High School Sports

Eight Bearcats started their Wednesday with a college signing in front of huge crowd

Was this the biggest play of Rock Hill High’s 2018 football season?

The Herald’s Bret McCormick talks about Raphael Wright Jr.’s critical third and long catch that helped the Bearcats beat Northwestern on Oct. 25, 2018. McCormick also talks about Indian Land’s first home playoff game since 2011.
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The Herald’s Bret McCormick talks about Raphael Wright Jr.’s critical third and long catch that helped the Bearcats beat Northwestern on Oct. 25, 2018. McCormick also talks about Indian Land’s first home playoff game since 2011.

Eight Rock Hill Bearcat student-athletes were greeted by a crowd numbering closer to 100 Wednesday morning at 8:30 a.m.

That was a bit of a shock first thing in the morning for the teenagers, but the gathering was there to watch them sign National Letters of Intent, or least stand-in versions of a real document that would confirm the eight will get to play sports in college. The signing table was full of caregivers; four of the eight plan on majoring in nursing, with a fifth eying physical therapy.

Raphael Wright, Kyndal Holmes, Andrew Simpson, Dion Livingstone, Kara Cuthbertson, Madeline Merrell, Devon Rice and Hayden Jackson were recognized in the school’s crowded media center. Read about them here:

Raphael Wright, Presbyterian College

Wright will play football at Presbyterian. The school recently stopped offering football scholarships, but Wright was offered a nice financial package, thanks in part to his strong grades.

“It was always a dream to play college football,” said Wright. “I always felt in my heart that would land somewhere and try to do the best I can.”

Wright will play wide receiver for the Blue Hose. He wants to major in business management, specifically project management. Wright, who has a 3.89 GPA, joked that he likes to be in charge.

Kyndal Holmes, USC Lancaster

Holmes will play women’s soccer at USC Lancaster. She’s one of the four that plans on majoring in nursing.

“When I first started playing club at age 10, I was like, ‘I’m gonna play soccer in college,’” said Holmes. “That’s the thing that keeps me focused. I don’t like free time!”

Holmes gets A’s and B’s in school. She didn’t love being the center of attention Wednesday morning, especially when WRHI’s Chris Miller began asking the signees questions, starting with Holmes.

“Oh, it’s nerve-wracking,” she said. “I hate being the first to answer questions. But it’s exciting. My parents have been waiting on this moment for a while, and I have too.”

Andrew Simpson, Bluefield College

College wrestling opportunities aren’t abundant in the southeastern United States, so Simpson paid attention when Bluefield (Va.) came calling. It didn’t hurt that his former Bearcat teammate, Noah Reynolds, is already at the school. Reynolds wasn’t shy about recruiting Simpson to Bluefield, which is based in the Virginia mountains.

“That definitely helped me,” Simpson said about the connection with Reynolds, “just knowing that I have him to already be friends with while I’m breaking in.”

Simpson is taking a sports medicine class this school year at Rock Hill, and he’s enjoyed the class enough to make that his college major.

“I’m just really into keeping your body in shape,” he said. “Not necessarily working out everyday, but just making sure you keep your body maintained.”

Dion Livingstone, USC Upstate

Livingstone will major in either nursing or pre-optometry at USC Upstate.

“I chose Upstate because they have both of those majors,” said Livingstone, who is a talented hurdler and will join the Spartans’ track and field team.

He’s recently set personal records in the 110-meter hurdles, and he’s also a strong student, thanks in part to his parents’ influence.

“Grades come first over everything else,” said Livingstone, who has a 4.2 GPA. “I have a job right now and I do track after school and a I volunteer, and if my grades slip I can’t do any of those until my grades come back up.”

Kara Cuthbertson, Spartanburg Methodist

Cuthbertson will sprint for Spartanburg Methodist’s track and field team. She too is interested in nursing and will pursue that field at SMC.

“I’ve always had a passion of helping other people and I feel like that’s what God called me to be,” she said.

Cuthbertson is an A/B student and she said she feels ready for college, academically. After the two years in Spartanburg, Cuthbertson would like to transfer to Winston-Salem State, where she is originally from. Her grades landed her a full academic scholarship to SMC.

“When I got the letter, I cried. I’m not even gonna lie,” said Cuthbertson. “Just overwhelmed with excitement.”

Madeline Merrell, North Greenville

Merrell moved to Rock Hill from Louisiana last spring, but she still had enough time to make an impression on several in-state colleges. She opted to take her distance running talents (cross country and track and field) to North Greenville. She’ll major in... surprise! ... nursing, and biology.

“I really love children, but education didn’t really draw my attention as much,” she said. “I still wanted to have a job where I can work with kids and nursing offered that, but also it’s science and math, so best of both worlds.”

Merrell has a 4.0 unweighted GPA and is ranked fifth academically in Rock Hill High’s senior class.

“North Greenville just checked all the boxes of major, atmosphere, great team, great coach,” she said.

Devon Rice, Newberry

Rice couldn’t have imagined signing to play college sports even just a year ago. But he did that Wednesday morning, signing with Newberry to not only play football, but also wrestle.

“Financially, it was a way better deal than the other schools,” Rice said. “Not so much money taken out of my pocket.”

Rice said he really felt wanted by the wrestling coaches and is eager to work under head coach Cy Wainwright, who won a heavyweight national championship at Newberry. Rice was a 5A heavyweight state champion this past season, only his second season in the sport, and he’s excited to continue building on his early success and see what he can become.

“It was a true blessing to come here to Rock Hill and... explode,” he said, grinning.

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Hayden Jackson, North Greenville

North Greenville’s campus surprised Jackson, in that he liked it more than he thought he would. The Bearcats quarterback will play football for the Crusaders and he leaves Rock Hill’s program in a much better place than when he started.

“It feels pretty good because when I came it wasn’t in the best area,” Jackson said. “To see that we actually changed it, made a difference, it feels good.”

Jackson plans on studying either mathematics or engineering. He’d like to coach and teach, or become an electrical engineer.

“The coaches, they really wanted me down there and they talked about getting my academics down, making sure I’m just as successful on the field as I am a student,” said Jackson.

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Bret McCormick joined The Herald in July, 2012. In the years since, the Charlotte native’s creative and original coverage of sports in York, Chester and Lancaster counties has won numerous state and national awards.
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