A trio of Spanish Springs softball players, Aubrene Blas, Taylor Helton and Karlie Merritt, made up three quarters of Wednesday’s celebrated group. The fourth athlete inking her signature to a letter of intent was Cougars soccer star Alyssa Bertuleit.
Events like Wednesday’s are among the highlights for Spanish Springs athletic director Art Anderson.
“I get to organize an event where our student-athletes show they’re going on to the next level, which is something we encourage for all of our athletes to do. It definitely makes it special for me.
“These are a bonus for our high school, a bonus for our individual sport programs and those kids in them. It’s great to celebrate the student-athletes who have obviously put in a lot of time and effort.”
Blas, 17, announced she is signing to continue her softball career at Corban University in Salem, Ore.
“When I went there for my visit, it was a really great school,” Blas said. “It’s a good decision, a good fit for me … I’m extremely excited. I’ve already met my future teammates. They are extremely talented and fun.”
Corban is a four-year NAIA school with a softball program ranked 10th in the country this week. Blas, who plans to study accounting, is ecstatic about the opportunity to continue playing softball beyond her prep career.
“Corban just felt like the right place,” she said. “I was welcomed with open arms. The people are eerie friendly there and made me feel like i belonged.”
Helton, 17, signed her letter of intent to compete on the softball diamond for Doane College in Crete, Neb. There will be a few Sparks-area faces she’ll recognize when she gets there. Ryan Swanson, a 2011 SSHS graduate is studying there while Makaela Moore, a 2012 Reed graduate is also playing softball at Doane.
“I didn’t know they were there when I went to visit, but it was cool just to know I wasn’t the only from Sparks out there, being so far from home,” said Helton, who plans to study elementary education. “I really liked the school and the atmosphere there. The people were friendly. It’s a small town but the people support you. It’s nice.”
Helton, who is hitting .400 through the first half of the Cougars’ spring prep season, said she feels she compete right away for playing time at Doane.
“It’s cool I get to take the next step and play a sport I like,” Helton said. “The coaches want me to play first and said I could play right away since they have a senior first baseman. I’m really going in with confidence.”
For Merritt, 18, she’s known since last fall she wanted to attend classes and compete in softball at Concordia University in Portland, Ore.
“I walked on the campus and the atmosphere was perfect,” Merritt said. “I talked to the coach and she said I could do both, play softball and be in the nursing program, which a lot of other schools told me I could not do.”
The four-year NAIA school’s softball program is currently ranked just outside the Top 20 nationally. Merritt is optimistic about continuing to compete in softball, but she seems to be asking the right questions about academics, too.
“The atmosphere is nice,” she said. “It feels new, but it also seems old with lots of tradition. It’s a small school with a low teacher-to-student ration. That was important to me because I don’t want to just be a number.”
Bertuleit, 18, was the lone athlete signing Wednesday who was not pursuing a softball dream. Bertuleit, who was named the High Desert League’s midfielder of the year award last fall, announces she is taking her soccer skills to Peninsula College, a two-year school in Port Angeles, Wash.
“It’s a way for me to continue playing and get out of Reno to see something new,” Bertuleit said. “I’ve been here my whole life. This is a chance to get away and live on my own.”
Bertuleit is looking to pursue an education in business.
“I had some other offers, but I felt like Peninsula was the best fit for me. I can decide after two years if i want to transfer and keep playing or if I want to just focus on my academics.”