Trio of area high school athletes officially put pen to paper on national signing day
Three area prep athletes put pen to paper on Wednesday, signing their National Letter of Intent to continue their athletic careers in college.
Aspen High School’s Kylie Kenny inked with the University of Denver for lacrosse, while Basalt High School’s Sierra Bower and Shea Card will head to Furman (cross country and track) and Denison (swimming), respectively.
Wednesday was the first day of the NLI signing period for Division I and II sports, outside of football (Dec. 16). Prior to then, commitments had only been verbal between athletes and schools.
Here’s a closer look at the why of each player’s decision:
The AHS senior will head to the Front Range to compete for a strong DU program, which finished this past spring ranked No. 16 in the IWLCA Division I coaches poll for the pandemic-shortened season, going 7-1 overall.
Kenny held more of a virtual signing from her home on Wednesday as AHS students are temporarily back to remote learning because of COVID-19 concerns. She originally committed to Denver back in January.
“This has always been a dream of mine and to have it officially official just makes it that much more real, which is crazy,” Kenny said of signing. “Coming from Colorado, I’ve idolized or looked up to a lot of DU players because it’s a great program and they are a true family. So when I had the opportunity to be a part of something like that, I really jumped at the opportunity.”
Kenny, who also is a standout in cross country (both running and skiing), has had a lacrosse stick in her hands since she could walk. She’s been a key piece for the AHS girls lacrosse program, even earning significant minutes as a freshman. Kenny finished third on the team in goals scored as a sophomore in 2019, when the Skiers went undefeated in the regular season. The 2020 spring season was canceled because of the pandemic.
She largely credits AHS girls lacrosse coach Amanda Trendell — with a nod to AHS cross country coach Chris Keleher and AHS Nordic coach Travis Moore — for getting her onto a major Division I lacrosse program. She is undecided on a major.
“It’s a huge honor. I’m really excited and I’m super grateful for all the people who helped get me to this level, namely coach Trendell,” Kenny said. “She has just absolutely inspired me for a lot of reasons and I don’t think this would have been possible without her.”
Kenny will likely be the focal point for AHS lacrosse this spring. The high school season doesn’t start until April 26 because of the altered COVID-19 schedule. Aspen had been preseason No. 8 in the state last spring but never played a game.
“I love the Aspen team like a second family,” Kenny said. “I’m really excited to continue to play with my sister and with the other girls on the team who I’ve been with now for three or four years. And I’m really excited to continue to work hard for and play for ‘Coach T’ one last time.”
One of the state’s top runners, Bower committed to South Carolina’s Furman University prior to the fall season and was able to officially sign on Wednesday at a small ceremony inside the BHS gymnasium.
“It was definitely super exciting and I’m happy to have that out of the way,” she said. “It was also really nice to have another athlete there. It just made it more interesting. It was fun having my parents there and everyone is super excited.”
Bower broke out onto the big stage as a sophomore, highlighted by her second-place finish in the girls 3,200-meter run at the 2019 state track and field championships. Then came her historic cross country season that fall as a junior, where she won the Class 3A girls state championship with a course record time of roughly 18 minutes flat in Colorado Springs.
She finished fifth at the state meet this fall, a race won by her sophomore teammate, Katelyn Maley. Bower will likely contend for the mile and 2-mile state championships in track this coming spring before heading to Furman in the fall. As of the latest coaches poll (Nov. 3), the Paladins are ranked No. 10 nationally among NCAA Division I women’s cross country teams.
Furman pushes double majors, with Bower wanting to focus on psychology. Her second major, should she choose one, remains unknown.
“I’m really excited,” Bower said of her decision to attend Furman. “After I committed I took an unofficial visit to South Carolina. I obviously didn’t meet the coaches because that goes against NCAA rules, but I got to meet the girls on the team and they definitely solidified my decision. I think overall it’s just a really good fit for me.”
Basalt’s Card has long been a standout swimmer for the Aspen Swim Club. He competes for the Glenwood Springs High School boys swim team in the spring, as BHS doesn’t have its own program.
Located in Granville, Ohio, Denison University competes at the NCAA Division III level. Former Aspen High School standout Trey Fabrocini, who transferred to Ohio for his senior season a year ago, is part of Denison’s football program.
Like Fabrocini, Card has roots in that area, having briefly lived in Cincinnati when he was younger and lived in Pittsburgh prior to moving to the Roaring Fork Valley.
“During the summer when everything was closed down I was allowed to walk around the campus because everything was empty,” Card said of a difficult recruiting process due to COVID-19. “After that I kept looking at other colleges, but they were the only one that continued to stick out to me.”
Card was looking at a handful of DI programs before choosing to go with Denison, which is a DIII powerhouse. In the final coaches poll of the 2020 season back in March, Denison finished ranked No. 1 nationally among DIII schools for both men and women. Denison coach Gregg Parini has led the program for more than three decades, winning six Division III national championships.
“It’s a really hard year for people like Shea. So it’s a huge relief that he’s got a spot. He knows where he is going and Denison has a very storied program,” said Becky Jager, who coaches the Aspen Swim Club alongside her husband, Olympian Tom Jager. “He stayed with it. He stayed in the water and stayed training, even though it’s hard to train that hard when you don’t have any meets coming up. But he is very focused.”
Card’s signing was mostly ceremonial on Wednesday, as the DIII level doesn’t offer full athletic scholarships. He signed inside the BHS gymnasium at the same time as Bower.
He’s still deciding on a major, but has his eyes currently set on either bioengineering or neuroscience.
“There wasn’t a doubt in my mind and I was going to do whatever it took to swim in college,” Card said. “It’s something that is very close to me and I can’t see myself not swimming. Before I even got into high school I was already starting to think about wanting to swim in college.”