with the school right away.”
Isabella Solis and Taylor York, San Diego State
Solis, the 2016-17 Tribune Girls Water Polo Player of the Year, will have a friend and teammate in York when the two enroll at San Diego State, a team currently ranked No. 11 in the nation.
Brynn Thoming, Chico State
A volleyball standout and 2016-17 Tribune Girls Basketball Player of the Year, Thoming chose Chico State following a stellar senior season on the court.