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Albemarle seniors sign to play collegiate sports on Wednesday during the Patriots signing event at Albemarle High School. See more photos at DailyProgress.com.

For more than 60 years, Albemarle High School’s athletic department has developed a reputation for producing high-quality collegiate athletes.

That trend continued Wednesday as six AHS seniors signed their National Letters of Intent to continue their playing careers as the next level.

Meme Zarzyski signed to run cross country and track at Queens University in New York. The senior finished 26th last weekend at the VHSL Class 5 cross country championships at The Plains with a time of 20 minutes, 07 seconds, helping her team to a third-place team finish

The senior, who plans to major in nursing, said Queens University checked off all her boxes.

“The coaching staff is amazing,” Zarzyski said. “They have a great program going. They just won their NCAA regionals last week and they’re going to nationals this weekend. I think it’s a great, competitive team and I’m really excited. Plus, I can do nursing with it, which makes it the perfect place.”

Zarzyski noted the recruiting process wasn’t easy, as she went through a number of official and unofficial visits before finding a home with the program.

“It’s been a long process, but after my official visit with Queens, I really knew it was the place,” she said. “I’m very excited. It’s a great opportunity and I’m so excited to get to run at the next level.”

Aidan Shell found his calling a little closer to home. He signed to play college soccer at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. The senior was an all-regional performer for the Patriots soccer team last season and emerged as a leader of the defense.

He noted that Mary Washington encompassed the entire package he was looking for in a college opportunity.

“It was mostly the coach, I really liked him, but it was also the size of the school, and the prowess of academics are good, too,” Shell said.

Shell is projected to play center back at the collegiate level and hopes to compete for playing time right away for the Eagles. The senior said Wednesday’s ceremony was the culmination of a childhood dream.

“It was really cool,” he said. “I’ve been really looking forward to this since I first started playing when I was 5 years old. It’s really cool.”

Morgan Coleman discovered field hockey as a sophomore when Albemarle coach Brittany McElheny was looking for someone to play goalkeeper for the Patriots.

Two years later, the decision has landed her collegiate opportunities in field hockey and a start-up lacrosse program at Eastern Mennonite University.

“It’s been so stressful, honestly,” Coleman said. “I never thought this would’ve happened. I started playing field hockey goalie my sophomore year and lacrosse goalie last year, so I’m just so excited that I get to continue two sports that I really love.”

Coleman was originally recruited to play field hockey for the Royals. The lacrosse coach then reached out to her and discussed the program with her and the rest is history.

“I’m still shocked and taking it all in,” Coleman said. “It all happened so quickly. I went to EMU just for field hockey and after talking with the lacrosse coach, she asked would I mind coming to the clinic. I loved the coach and we’ve just really clicked. She asked me ‘Would you please come play lacrosse with us too?’”

Like Coleman, Ryleigh Katstra found her sport of choice by chance during her sophomore year at Albemarle. After playing basketball as a freshman, Coach Cathy Coffman encouraged Katstra to come out for the rowing program.

The sport was a perfect fit for Katstra, who captured gold medal honors last May during the Scholastic Rowing Athletic Association National Regatta in Ohio. On Wednesday, she signed her National Letter of Intent to row at Duke University.

“I really looked around a lot and I couldn’t find any coaching staff, team and academics, all three elements combined, that I loved just as much as I did at Duke,” she said.

The senior admits rowing isn’t for everyone.

“It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” Katstra said. “With what Coach Coffman said regarding the 2K, there’s no test I’ve ever done that’s been that hard. Rowing has brought out the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life.”

Now Katstra is ready to challenge herself even more as a member of the Blue Devils program.

“It’s truly special,” Katstra said. “Two years ago, I wasn’t going to do sports in college at all, and then I found rowing, so that was really something that’s just been like a complete 180 that’s super special to my college career.”

Andrew Scanlon started his Albemarle lacrosse career in impressive fashion by netting a game-winning overtime goal in his first appearance for the Patriots.

The senior hopes to leave a similar mark at the collegiate level after signing to play at the University of Lynchburg.

“It’s been a long journey,” Scanlon said. “It’s been something I’ve been looking forward to ever since I came to one of these [college signings] as a freshman. It’s good to really get this off my back and to focus on finishing off this school year, so I think that’s really good.”

Scanlon scored a career-high 50 goals and added 25 assists to lead the Albemarle boys lacrosse team to a state tournament berth. He was a first team all-state performer and was named a U.S. Lacrosse All-American.

The senior could be moved to midfield at the college level, which could mean him switching between attack and midfield this spring for the Patriots.

Scanlon admitted Wednesday’s signing was an emotional one for him.

“I was a little nervous up there at first,” Scanlon said. “But then I kind of settled in and realized, OK, I finally did it.”

Savannah Alexander has been associated with the Albemarle girls soccer program since she took on the role of student manager as an eighth grader.

Five years later, the beautiful game will remain a part of her life in college after she signed to play at VCU.

“It’s so exciting,” Alexander said. “I’ve been thinking about this for the last several months and to finally know that I’m going to go there and know my future is very relieving.”

The senior midfielder is one of Albemarle’s most decorated athletes. During her career, she has won a pair of VHSL Class 5 state titles, including one last spring.

Last year, she tallied 11 goals, including the game-winning marker against Deep Run in the state title game, and added nine assists for the Patriots.

A first team all-state performer as a center midfielder for Coach Amy Sherrill’s team, Alexander could switch to a more defensive role as a holding midfielder next year for the Rams.

Alexander welcomes the challenge.

“Anything in the midfield is great,” she said. “I love to be creative in there and make the plays. Getting that opportunity to play holding mid will really suit my skill set.”

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