Despite the treacherous circumstances that faced high school athletics in 2020, many athletes were still honored with collegiate scholarships
By Jordan Green
Several futures for graduating high school students remain undetermined. Little is known about the state of college athletics and how many scholarships they are willing to offer heading into the new year. The whole trajectory of high school to college sports is fuzzy, and it would appear the scarcity of opportunity holds far more truth compared to years past.
Nevertheless, National Signing Day was held on Feb. 3 as is tradition, and several high school athletes from the San Gabriel Valley overcame unforeseen obstacles – which, bluntly, were out of their control – and committed their athletic futures to collegiate programs.
While the day is normally highlighted by football signings, it is also a day for several competitors from other sports to showcase and celebrate their commitments.
Women’s soccer received some recognition on signing day. South Hills defender and midfielder Emma Delgado, who played a key role in the Huskies 10-0 record during league play, signed her national letter of intent (NLI) with Aurora University, a private university in Aurora, Ill., less than an hour away from Chicago. Along with being a member of the soccer team, she will also be studying for a degree in nursing.
Kenzie Tokuchi of San Marino, which is a team that plays under the Rio Hondo League, will also be heading to Illinois to play for Illinois Tech. During her time with the Titans, she received All-RHL honors during her 2019 and 2020 winter seasons. Another San Marino athlete who signed an NLI was softball’s Kinu Takasugim, as she will be playing for the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. She won two MVPs for San Marino and was also named an all-league selection in 2019.
Baseball saw a few commitments within the area as well. One of the highlights was Arcadia High School’s Julian Eskridge committing to Chico State. While on the mound, his average fastball velocity of 85 mph along with his curveball and slider made him one of the most important arms in the Apaches rotation while only being a sophomore.
Damien High School in La Verne witnessed eight baseball commitments this past week. Alec Beck (Cal State San Marcos, DII), Sebastian Arguelles (University of California Santa Barbara, DI), Robert Mansour (University of New Mexico, DI), and others all found new homes to continue their athletic journey.
Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, a private, all-girls Catholic school of only 391 students, saw two NLIs signed last Wednesday, which was ironically celebrated as National Girls and Women in Sports Day. Madison Leroy is heading to Cornell in the fall to play soccer for Big Red, while Elizabeth Lund is off to Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pa. to play volleyball.
Nevertheless, football athletes continued to shine as dozens of commitments were witnessed and showcased throughout the community.
Two of SGV’s best high school quarterbacks will be leaving the state to play collegiate football. One of those is South Hills’ John Ramirez, who committed to playing with Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn. The other is James Duronslet who will be transitioning from Covina High School to Ottawa University in Surprise, Ari.
Charter Oak High School football, which has been a staple in the Covina area for years, continued building its impressive stature on Wednesday when Gabriel Valenzuela signed with Dixie State, a Division I program, and Christian DeVore signed with Lake Erie College, a Division II program.
Brothers Zecheriah and Zedekiah Rodriguez-Brown Black earned scholarships with Black Hills State in South Dakota, a program that competed against Azusa Pacific in 2019. Both players are versatile and can play a multitude of positions on both sides of the ball, meaning the brothers from Los Altos High School are expected to make an immediate impact for their new teams.
Quite possibly the two biggest college signings in the valley were Glendora High’s JT Greep and Damien’s Ethan Nguyen, both long snappers who were coached by a specialist coach named Matt Wigley despite their 2020 high school seasons being discontinued.
Greep, who according to Rubio Long Snapping was a five-star ranked player, committed to the Pac 12’s University of Utah. He will be looking forward to games against inner conference rivals in USC and UCLA when his family from SoCal will be able to watch him play at the collegiate level.
“It truly is a dream come true that I am able to play football in the Pac 12. I have grown up going to UCLA games my whole life and to have the opportunity to play against them will be a dream come true,” Greep told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
Nguyen, on the other hand, fulfilled a lifelong dream on signing day when he committed to the Naval Academy’s football squad. According to Nguyen, it was a lifelong dream for him to enter the Academy, and being a long-snapper allowed him to use the game of football as a catalyst to fulfill his goals outside of the sport.
Although the classes of previous years are memorable in their own right, this year’s committed athletes will remain incredibly special due to the difficulties they were forced to endure. It was a situation unlike any class had experienced before, making the fulfillment of their hard work paying off even more satisfying to themselves and the community.