Three Turlock High School athletes signed on to play at the collegiate level on Wednesday during the first ceremony of its kind since the coronavirus pandemic began last year.
In front of the brand-new science building on the north end of campus, Bulldogs Cameron Walker (boys basketball), Morgan Blankenship (girls soccer) and Genesis Maciel (girls soccer) inked their commitments to continue their athletic careers at their respective universities — an accomplishment only 7% of high school athletes can claim, according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
It was a momentous occasion filled with balloons and smiles, with each student’s family, friends and teammates showing up to show their support.
“For these three students to be here today to make a commitment to their education, I have no doubt that each of them has their own individual village roster of very important folks who have supported them along the way,” THS athletic director Colin Wenstrand said.
Walker, a point guard, committed to Arizona Christian University in Phoenix after connecting with the coach during the course of the pandemic. While high school sports were on hold in California, Walker traveled to Arizona in order to stay sharp and seek recruitment. During a camp, he was coached by ACU’s head coach and was offered a visit to the school shortly after.
It was a huge weight off of his shoulders to finally sign with a school, he added.
“After that, I figured out that this is where I want to be and this is what I want to do,” Walker said. “I know a lot of my teammates weren’t as lucky as me getting to go out and play, but it’s definitely one thing I’m happy I don’t have to worry about, emailing more coaches or trying to get game film and all of that extra stuff.”
THS boys basketball coach Doug Cornfoot said he wasn’t surprised to see Walker commit to play at the college level.
“It goes to show what hard work, dedication and commitment will do for you. There are a lot of kids out there who say they want to play at the next level, they want to go to college and play,” Cornfoot said. “They say it, but Cameron actually put the work in whether it was early morning workouts or shooting late at night — whatever he needed to do.”
Blankenship and Maciel are both known as integral parts of the girls soccer team — Blankenship joined the squad as a transfer from Pitman High School last season, while Maciel is a four-year varsity starter for the Bulldogs.
Blankenship, who plays goalie, chose to sign with Rocky Mountain College in Montana after playing travel soccer since she was six years old.
“I was super stressed going into my senior year because at this point, I had already expected to be committed,” Blankenship said. “I went on a visit to Rocky Mountain in November and fell in love with the school and decided that was where I wanted to be next.”
Maciel chose to stay in Turlock and sign with Stanislaus State not only because of the school’s incredibly successful women's soccer program, but also because she hopes to one day become a nurse. Plus, all of her siblings attended and graduated from the local university.
“It’s really a special moment today because we were deprived of playing soccer over the whole COVID situation, so to be here with my family and friends watching me sign today is really great and just makes me appreciate the sport so much more,” Maciel said.
Maciel has been selected to the All-Journal Girls Soccer Team multiple times throughout her high school career and was recognized as the league’s best defensive player. Looking forward to her collegiate career, she knows she owes so much to those who helped her flourish at THS.
“It’s great because I finally get to go in and play at a higher level, but this program has taught me so much,” she said. “They are the core reason as to why I'm going to Stan as well, because a lot of what they teach here is part of the program at Stan.”