For senior high school athletes, it was the day they had been waiting for. They sat at a table, cheered on by teammates, friends, and family, and made one of the biggest decisions of their lives. On Wednesday, Nov. 11, thousands of high school athletes participated in the fall 2020 National Letter of Intent ceremony. Aside from ending the exhausting recruiting process, signing a letter and committing to a college for sports ultimately decides what a senior’s life will look like for years to come.
A National Letter of Intent is defined as a “document [that] commits an athlete to a university and signifies the end of the recruiting process,” as reported by athleticscholarships.net. The letter of intent is legally binding and requires the athlete signing to play for the listed school for one year. Also, a common misconception around letters of intent is that any athlete can sign, regardless of athletic scholarship. Athleticscholarships.net certifies that an athlete must be offered athletic aid in order for them to be able to sign officially.
Marian had ten signees: diver Megan Carter (Indiana University), volleyball players MC Daubendiek (George Washington University) and Sidney Sledge (Bellevue University), soccer player Anna Kidder (Eastern University), swimmers JoJo Randby (University of Nebraska-Lincoln) and Rylee Trojan (Southern Illinois University), and softball players Abby Russell (Southwest Minnesota State University), Kaydence Skiles (Northern State University), and Tatum Villotta (University of South Dakota). Celia Hacker signed from home to play basketball at Lake Superior State University. Despite the difficulties of hosting a gathering amidst COVID-19, the girls were able to celebrate their momentous achievements in the presence of family members and coaches.
In addition to the signees, there were three other honorees at the ceremony. Head swimming and diving coach BJ Christansen was awarded the Swimming Coach of the Year from the Nebraska Coaches Association (for the 2019-20 season). Last year’s state championship team signified Marian’s return to the top of the podium in the sport after five years as runners-up. Also recognized on Nov. 11 were senior Eva Watson and freshman Stella Miner. Watson received a Believer and Achiever Award from the NSAA and U.S. Bank. This award is given to high schoolers across Nebraska “to reward…their excellence in academics and participation in NSAA activities [as well as] commitment to citizenship, school involvement and community projects,” as stated by nsaahome.org. Miner was recognized for her All-Class State Championship in Cross Country with a state record-breaking time of 18:11.
“I was really bummed my teammates couldn’t come, but I was glad we still got to have the ceremony,” Daubendiek said. In the past, teammates have been a huge part of NLI ceremonies, filling up most of the available seats after parents and other family members.
In regards to changes due to the pandemic, Athletic Director Ms. Rochelle Rohlfs said Marian “held the ceremony in the PAC auditorium instead of the PAC lobby and did not allow students to attend in order to stay at the DHM [Directed Health Measures] requirements.” Many seniors who are planning to sign in early 2021 are hoping that these COVID restrictions will be lifted soon so that signing ceremonies can have some semblance of previous years.
One perk this year was that there were many teammates signing together. One of the closest pairs is Rylee Trojan and JoJo Randby. The two have been swimming together since Trojan moved to Nebraska in the summer of freshman year. “[Jojo] works so hard and I was so proud of her for finally signing…it was really special to be there to see her do it and even get to be doing it myself,” Trojan said. But there will still be some sadness: the two best friends will be 546 miles apart next year. On the bright side, Randby said they “are both planning on taking many trips to see each other and FaceTiming” to stay close.
Among the signees, there was an obvious consensus: phew! Villotta committed in August of her junior year and was relieved to get the decision off her shoulders. “It feels great knowing exactly where you’re going to college and being able to plan ahead,” she said, as she looks to Vermillion, South Dakota next year.
Russell echoed her teammate. “I felt like everything I’ve worked for basically my whole life finally paid off and it was the best feeling,” she said. Nothing like relieving a little stress senior year, right?
Needless to say, decisions are around every corner for teenagers. They are forced to grow up and start thinking for themselves about where they will go, who they will see, and what they will be doing in a few years (or even just one for seniors). Choosing a college is difficult, period. The Marian athletes who signed on Nov. 11 are ahead of the curve, as per usual.