HHS soccer players Burns, Price and Wheatley sign letters of intent
HUNTINGTON -- It was with excitement, gratitude and a hint of sadness that Huntington High seniors Kelsie Burns, Braddick Price and Summer Wheatley signed national letters of intent to play NCAA Division I NCAA women's soccer Wednesday afternoon in the school gym.
Burns signed to play for Army in West Point, N.Y.; Price for Gardner-Webb in Boiling Spring, N.C.; and Wheatley for the Marshall Thundering Herd.
They played high school soccer together for four years, and have played together on a travel club since they were in elementary school.
"We've been best friends and roommates since we were 9," Wheatley said. "So, it's going to be very hard knowing that we're not going to play together or against each other again."
Burns was the first to speak on behalf of all three, and she thanked the trio's parents, coaches and teammates, without whom she said none of them would have made it this far.
"I hope we've made it up to our parents somewhat by getting scholarships," she said with a laugh.
First-year HHS girls head coach Paul Farrell said the signing ceremony says a lot about the Highlanders' program.
"It's a testament to the Huntington High girls soccer program that three athletes are receiving Division I scholarships," Farrell said before the ceremony. "All three of them will provide significant contributions to the programs they're joining. What's amazing is to watch the journey from youth soccer all the way up to now, when they're signing their letters of intent, it's a testament not only to their individual efforts but the support of their families as well."
During the ceremony, Farrell mentioned each player fit the program they were joining, going as far as to compare Price, a defender, to Gardner-Webb's mascot, a bulldog.
"I don't think that's so bad, to be compared to a bulldog, as long as we're talking about on the soccer field," Price said with a laugh after the signing. "I'm tough and strong. I kind of think it's a good thing, actually."
Price said she is very eager to start playing for Gardner-Webb.
"I'm really excited and very happy," she said. "I'm just so glad I get the opportunity to do this thing I love and take it somewhere else. It seems like my senior year has been flying by, and I feel like these last couple months leading up to actually leaving are going to be the slowest."
Burns admitted to being a little jittery during the signing. She's not only committing to play soccer for the U.S. Military Academy, but to serving in the U.S. Army for at least two years after graduation.
"I was shaking the entire time -- it was a little overwhelming," Burns said. "But I feel happy, I'm glad it's over, but the hard work doesn't stop now. It's just starting."
Wheatley had similar thoughts when reflecting on the day's events.
"I'm overwhelmed, nervous, excited all at the same time," Wheatley said. "I really like the program at Marshall and their coach Kevin (Long) was already my travel team coach, and they're getting a new stadium so it all seemed to come together."
As for the bittersweet undercurrent, Price said she doesn't think distance will diminish the bond the three all-state selections forged when they were children.
"I think it will be tough, but I also know the three of us and our friendship and I know nothing's going to change," Price said. "We're still going to talk every day and be there for each other."