WALLA WALLA — Three Wa-Hi athletes signed National Letters of Intent to play college athletics Wednesday night at Wa-Hi’s Fletcher Room.
Football players Jonah Hoe and Logan Reardon, as well as track and cross-country star Rachel Nelson, all signed NLIs amidst friends, family and coaches.
“It is so rewarding to see kids go on and get to pursue their dreams that so many kids have when they are young, to go play in college,” said Eric Hisaw, who coached all three athletes as Wa-Hi’s football and track coach. “And for us to be able to take these kids from our high school to these new programs, I’m just so excited for them.”
Hoe, a record-setting running back for the Blue Devils this season, signed to play the same position for the University of Mary, an NCAA Division II school in Bismarck, N.D.
Hoe held offers from Eastern Oregon and Central Washington, but chose the Marauders thanks to the school’s academics and connections to his family. Both of Hoe’s parents attended Mary.
“My mom’s family lives around there, so it will be far away but close to home at the same time,” Hoe said.
Hoe first started receiving Interest from Mary midway through his senior season, but committed just two days ago.
He practically rewrote the Blue Devils’ record books during his senior campaign, as the 5-foot, 10-inch, 175-pound back broke or tied nine different modern records, including career rushing yards (3,904), single-season rushing yards (1,828) and single-game rushing yards (436). He tied the record for rushing touchdowns with five.
Hoe led or tied every important offensive category in the Mid-Columbia Conference this season except for total offense.
Logan Reardon, a 6-3, 245-pound lineman, played no small part in Wa-Hi’s top-ranked rushing offense, but signed with NAIA Eastern Oregon as a defensive end.
Reardon accepted a partial scholarship to the school in La Grande over preferred walk-on offers from Central Washington and Eastern Washington.
He chose to attend EOU due to the school’s academics and the growth of the football program under head coach Tim Camp.
“I went on a visit to see how the school was and found out it’s a great place,” Reardon said. “What Tim Camp is doing there right now is great, he’s really turning the program around.”
For Hisaw, losing two of his senior leaders was a bittersweet experience.
“You wish you could bottle some kids and just bring them back over and over again,” Hisaw said of Reardon and Hoe, who were both team captains. “Those were the two that made phone calls, the two that got conditioning going, the two that got throwing going and lineman Olympics and our offseason weightlifting numbers back up.
“They were the reason why we had so much more success and were more competitive, because they led us,” he continued. “They brought a work ethic that had been missing here for a while, and they set a tempo and an expectation of what needs to be done in the future.”
Rachel Nelson signed to run cross country and track for Montana State in Bozeman, Mont.
She chose MSU over interest from Pepperdine and Xavier, citing academics and proximity to home.
“This is the day I’ve been waiting for for all of high school,” Nelson said. “I’ve just been anticipating (signing) all day.”
Nelson ran her quickest times as a sophomore, but struggled her junior campaign while dealing with nagging foot pain. She culminated her cross-country career in the fall with a sixth-place finish at districts in the 5K and a 27th-place finish in the 3-mile run at regionals.
Nelson runs a variety of medium- to long-distance events in track, including the 800, 1600, 3200, 4x400 relay and 4x800 relay, and looks forward to finishing her prep track career this spring.
“I’m hoping to finish really strong,” Nelson said. “Just see what happens — I have bigger things ahead of me.”
“Rachel was instrumental... her speed’s getting better and she’s just going to continue to get stronger,” Hisaw said. “She really loves to run and for someone who’s going to run track in college ... you have to love it, and she really does.”
Mike Locati, who coaches Wa-Hi’s cross country team and the long-distance track runners, said he saw Nelson’s potential from her first days as a freshman.
“As a freshman she was already one of the top 15 runners in the state,” Locati said. “She had an immediate impact.”
But Nelson’s foot problems slowed her career at Wa-Hi down. She struggled greatly her junior season, Locati said, but she began seeing foot specialists at the University of Washington in the fall of 2012.
“She’s done really well,” Locati said. “I don’t think as well as she had hoped, and as well as the plan was, because she’s dealt with a lot of injuries ... But she’s an amazing girl because she persevered through all of that and still maintained her goal of running collegiately.”