ORANGE — Orange County athletic director Mike Neeley was all smiles Wednesday morning as he stood in the lobby of the Hornets Sports Complex as five student-athletes signed their National Letters of Intent to play college sports on National Signing Day.
The group, which included three football players, a softball pitcher and a girls soccer goalkeeper, celebrated the momentous day by signing in front of a crowd of nearly 200 family members, friends and coaches.
Jaylen Alexander, Orange County’s all-time leading rusher, signed to play football at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. The senior running back rushed for more than 5,500 yards and 60 touchdowns during his high school career at St. Anne’s-Belfield and Orange County and ranks second all-time on Central Virginia’s all-time rushing list.
“It’s really just a sense of relief,” Alexander said. “Just to know where I’ll be attending [school] for the next four years.”
Alexander had interest from a number of programs throughout the recruiting process, including an appointment offer from the United States Military Academy, but said he found his calling with the Hoyas.
“They just seemed to want me,” Alexander said. “They just showed a lot of love when I went up to visit and they came to the school a number of times and it just felt right. It’s been a tough process with its ups and downs, but at the end it just paid off.”
The senior is proud to represent Orange County at his new program.
“It’s just something big,” Alexander said. “That’s where I’m from and I’m just trying to leave a statement.”
Garrett Pitts signed to play football at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington. The senior offensive lineman was a catalyst up front for the Hornets this season and is ecstatic about the opportunity to continue his playing career.
“It’s just a feeling that I really can’t describe,” Pitts said. “All those years of hard work finally culminating into just one big day. I can’t wait and I’ve got four more years of hard work ahead of me.”
Versatility is a staple for Pitts, who believes he can play center, guard or tackle at the next level. The Keydets are a team on the rise in the Southern Conference under Coach Scott Wachenheim.
While the team’s success on the field is important, Pitts chose VMI for the support they give their student-athletes once their playing days are done.
“What really did it for me, was after I get out, the alumni base is so huge,” Pitts said. “And the fact that I can go into the military afterwards was really exciting. It’s great, I can’t wait.”
Colby McGhee rounded out the group of football players. He has accepted a preferred walk-on opportunity at the University of Virginia.
McGhee was a force on both sides of the line of scrimmage for the Hornets throughout his career, earning all-district and region honors.
“It feels really good. There’s a lot of relief off my chest,” McGhee said. “The recruiting process has been long and hard and I’ve been battling through it, talking to many coaches and I narrowed it down to one and I’m really happy with my decision.”
The senior lineman believes he can play either offensive or defensive line at the next level and is excited to get to work.
“If you would’ve told me as a kid that I’d be going to play football at UVa, I would’ve never believed you,” McGhee said. “I would’ve laughed at you and now it’s really a dream come true.”
He embraces Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall’s philosophy of “Earned not given” and wouldn’t want it any other way.
“Earned not given is really true,” McGhee said. “You have to earn something. If they give it to you, you’ll never respect it in the way you would if they just give it to you. Great academics, great coaches, great school, Power 5 conference program in the ACC, you can’t get any better than that.”
McGhee also is excited to be joining Alexander and Pitts at the next level.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “All the sacrifices I’ve made with my brothers, on the field and off the field, it’s a great time. We’re all going places that we love and have good support systems for us. It’s a lot of sacrifice, day in and day out, mornings and evenings you just have to keep bettering yourself because if you don’t, you’ll fall behind.”
Hannah Meadows signed to play softball at Christopher Newport University in Newport News.
“It’s definitely one of the biggest days I’ve had,” Meadows said. “It’s an honor to be committed to CNU. They are one of the best schools out there that I’ve ever talked to. The campus is just beautiful and I just love the coaches and everything about it.”
The senior pitcher led the Hornets in innings pitched and strikeouts last season and was first team all-Region 5D performer in the circle.
“It’s the biggest honor I’ve had,” Meadows said. “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for my friends, especially my family. My dad was there for me whenever I needed him, pitching and hitting and stuff. My mom was definitely my biggest supporter, always having my back and yelling for me.”
Meadows is thrilled with the opportunity and is eager showcase her skills at the next level.
“It’s going to mean a lot,” Meadows said. “I know that a lot of people don’t get committed because they don’t have the work ethic or the support system behind them to accomplish what they want to accomplish and play in college.”
Alyson Kinkopf signed to play soccer at Richard Bland College in Petersburg. The senior served as goalkeeper for the Hornets last season and was a steady force for a young squad.
“I’m excited,” Kinkopf said. “My plan is to go there for two years, play most of the time and hopefully don’t get hurt.”
Her goal is to take her general education classes at Richard Bland, a junior college, as well as play soccer, before moving on to a four-year school.
“It’s thrilling. I’m very excited to represent Orange County,” Kinkopf said. “Today is a big day.”