STATE COLLEGE — One by one they strode to the front of the room, sat at a table, sometimes with family, sometimes with teammates, and put pen to paper to make it official.
State College Area High School held its second National Letter of Intent signing ceremony — a day late thanks to Wednesday morning’s snow storm that closed school — with a dozen student-athletes making their commitments to continue their education and play sports at a variety of colleges.
From small schools like Dowling College and Juniata to huge universities like Penn State and North Carolina, pen went to paper, sometimes for real and some just for show to take the next step in their educations and athletic careers.
“It’s awesome and it’s really a great way to see where everyone is going and to say ‘good-bye,’” said Christine Irwin, who is heading to Juniata to play volleyball. “It’s a great program here at State High, so it’s like awesome to see all these athletes going to the next level. They’re great people and we’re all really good friends. It’s really cool to have one last celebration.”
While football gets the spotlight on Feb. 5 for official college commitments, sometimes with dramatic staging by the students to put on the hat of their college choice, a number of other sports also make their recruiting classes official this week.
“Everyone has put in a lot of work,” said Patrick Irwin, who will play football at Stony Brook. “It’s awesome it’s paid off. We’ve all come together. Where everyone’s going shows the support that State College has for all their student-athletes.”
Patrick Irwin — no relation to Christine — was the quarterback for the Little Lion football team last fall, and settled on the Stony Brook campus on New York’s Long Island a little late, not hearing from the Seawolves until his football season was completed and basketball was tipping off.
“It’s really exciting, not just for me but for my family as well as the school,” Patrick Irwin said. “The school’s done a lot of great things for me, and it’s great to carry on (for) State College High School and bring that up to Stony Brook University.”
Others making their choices official Thursday included Nick Raquet, who will play baseball at North Carolina; Summer Carson, who will play field hockey at Division II Dowling College on Long Island; and Victoria Crawford, who will play soccer at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Shippensburg has beckoned a pair of athletes in different sports — Jordan Good in football and Calvin Sichler in baseball — although they play to be roommates when they get to campus.
Cross country and track and field was calling the most Little Lions, with Will Cather heading to Penn State, Kaelyn Yoder going to Campbell University in North Carolina, and Emma Cousins and Kyle Adams both choosing Bucknell.
“Our mission is to use this as an extension of the classroom,” athletic director Peg Pennepacker said at the event’s start about using sports as a form of education.
While some area heading several hours from home, like Long Island or North Carolina, others are not traveling far.
Christine Irwin will be taking a short drive over Pine Grove Mountain in Huntingdon, where she will be a part of a perennial top-20 volleyball program at Juniata.
“I can’t wait to get to Juniata,” she said. “I’m ready. It’s an awesome program.”
The shortest drives will be for Cather and Adam DeBoef, who did not officially sign anything Thursday but gave a commitment to the Penn State football team as a walk-on. He even heard from the Nittany Lions’ new coach making sure DeBoef’s plans still included Penn State.
“Penn State football’s been insane and I really wanted to be a part of it,” the offensive tackle said. “When (coach James) Franklin called me, he told me I still had a spot if I wanted it. I just took it.”
Being one of 12 Little Lions who will get to continue to be a part of athletic programs beyond high school was special for all of the boys and girls putting pen to paper Thursday.
“It’s insane,” DeBoef said. “It’s crazy to see all the athletes going places. Just to be signing and going to play football somewhere, it’s incredible.”