Students at Pitman High School are no stranger to excelling both academically and athletically, a winning trait of the Pride which resulted in a myriad of athletes committing to play their respective sports at the college level this year — five of whom signed their National Letters of Intent this past week.
Boys soccer player Xavier Barajas (University of California, Merced) and pole vaulter Jarod Moren (Pacific University) both signed with the respective colleges last week, while basketball standouts Josiah Frank (Willamette University), Gurbir Grewal (Pacific University) and Jessica Smith (Bryn Mawr College) put ink to paper on Monday.
The frequent signing ceremonies at PHS are thanks to both athletes who have a passion for competition as well as high-caliber coaches who prepare students for all of life’s challenges, Athletic Director Dave Walls said.
“The coaches who coach these kids do an incredible job of building young men and women. I really feel like the things they do outside of the court, off the mat, outside of the pool or whatever it might be, we’re very fortunate because they work really hard to try and put students in a position to be able to continue their athletic careers,” Walls said. “They believe in the kids and they help the kids to believe in themselves.”
The success at PHS translates across all sports. Earlier this year, softball players Delaney Huse-Davison (California State University, Monterey Bay), Maddy Insell (Taylor University), Gabby De Leon (Menlo College) and Kai DeLeon (San Francisco State University) signed intent letters of their own, as did soccer player Brooke Rose (Stanislaus State). Additionally, star wrestler Juan Mora committed to North Dakota State University in January.
This past school year has brought on plenty of struggles for students thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, but perseverance has been key for those with high hopes of playing sports in college. Moren, who also played quarterback this year for the Pride, said the decision to sign with Pacific University’s track and field program was fairly simple since it was his number one choice, but came with its fair share of stress after last season was cancelled.
Signing his letter of intent last week was the culmination of plenty of hard work and determination, he said. He’ll study kinesiology and sports medicine in college in hopes to one day be an athletic trainer like Pitman’s Markus Turner.
“It was just a really surreal moment for me,” Moren said. “It felt like an end to a hectic last year and a half and was just that final step.”
For Walls, each sports season this year has brought its own unique challenges but has truly showcased the best of what PHS student-athletes have to offer.
“They’ve stayed true to themselves and stayed the course with their training. It really shows a lot of consistency and perseverance on their part that they didn’t give up and continued working to try and obtain their goal,” Walls said. “They had the internal fortitude to stick with it and make their dream come true.”