KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE
With sectionals a little over a week away, the most stressful part of the swimming season is on the horizon. But two local swimmers will have one less concern the next time they jump in the pool after making their college choices official Wednesday by signing their National Letters of Intent.
Avon’s Ben Brooks and Avon Lake’s Kasey O’Rourke led a list of local athletes who officially committed to continue their athletic careers at the Division I and II levels.
Brooks, who finished sixth in the state in 200-yard individual medley as a junior, is headed to Eastern Michigan University.
“It was fun, but it was also challenging,” Brooks said of the recruiting process, “You don’t want to let any of the other schools down. You form a connection with them, so it was difficult choosing one. I think I formed a connection with more teammates at Eastern Michigan. It felt like that was the place I needed to be. It felt like home.”
Among the factors that attracted Brooks to the Eagles was coach Peter Linn, who is in his 28th year at the school and has Greater Cleveland ties after starting his coaching career at Shaker Heights High School.
“Peter Lynn is one of the best coaches. Michael Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, even talked about him,” Brooks said. “So I’m going to a program with a rich history and I’m hoping to continue that history.”
O’Rourke, who finished eighth in the 500 freestyle at districts last year and was part of the Shoregals’ recent Southwestern Conference-winning 200-medley relay, is headed to Evansville.
“The way the coaches from Evansville brought me in and let me be a part of the team without actually being on the team yet was really good,” O’Rourke said. “They got a new pool recently, so the pool is really good. The team works out in the weight room and that’s all new, so I picked the perfect time to go.
“I didn’t even know if I wanted to swim in college, I didn’t even know if I wanted to continue swimming in high school. Going through this is really surprising and really exciting. It’s definitely hard saying goodbye, because you’re saying goodbye to your family and saying goodbye to your team. But I’m also really excited to meet all these new people and become friends and make a new family.”
Olivia Siko ended her Avon Lake soccer career by being named first-team All-Ohio and will continue at the University of Toledo.
“Toledo has a really great nursing program and that’s what I want to go into, and then when I met with the coach and toured the campus it seemed like just a great fit for me,” said Siko, who had 28 goals and nine assists in her career. “It was tough, but the combination of their athletics and academics was the best for me.”
After helping lead Avon to a district soccer title, Marley Kalata is headed to the University of Cincinnati.
“I’m really excited to represent a new program in a new city. I know that Cincinnati is a huge soccer city, so I’m super excited to be a part of that program,” said Kalata, who had four goals and two assists last season. “It’s been an emotional journey. It’s sad to end one era of playing high school soccer, but it’s awesome knowing that I get to play at the next level and get four more years of playing soccer.”
Two of Kalata’s teammates, Hillary Mihalik (Ashland) and Hallie Schroeder (Walsh), also signed Letters of Intent.
Elyria Catholic’s Andrew Ferguson went from playing in two regional soccer semifinals early in his high school career to being the leader of a young Panthers teams as a senior. Now he’s hoping his wealth of experience will ease the transition as he heads to Division II Walsh University.
“I knew I wanted to play soccer at the next level and my coaches always pushed me and told me I was good enough,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson will be joined at Walsh by Amherst’s Ryan Sturgeon.
Other area athletes who signed included Amherst’s Chad Jones (Walsh, baseball) and Colin O’Connor (Lake Erie College, soccer), Avon’s Annika Neumann (Saginaw Valley State, golf) and Shay Davidson (Norte Dame College, basketball), Sidney Riemer of Midview (Lewis University, soccer) and Keystone’s Kisandra Mizzera (Ursuline, volleyball). Wellington’s Rachel Greene also signed to play soccer at Tiffin.
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Amherst — Chad Jones, Walsh University (baseball); Colin O’Connor, Lake Erie College (soccer); Ryan Sturgeon, Walsh University (soccer)
- Avon — Sam Gerak, Northwestern University (football); Ben Brooks, Eastern Michigan University (swimming); Cameron Judge, Wayne State University (football); Tajai Wyatt, University of Sioux Falls (football); Mitch Cooper, University of Akron (football/track); Annika Neumann, Saginaw Valley State University (golf); Shay Davidson, Notre Dame College (basketball); Marley Kalata, University of Cincinnati (soccer); Hillary Mihalik, Ashland University (soccer); Hallie Schroeder, Walsh University (volleyball)