Little Camas has eight high school athletes who are ready for the big time.
On National Signing Day Wednesday, Emily Ainsworth, Austin Barr, Kamari Brown, Michael Koceja, John Payne, Mikaela Searight and Jonathan Warner scribbled their signatures to commit to colleges all over the country.
After the Camas football team reached the state semifinals at the Tacoma Dome for the first time in school history, Warner decided to follow in his father Curt Warner’s footsteps to Penn State University. Curt Warner is a member of the Penn State Hall of Fame who had a successful NFL career as a running back for the Seattle Seahawks.
“I want to take all that I learned here in Camas with me and help start a new legacy at Penn State,” said the younger Warner. “I put a lot of hard work into this year. I’m not just going to stop working now. I still got a lot of goals to reach for.”
Payne is on his way to play football for Eastern Oregon University, in La Grande. Brown agreed to play football at Prima Community College, in Tucson, Ariz. He intends to work hard and transfer to a major university.
“Not only will I remember signing that piece of paper, but I’ll also never forget the friends who were up there with me,” Brown said. “Great people like Jonathan Warner, John Payne, Austin Barr, Olivia Lovell and everyone else at that table. We all worked hard for this and we deserve it.”
Camas girls soccer players Ainsworth and Lovell helped lead the Papermakers to third place at state in 2009, and return trips to the state tournament in 2010 and 2011. Ainsworth will continue her career at Central Washington University, in Ellensburg. Lovell will reunite with former Camas teammate Brittney Oljar at Oregon State University.
“Playing soccer at Oregon State has been been a goal of mine since I was a little girl,” Lovell said. “It’s exciting to see all the people who signed today. They are all extremly hard workers. They are going to go to their schools and carry on the Camas legacy.”
Before Koceja heads to Bellevue College in the fall, he and the Papermakers will be defending their 2011 state soccer championship this spring.
A couple of Camas catchers have their futures coming at them like a fastball. Barr is on his way to play baseball for Stanford University. He helped Camas finished second at state in 2010 and third in 2011.
“We’ve got big things ahead this spring, but after that’s over it will be nice to know that there are even bigger things ahead,” Barr said. “Wherever we go, the Camas community rallies around its athletes in every sport. I feel blessed to be able to grow up in a community where people care.”
Coming off a district championship last season, Searight will continue her softball career at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y.
“Being recognized for something like this is a big deal,” she said. “It’s the biggest accomplishment in your life, so far.”
After all eight Papermakers had signed, Athletic Director Terry Cavender gave them a fitting final pep talk.
“Congratulations to our athletes,” he said. “We live vicariously through you.”