Signing Day: Local All-Stars signed their Letters of Intent todayby Andy Morales on Nov. 10, 2010, under Sports
Had she grown up across the street from a swimming pool she probably would have been a swimmer. Across the street from a country club? Then she would have been a golfer or a tennis player. A garage? Then she would have been the best mechanic in Tucson.
The Lopez family lived near the old Tumbleweeds Gymnastics building and a nine year old Kassandra Lopez had a simple request from her parents. You guessed it, and for a couple of years her parents, Tony and Jessica Lopez, took her to practice once a week to see what is was all about.
“I let her go in because it was something to do,” said Jessica. “It was only once a week but pretty soon her coaches saw potential in her. You never know what to believe because we didn’t know the difference.”
Her current club coach Regina Mueller-Martin remembers the young Kassandra while she was coaching at a different club. “She stood out the first time I saw her when she was probably just 10 years old,” she explained. “I’ve been coaching for about 30 years and I can see a college or Olympic quality athlete and she was it.”
“I did it just for fun,” said Kassandra. “It was like any other sport kids do when they are young.”
Wednesday marked the beginning of “signing day” for college-bound athletes. Athletes throughout the country sat at their kitchen tables, parent’s offices or school celebrations to sign their Letter of Intent along with their parents or guardians.
Lopez, like many other athletes in Tucson, had a special celebration at her school. But, unlike all the athletes in Tucson, the Amphitheater senior signed to compete in gymnastics Utah.
Utah? Did you know that under coaches Greg and Megan Marsden Utah has won 10 national championships and 18 top two finishes? Utah has had 312 All-Americans in Greg’s 36 years there (941-170-6). Utah has averaged 11,000 fans to their home meets over the last 20 years with an incredible 14,213 fan average for last year.
That is Duke basketball, McKale Center and SEC football all rolled into one.
“The exciting part is that Utah is now in the PAC-12,” Jessica told me. “I am so proud of her. I came from Panama and my husband came from Mexico. To have my first born realize her dream….I’m just so proud.”
Not only did Lopez know she wanted to be a gymnast she also knew she wanted to be a doctor. Not just any kind of doctor. No, she wanted to be an oncologist.
“She told me when she was young that she wanted to find a cure for cancer and this brings her closer to her dream,” Jessica told me.
If it takes a young Latina from Tucson to cure cancer through gymnastics in Utah then Jessica will help many, many others realize their dreams also.
“I feel so blessed to have signed to a school like this,” said Lopez. And so are we.
Lopez will be joined at Utah by Canyon del Oro golfer Gentry Hicks who just captured the Division II state championship this fall. He signed earlier in the day at a celebration held at his school. The two will be joining another local All-Star in Salt Lake.
Sabino swimmer LeighAnne Oliver will sign with Utah this Friday. Oliver won two individual silver medals and a gold as the anchor in the 400 Free Relay this fall. Lopez recently finished 4th at her nationals so there is a lot of talent headed Utah’s way.
Mattie Fowler and Kayla Henry joined Hicks at CDO where Fowler signed with Nebraska and Henry signed with Grand Canyon. Fowler and Henry are major parts of CDO’s softball dynasty.
The University of Arizona wasn’t left out of the day’s activities as one of Arizona’s top golfers and top academic scholars signed on to play for Arizona.
Ironwood Ridge senior Alex McMahon had the best match average in Southern Arizona and was one of 12 players in the nation to make the AJGA HP Scholastic Junior All American team.
His Nighthawk schoolmate Brandon Matthews signed to play baseball for Arizona. One of the best in the state last year, Matthews will fit right in at Arizona.
Fellow Nighthawks Trey Higginbotham signed to play baseball at New Mexico State and Dani Colwill signed to play softball at North Alabama.
Higginbotham told the crowd that he is following his parent’s footsteps since they both attended New Mexico State. He called it a family “tradition.”
Likewise, Colwill will be attending college in her mother’s home town and where her father graduated. Colwill attended a camp and fell in love with the school. Having family there is an added bonus.
Buena state golf champion Colin McCarty will be signing with Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) on Friday. His older brother Neal is finishing up his senior year at SIUE.
Another one that Arizona let get away was Sahuaro senior basketball sensation Cashala Thompson who will be signing a letter of intent to play at Florida A&M on Monday. Her father Harvey Thompson played basketball at Cholla and at Arizona.
I also learned that Ironwood Ridge volleyball All-Star Michaela Christiaansen has decided to switch from Austin Peay to Pepperdine. Christiaansen will walk-on as a Libero this year and catch on next season.
MORE PHOTOS OF THIS EVENT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andymorales