15 senior athletes commit to schools on National Signing Day

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    Palo Alto High School student athletes convened during lunch on Wednesday in the Media Arts Center for the National Signing Day Ceremony. “You have made our entire school community proud and we are so happy to celebrate this with you,” Principal Kim Diorio said. “You embody all the values that we hold so dearly at Paly: things like integrity, respect, teamwork and collaboration.” Photo: Daniel Li.

    Many student athletes often dream of the day when they can represent their school at the collegiate level. Fifteen Palo Alto High School senior athletes hit a milestone toward that dream on Wednesday during lunch, when the school honored them on National Signing Day in the Media Arts Center.

    The National Signing Day Ceremony, usually the first Wednesday of February, marks the first day a high school senior athlete can sign the Letter of Intent for a sport with a school affiliated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

    The athletes include Alex Liang (Stanford University) and Grace Zhao (Stanford University) for swimming; Lauola Amanoni (San Jose State University), Mason Wittman (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), Neil Verwillow (Trinity University) and Mara Zenger (Westminster College) for soccer; Troy Henderson (University of Puget Sound) and Peter Snodgrass (Northwestern University) for football; Jessica Lee (Claremont McKenna College) and Cassie Fong (San Francisco State University) for volleyball; Kimmi Chin (University of California, Los Angeles), Clay Watson (Columbia University) and Jackson Wood (University of Pennsylvania) for rowing; Kaitlin Chiu (Smith College) for lacrosse; and Bennet Huang (University of Iowa) for gymnastics.

    According to Liang, he feels extremely grateful for the opportunity to continue the sport he loves at a Division one school for the next four years.

    “I have sacrificed so much time and schoolwork over the years for this sport and it is finally paying off,” Liang said. “I am so excited and feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to swim with such highly ranked swimmers at Stanford.”

    Principal Kim Diorio, Athletic Director Kathi Bowers and University of California-Davis alumna and volleyball player Ally Whitson spoke at the event.

    Bowers emphasized the importance of recognizing that these student athletes have shown a consistent commitment both in the classroom and on the field, gym or pool throughout their years at Paly. 

    “This is a culmination of lots of work; it’s not something that happens in one season or one year,” Bowers said. “It takes the support of their families, their coaches, their teachers and their friends.”

    Whitson shed insight on the lessons she learned as a collegiate athlete to the college-bound seniors.

    There’s definitely going to be a few sacrifices that you are going to make, but you learn some of the most valuable lessons by playing a sport,” Whitson said. “First, you will learn time management: how to balance your practice schedule with academics and just being a college student. You will learn determination when you come in as a freshman: wanting to beat out a returning player to get that starting spot. You will also learn discipline: having to get out of bed when your alarm goes off in the middle of winter for 6 a.m. weights and biking across Davis in the rain. Furthermore, one of the biggest things I learned was resilience: having to show up to practice the day after an extremely tough loss and ready to work even harder. Lastly, you will learn how to be a team player: you want to work as hard as you can for your teammates; after all, you will win together and lose together.”

    Whitson encouraged the athletes to enjoy the journey and to not be afraid to reach out for help.

    “Remember that you guys aren’t alone in this adventure,” Whitson said. “Never hesitate to reach out to the people around you. You only get a few years as a collegiate athlete, but the lessons you learn will be there for the rest of your life.”

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