Seven Chester Cyclones talk about signing day emotions
Facing hundreds of her classmates at Chester High School's May 18, 2018 college sports signing ceremony, Ja'Nautica Cohen's signing day speech went exactly like it did when she practiced it in front of her mirror as a 13-year old.
Her eyes welled and her tightening throat tripped her words, but she fought through a list of thank-yous and heart-felt sentiments. According to Chester softball coach Chris Dodson, Cohen became the first softball player from Chester County to sign a Division I softball scholarship. The power-hitting third baseman will play at South Carolina State.
"I was just proud. A big accomplishment for me," she said afterward, away from the crowd.
Would Cohen's younger self have been pleased with her speech on Wednesday?
"Yes, she would have been crying too!" she said, laughing.
Signing scholarship papers put a nice bow on a great senior year for Cohen. She was named 3A All-State and will play in the North-South all-star game this summer. She hit .602 with 11 home runs and 42 RBI, while striking out just three times.
Cohen has a 4.2 grade point average and is a three-year Beta Club member. She plans on majoring in criminal justice at South Carolina State. She gave credit to Dodson for helping her get recruited and for being a father figure to her.
"He treated me like his own child and he made it his priority that I could be here today," Cohen said.
Davis will play softball for USC-Union's fledgling program. She plans on studying nursing and becoming a radiology technician.
"Emotional, excited, happy," she said, when asked to describe her feelings.
It's a 32-minute drive from her family's house in Chester to USC-Union.
"The school is small. It's like a little hometown," said Davis, who will play outfield for the Bantams.
Gonzales is off to Pennsylvania to wrestle at Division III school King's College. He'll study business and said the school is known for that program.
It's a big accomplishment for Gonzales, who is legally blind. In middle school he wore Coca Cola bottle-thick glasses to help his vision, and now wears contacts. But he said there isn't a prescription strong enough to fully improve his sight.
Gonzales, who has a 4.0 grade point average, expects to wrestle in either the 133 or 141-pound weight classes and hopes to compete for a starting spot in either weight class immediately.
Signing a college track and field scholarship was in Morris' plans all along, she just wasn't sure where. Columbia International ticked all the boxes, making the decision easier. The school offers a nursing degree in two years -- instead of four -- and places its students in jobs at a nearby hospital.
But even expecting to be involved in a signing day event, Morris was still taken aback by having to give a brief speech in front of hundreds of her classmates in the school's gym, a common reaction from Chester college sports signees in recent years.
"I thought I was ready for it but when I got in there I was..." Morris made an anxious face. "It was nervous with all those people in there."
Morris runs the 200 and 400-meter races and the 4x100 and 4x400 relays.
"I'm just ready to go on to the next adventure," she said.
Woods signed to play women's college soccer at USC-Union, a two-year school that just started its program.
That's a great achievement in part because she only started playing soccer a few years ago. Woods is tall and she had always focused on basketball, but friends convinced her to join the soccer team. She flourished, in part because of the physicality of her play, physicality that may have led to foul trouble in a basketball game but was allowed on the soccer field.
"It's just a sport you can get loose and wild with," she said, laughing.
Woods, who gets A and B grades in school, loved USC-Union's vibe -- not too many people or too few, just right. She plans on majoring in nursing and eventually transferring to a four-year school.
Woods' Chester teammates Kei-Shawn Kershaw and Courtlyn Foster also signed with USC-Union women's soccer on Wednesday. Like Woods and Foster, Kershaw had never played soccer until several years ago when she gave the sport a shot as part of a way to spend more time with her friends, and make new ones.
"As soon as I started playing I knew I was gonna love the sport," Kershaw said. "First, I hated the running but once I got used to it I was like, 'well, it isn't so bad.'"
Kershaw is a straight-A student and is excited to be apart of the brand new program at USC-Union. She'll study early childhood education and would like to teach elementary school.
Foster played basketball, volleyball, cross country and cheered competitively. But in soccer, she found a perfect outlet for her on-field aggression. That she'll get to continue to pursue that outlet at the college level thrilled her family.
"They think it's great," said Foster. "They know anytime I play a sport, I go hard at it."
Foster is an A honor roll student. She plans to get her associate's degree in science, before transferring to a four-year school to major in physical therapy. She'll play two years of college soccer first, though.
"They just welcomed me," said Foster. "It felt like a place I could call home."