H.S. non-football signings: Leonard's Ryan Pickering to run cross country, track at Oregon
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
by Paul Ivice
Palm Beach Post staff
It isn't often that a non-football athlete highlights a school's national signing day, but Ryan Pickering has a history of appearing in the top spot.
The Palm Beach Post's Boys Runner of the Year for the past two years, Pickering, of John I. Leonard, won the Class 4A state cross-country title in November before finishing ninth in the nation in the Foot Locker Cross-Country National Finals in December.
On Wednesday, Oregon beat out fellow suitors Florida State, Arkansas and Colorado, among others, when Pickering signed with the Ducks to compete in both cross-country and track and field.
"I visited Oregon from January 13-15," said Pickering, "and felt like I could be part of a winning team there, even more so than at FSU. The coach, Vin Lananna, was at Stanford for 18 years before coming to Oregon about six years ago, and he built great programs at both schools."
Pickering received a scholarship from the Ducks that was partially academic after he finished No. 5 in his graduating class. The remainder of his scholarship was for athletics.
"You can't coach the heart and desire that Ryan has," said Lancers cross-country and track and field coach Al Jordan, who's also Pickering's stepfather.
Lancers' left-handed first baseman Jose Abreu also signed a letter of intent, choosing to play at Jefferson Community College in Watertown, N.Y.
Soccer player Jennifer Collins signed a letter of intent to accept a partial scholarship from Western Carolina.
Collins said of the Catamounts' offer, "This was the first one I got and this was the one I wanted."
She said that during her visit to the campus in Cullowhee, N.C., near the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge mountains, "I liked the woods, everyone was really friendly and it felt like home."
Collins played for Berean Christian her freshman year before transfering to King's.
King's coach Glenn Martin said he remembered seeing Collins playing for Berean against the Lions. "That's the one girl on their team I'd love to have playing on our team because she cares so much," he said during a short ceremony in the school's library with teammates, friends and Collins' parents.
Martin said that since then, Collins became faster, stronger and developed better command of the physical aspect of the game, but grew even more in the tactical aspect.
In her three years playing for the Lions, Collins scored 40 goals and had 27 assists.
"She was so fast, it allowed us to have a forward as our first line of defense," Martin said.
She said she plans to major in nursing.
PALM BEACH CENTRAL
Baseball players Mitchell Blakeney and Joey Stark each signed letters on intent to attend Palm Beach State College.
PALM BEACH LAKES
For those who suggest that bowling isn't a sport, Palm Beach Lakes senior Natalee Armstrong now has an answer - a full scholarship to Bethune-Cookman College.
"I laugh at them," Armstrong said. "They don't know the half of it. I tell them, 'I'm getting an education; what are you doing?' "
Armstrong, who left the 10-pin standing on her final roll to fall one pin shy of the individual state title in November in Orlando, signed her national letter of intent Wednesday.
Armstrong accepted a scholarship that the Daytona Beach college values at $21,432. She said she plans to major in criminal justice.
Armstrong is not the first Palm Beach County bowler to get a college scholarship since bowling became a recognized sport for Florida high schools in 2003, but it's a short list. Palm Beach Gardens graduate Dayna Galganski recently transferred from Central Florida to Sam Houston State.
Armstrong said she hopes her success will have an effect on younger bowlers at Palm Beach Lakes, particularly her sister Priscilla, a freshman. "I hope she becomes the next me," Amstrong said.
She said she had an offer of a 90 percent scholarship from Florida A&M and some interest from Florida State, but once Bethune-Cookman coach Tony O'Neal came to the state tournament and mentioned a full ride, Armstrong stopped looking elsewhere.
Armstrong's father, Rudolph, said he took her bowling for the first time when she was 10. "The way she approached it from the first time I put a ball in her hand, I knew she liked it.
"And when a person likes something, they put a lot of emphasis on it."
Palm Beach Lakes Principal Nate Collins congratulated Armstrong's parents, saying they "recognized her talent at an early age and started working with her to develop that talent."
Athletic Director Don Smith noted that it is also National Girls and Women in Sports Day.
Bowling coach Quida Littles-Rawls said 70 students came out for the bowling teams this year, and after Armstrong's scholarship she expects even more next year.
Right-handed pitcher John Costa signed Wednesday to accept an 80 percent scholarship from Florida International.
Costa, who was 9-2 as a junior for the 18-10 Saints, said other colleges showed interest but FIU's was the only offer he received. He said he's happy with that because "it's such a good program and a good school, so I had to take it."
John Drouin, Summit's baseball coach, said one of Costa's strengths is his outstanding control. Compiling an ERA of about 1.00, Costa allowed less than one walk per game while averaging eight strikeouts.
He said FIU's coaches noticed him when he played in a tournament there last fall "and I was on my game that night."
Costs said he is considering majoring in business management.
Also, Jean Prophete, who signed a letter to play football at Bethune-Cookman College, also plans to play basketball at the Daytona Beach school.
The 6-5, 250-pound tight end and power forward is a four-year starter in basketball, but has only played two years of football at Summit.
Baseball players Matt Adamowicz (St. Louis) and Bradley Borosak (Navy), basketball players Greg Louis (Penn) and Precious Bridges (Mercer) and swimmer Marisa Flit (Boston University) signed letters today.
Eagles right-handed pitcher Spencer Kasmere signed to play baseball at Palm Beach State College.
Soccer player Jennifer Collins signed with Western Carolina.
Defender Allison Northcutt, a four-year starter, two-year captain and the Cobras' leading scorer last season, signed to play soccer at McNeese State.
Freelance reporters Paul Ivice, Bill Meredith and Joseph Kairalla and Post staff reporter Matt Porter contributed to this report.