Sports

SIGNING DAY: A school-record eight ink letters of intent at Federal Way

A school-record eight student-athletes signed National Letters of Intent at Federal Way High School Wednesday morning. From left to right, Zeke McNeal, Jessica Cabanada, Bianca Arizpe, Sarah Shimer, Aaron Persinger, Albert Havili, D
A school-record eight student-athletes signed National Letters of Intent at Federal Way High School Wednesday morning. From left to right, Zeke McNeal, Jessica Cabanada, Bianca Arizpe, Sarah Shimer, Aaron Persinger, Albert Havili, D'Londo Tucker and Mike Tate are honored by Federal Way athletic director John Meagher.
— image credit: Casey Olson/The Mirror

It might be the only day in our modern world when people actually gather around a fax machine, the dinosaur of the digital age. Wednesday marked National Signing Day for several college sports, but most notably football. It also marked the biggest day for the antiquated technology of the fax machine.

The toner inside the fax machine at Federal Way High School got a workout Wednesday morning. A record eight Eagle seniors inked their National Letters of Intent and were honored inside a packed cafeteria.

“It’s a historic day for Federal Way High School,” said longtime Eagle football coach and acting athletic director John Meagher. “We are tremendously proud of these student-athletes.”

Four of Wednesday’s signees hailed from the highly-successful Federal Way football team, which finished 11-1 this season. Albert Havili and D’Londo Tucker signed with Eastern Washington, Mike Tate inked with San Jose State and Zeke McNeal will play at Fordham University in New York City.

Other signees included soccer goalkeeper Sarah Shimer at the University of Washington, wrestlers Bianca Arizpe (Menlo College) and Jessica Cabanada (Jamestown College) and track and field star Aaron Persinger (Memphis).

The Eagle football program has turned into a factory for developing college athletes in recent years. Last year, the Eagles had three players ink with Division I football programs. D.J. May and Uso Olive signed with the University of Wyoming and Jordan Pulu is now at Eastern Washington.

“It’s a fun day,” said Tucker, who will play cornerback at Eastern. “It’s everything I’ve worked for.”

The three other Federal Way schools also had student-athletes sign their letters of intent. Decatur had three ink Wednesday. Soccer player Kelli McCluskey will play at Boise State, Kevin Locascio will play basketball at Central Washington and Kevin Young will play football at Central.

At Jefferson, pole vaulter Montana Pellegrini signed with the Air Force Academy, Alexus Song will play golf at Seattle University and Katie Jackson inked to play softball at Bellevue Community College. Beamer’s two signees Wednesday were soccer players Jenna Floyd and Ike Crook.

D’Londo Tucker, football, Eastern Washington

The senior was named the Defensive Back of the Year in the SPSL South Division for the league-champion Eagles after finishing with five interceptions. He also led Federal Way with 26 catches on the season for 432 yards and five touchdowns as a wide receiver. Tucker was a first-team, All-SPSL selection on both sides of the ball. He will play cornerback for Eastern.

“He’s a true, true cornerback, but he also has the ability to help us on special teams in our return game,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “He’s dynamic with the ball in his hands as well. But he has the skills, length, speed and mental ability that make him a true corner. When you talk to him, get a feel for how he thinks and see his personality, you just see it. You see that confidence and the ability to have short memory – that’s what you want at corner. The best of the best corners have that, and so does D’londo. It’s always nice to find great in-state cornerbacks – we have three now who are all in-state players who have been productive for us. We were able to do that again and recruited one of the best cornerbacks in the state. That’s a big deal for us.”

Eastern Washington finished 11-3 last season and lost to Sam Houston State in the Football Championship Subdivision. The Eagles won the Big Sky Conference championship with a 7-1 record and are one of only five school to have made the playoffs at least six times in the last nine seasons.

Albert Havili, football, Eastern Washington

The 6-foot-3, 235-pounder was named the SPSL South’s Offensive Lineman of the Year, but was also the league’s Linebacker of the Year on the defensive side of the ball.

Havili led the SPSL’s top defense this season, which allowed only 223.2 yards a game and will play on the defensive side of the ball at Eastern.

“He fits into the slightly bigger mold of a linebacker,” said Baldwin. “One of our strengths at linebacker over the years has been our athleticism, without a question. Albert brings that same athleticism, but he also adds size to it. Along with that, he’s an extremely talented football player. He’s going to be a great fit for us and fits in well with our other players. We’re expecting great things right away from Albert – he’s that good and he’s big enough and strong enough to handle it right away. It’s all up to him, but he can come in and have an impact right off the bat.”

Havili was also named All-City, All-Area and was chosen as a first-team All-State linebacker by the Associated Press. As a junior, he was a first team All-SPSL South Division selection as both an offensive lineman and linebacker and is the school record-holder in the discus and finished third at the Class 4A State Track and Field Championships in the event last spring.

Mike Tate, football, San Jose State

The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder led a very talented group of Federal Way wide receivers and switched his commitment from Eastern Washington to San Jose State late in the recruiting game.

“I really felt comfortable down there with the coaches and players,” Tate said. “A big factor was the weather. I’m expecting big things.”

During his senior season, Tate finished with 21 catches for 276 yards for eight touchdowns and was a first-team, All-SPSL South selection.

San Jose State finished 11-2 last season, with its only losses coming to Utah State and Stanford. The 24th-ranked Spartans beat Bowling Green Dec. 27 at the Military Bowl at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. San Jose State also beat BYU, San Diego State and Navy, among others.

“Coach (Jimmie) Dougherty had the chance to work with Michael while at the University of Washington this past summer, and Michael caught his eye,” said first-year head coach Ron Caragher. “He is a young man who has very good all-around wide receiver skills. He runs good routes. He catches the ball well. He gives great effort blocking in the run game. He does all those things you need to be a successful player.”

Zeke McNeal, football, Fordham University

The senior speedster led the Eagles in rushing with 1,347 yards on just 96 carries for a ridiculous 14.0 average as a running back. McNeal also finished with a team-leading 17 touchdowns, including 16 on the ground and one on a catch. He was a first-team, All-SPSL South selection by the league’s coaches at running back and had 292 yards during a playoff win over Issaquah.

Fordham finished the 2012 season with a 6-5 record, including wins over Ivy League schools Cornell and Columbia. The Rams play in the Patriot League with Holy Cross, Bucknell, Georgetown, Lehigh, Lafayette and Colgate.

McNeal was also a part of the state record-holding 4x400 relay team, which has won two of the last three state championships.

Kevin Young, football, Central Washington

The Decatur senior was the lone first-team, All-SPSL 3A defender for the Gators this year. The 5-foot-10, 171-pound athletic Young was also Decatur’s top receiver.

He joins 21 other high school seniors to ink with Central, who finished 7-4 a season ago, on Wednesday.

“We pride ourselves in signing Washington student-athletes,” Central head coach Blaine Bennett said. “We have always felt that football is strong in the state of Washington, and being the only Division II (football) program in the state, it provides us with a unique advantage in recruiting.”

Sarah Shimer, soccer, University of Washington

Shimer established herself as one of the top goalkeepers in the area. For the Eagles this season, Shimer finished with nine shutouts and was the first-team, All-SPSL South goalkeeper. The Federal Way defense allowed only 15 goals in 18 games.

Shimer should have the opportunity to start as a true freshman for the Huskies after the graduation of 2012 starter Kari Davidson.

“Sarah is a technically clean and competitive goalkeeper,” said UW head coach Lesle Gallimore. “She also has a great physical presence in goal and possesses great leadership from the back of the field. Great goalkeeping is a hallmark of our program and we’re happy to add Sarah to this corps.”

The Huskies finished 10-8-3 last season and lost in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

Shimer plays her club soccer for the Washington Premier FC out of Puyallup and helped the team make the ECNL Nationals in Chicago in 2012. The team made the semifinals in part because of Shimer saving a penalty kick in the quarters. She also won a state cup with the Washington Premier FC in 2010, where she saved two penalty kicks in the final.

Aaron Persinger, track and field, Memphis

The Federal Way senior will travel a long ways from home to compete for the Memphis track and field team. Last year, as a junior, Persinger helped the Eagles 4x400 relay team win its second state championship in the last three years by running the third leg. He also won a silver medal in the 4x100 relay. Persinger also made the final heats in both the 110- and 300-hurdles, finishing fifth and sixth, respectively.

He was also impressive on the football field for the Eagles, finishing with five interceptions and earning first-team, all-league honors as a defensive back.

Katie Jackson, fastpitch, Bellevue College

The Thomas Jefferson senior was a first-team, All-SPSL North selection as a utility player last spring. Jackson played numerous positions for the Raiders and finished with a .310 batting average with eight doubles and three triples. Jackson also knocked in 16 runs and scored 17 at the plate.

Jackson was also Jefferson’s top pitcher, starting 24 games on the mound. The right-hander finished with a 2.49 earned-run average and struck out 125 hitters in 149 innings of work. Jackson pitched in every game during the Raiders’ run to the state tourney.

Kelli McCluskey, soccer, Boise State

The Decatur senior will continue a tradition of Federal Way soccer players at Boise State after signing with the Broncos Wednesday. The 2012 roster included Beamer's Mackenzie Hickel and Avery Salisbury.

“Kelli continues the culture of us recruiting out of the premium clubs in Washington,” said Boise State head coach Jim Thomas. “She brings an experience that will aid our back line immediately and has the ability to get forward and be effective in the attack which will be a big part of the way we play.”

At the club level, McCluskey played for Washington Premier ECNL ’94 under Seth Spidahl. The team advanced to the Washington state finals in 2011. McCluskey, a defender, was also a member of the Olympic Development Program state team for three years.

Montana Pellegrini, track and field, Air Force Academy

The TJ senior will continue her pole vaulting career at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Pellegrini won the West Central District championship as a sophomore in 2011 with a vault of 11-0, which is currently the school record at TJ. She finished in fourth place at the state meet in 2011

Jenna Floyd, soccer, Louisiana-Monroe

The Beamer senior was a first-team, All-SPSL South selection in the midfield despite scoring just one goal on the season. Floyd proved to be a solid defensive option in the middle of the field for the Titans, who won three SPSL South titles in her four seasons. As a junior, Floyd was a second-team, All-SPSL South selection after finishing with five goals and five assists for Beamer.

Louisiana-Monroe finished 4-15-0 overall last season and 1-9 in the Sun Belt Conference.

Ike Crook, soccer, College of Charleston

The Beamer midfielder was rated as the 72nd-best recruit in the nation by TopDrawerSoccer.com and plays club soccer for the US Soccer Academy and the Seattle Sounders FC Academy. He didn't play for Beamer last season to concentrate on club soccer.

“Ike is an extremely technical player who combines well and has the ability to beat players one-on-one," said Charleston head coach Ralph Lundy. "His soccer intelligence is what really separates him from other players. I’m very excited to start working with Ike.”

The Charleston roster also includes fellow Beamer graduate Troy Peterson. The Cougars finished 9-11-1 last season.

"Everything was perfect, the weather, the location, the people," Crook said. "The school is beautiful."

Bianca Arizpe, wrestling, Menlo College

The Federal Way senior will wrestle at Menlo College in Atherton, Calif. in the fall. Arizpe is currently the top-ranked 118-pounder in the state of Washington heading into the postseason and won the SPSL title a week ago.

She has wrestled at the Mat Classic inside the Tacoma Dome during all three of her seasons at Federal Way. Arizpe has placed in all three state championships.

She was also a first-team, All-SPSL South Division midfielder in soccer during the fall.

Jessica Cabanada, wrestling, Jamestown College

The Federal Way senior will wrestle at Jamestown College in North Dakota.

Cabanada recently finished in second place at the SPSL Girls Wrestling Championships and will be shooting for an appearance at the state championships this weekend.

Alexus Song, golf, Seattle University

The Jefferson senior inked with the Redhawks Wednesday. Song has been the TJ captain during all four of her seasons. She helped lead the Raiders to three consecutive undefeated dual records and took the squad to its first-ever SPSL championship in 2011. Individually, Song won one league title and finished second twice. She will also compete in the state championship tournament in the spring.

"Alexus will bring a fantastic work ethic both in the classroom as well as the golf course," said head coach Marc Chandonnet. "She is passionate about the game and even more excited about being a Redhawk. She is a great local talent and we are thrilled to have her join our team."

Song has played competitive junior golf tournaments as well, claiming a victory in the Pacific Northwest Junior PGA Championship by posting rounds of 75 and 69 in the two-day tournament in 2010. She also took part in a national Junior PGA tournament that year.

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