It’s been a banner year for William Monroe’s athletic programs.
That success was celebrated May 1 as 12 student-athletes signed their National Letters of Intent to play sports at the college level, joining Jessica Ford and Samantha Brunelle who signed earlier this school year. Luke Berry, who committed to collegiate track, was recognized at the ceremony but was unable to attend due to an away track meet for William Monroe High School.
Athletic Director Brian Collier noted that this group of 15 is the largest to commit to colleges in the school’s history.
The class includes four baseball players, three softball players, a pair of football players, a golfer, a girls soccer player, a swimmer, a boys basketball player and two girls basketball players.
Jonathan Sexton, Logan Jones, Braydon Collier and Reilly Owen all signed to play baseball in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC).
Sexton verbally committed to play for Bridgewater in November, but finalized the decision last Wednesday.
“It feels like home,” Sexton said. “It’s amazing. I worked for it my whole life with my friends and family.”
The senior catcher had opportunities with a number of programs, including Ferrum College, but liked the size and proximity to home that the Eagles gave him.
“It’s just another Greene County,” Sexton said. “It’s in the middle of nowhere and it’s baseball; that’s what I love.”
The seed to play college baseball was planted years ago when he watched Cody Spencer (class of 2016) and Ronald (R.J.) Payne (class of 2017) sign in similar ceremonies.
“It was just something that I always looked forward to,” Sexton said. “It’s amazing.”
As a junior, Sexton was named Northwestern District player of the year. He also earned first-team all-region and second team Class 3 all-state honors. In that season, he posted a .413 batting average, had three home runs and led the Dragons with 24 RBIs.
Owen signed to play college baseball at Shenandoah University near Winchester. Owen earned first-team all-district and all-region 3B honors last season, leading Monroe with four home runs. He finished last season with a .302 batting average and 18 RBIs.
“Signing was nerveracking, but I was happy about it and excited for next year,” Owen said. “I just got a good feel when I went on my visit and I liked everything about it there.”
Jones and Collier will remain teammates at the next level at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg.
“I’ve always said I wanted to play college ball,” Jones said. “It was one of my top two choices. Academically, it fits, and I really like the campus. It just seems like it’s the best spot for me.”
Jones, who plans to study mechanical engineering, can’t wait for the next chapter.
“I’ll remember all the relationships I made with all my friends,” Jones said. “Hard work pays off; coming from not being the best on the field to playing college ball. I’m looking forward to getting better, playing better competition and making new friends.”
Collier, who earned a first-team all-district nod in his sophomore season, agreed.
“I’m looking forward to new things and better competition,” Collier said.
The senior expects to battle for playing time as a middle infielder and possibly see some time on the hill. In the classroom, he plans to study environmental sustainability.
Lacey Beale and Emma Pickett are excited to play softball at the next level. Both earned first-team all-central honors for their performances last season.
Beale signed a Division I scholarship to play at Norfolk State, while Pickett will play at Virginia Wesleyan College, a Division III program in the ODAC. In 2018, Beale finished the season with a perfect (1.00) fielding percentage. She led the team with 34 hits, six triples and 15 stolen bases.
“I never really thought this was ever going to happen for me,” Beale said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m very glad it happened.”
The senior lead-off hitter felt a strong connection to the campus and the program from her first visit and the admiration continued to grow.
“I’ve been to many colleges, but [Norfolk State] was definitely my favorite one,” she said. “It felt like home to me.”
Beale plans to study medical science.
“I’ve always dreamt about going to any college level, but going [Division I] was amazing and I’m so happy I accomplished it,” Beale said. “Softball has always been my dream and my passion and always been my heart.”
A self-proclaimed water person, Pickett said Virginia Wesleyan, which is located in Virginia Beach, was a perfect blend of her two passions.
“When I walked on campus, I just fell in love,” Pickett said. “The coaches were so welcoming and loving. The group of girls and the atmosphere is unreal. I’m very excited.”
The senior first baseman and pitcher plans to study environmental science.
“This moment is a huge part of my life,” Pickett said. “I’ve been playing softball since I was 3, so finally getting to the point in my career and onto bigger things is great.”
Pickett was third on the 2018 team with five home runs and 22 RBIs. She posted a .380 batting average and .960 fielding percentage.
Jessica Ford, a shortstop for William Monroe, verbally committed to play softball at James Madison University, a Division I school in Harrisonburg, last spring and finalized the decision at an earlier signing ceremony.
Garrett Shifflett, who will play football at Bridgewater College in the fall, has played football since he was 10 years old.
“It was very emotional,” said Shifflett. “I rarely ever cry and it got to me. It’s probably the biggest moment of my life so far.”
Shifflett has learned a lot about himself on the gridiron. He’s excited about the opportunity to play for the Eagles.
“It was close to home and they showed interest in me from the very beginning,” he said. “The campus is beautiful. They have a nice culture with nice people. It would’ve been dumb of me to say no.”
The senior plans to study business with a focus on either finance or accounting.
“I’m looking forward to success and being able to continue building and being better, as a person and as a player,” Shifflett said.
His teammate, Alex Kinsey, signed to play football at Christopher Newport University, a Division III program in the Capital Athletic Inc. Conference. He had opportunities to play at a number of schools, but felt a strong connection with the Captains.
“I love the campus, the people there and the academics,” Kinsey said.
A two-way standout at quarterback and defensive back for the Dragons, Kinsey is projected to see time in the defensive backfield at CNU. Coaches like his versatility and believe that he could see action in other spots, including receiver or running back. He earned an all-central honorable mention last season.
In the classroom, he hopes to major in health and nutrition.
“From a little kid, every athlete looks forward to this day, being able to play a college sport,” Kinsey said. “It’s been amazing.”
Miles Lesko capped off a successful career at William Monroe by signing to play golf at RandolphMacon College in Ashland, also in the ODAC.
“It’s just a good fit for me,” Lesko said. “I really liked the campus and the coach and the area.”
The senior standout, who hopes to major in pre-med, is excited to continue to play golf at the next level.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Lesko said. “I got to go to the school that I wanted to go to and play golf, so that’s pretty awesome.”
Lesko was named second-team all-central in 2017, and helped lead the golf team to a fourth place finish in the Class 3 state golf tournament this year.
Bryonna Woofter signed to play basketball at Mary Baldwin University in Staunton, a Division III school in the USA South conference, after one season with the William Monroe basketball program.
“Just signing that paper, I could feel chills going through me,” Woofter said. “It was amazing. This is next level.”
Woofter was one of the leaders for the Dragons this season as they reached the Class 3 state semifinals, earning a second-team all-state nod. The senior point guard felt a similar camaraderie at her college of choice.
“Mary Baldwin became the school for me because of the coach,” she said. “The coach is amazing and the team is also amazing. Once I met all of them, I just knew right away that was the school I wanted to go to.”
Woofter, who plans to major in physical therapy, said the signing ceremony was priceless.
“This day has been everything I thought it would be and more,” Woofter said. “It’s been amazing.”
Basketball standout Samantha Brunelle committed to the University of Notre Dame in an earlier signing ceremony. Brunelle played in just 13 games this season for Monroe due to a foot injury. She averaged 17.6 points and 10.3 rebounds a game this season and took home Region 3B Player of the Year and all-state honors. She leaves William Monroe as the all-time leading scorer and rebounder with 2,292 points and 1,267 rebounds.
Anna Baker, who saw second team all-region honors last season, announced she will play soccer at West Virginia Tech in Beckley, W.V.
Baker, who’s been playing soccer for 12 years, said her soccer seasons were always her favorite part of the school year.
“I was excited because I can continue to play soccer in college,” Baker said.
The center midfielder plans to pursue forensic science while at West Virginia Tech, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) school.
Swim and Track
Madeline Andreson signed to swim at Asbury University, an NAIA school in Kentucky. Andreson competed in the state swim meet this season, qualifying in the girls 200 freestyle relay.
Luke Berry will run track at the University of Mary Washington, a Division III school in Fredericksburg in the Capital Athletic Conference.