It’s something that Riverdale Ridge senior Luke Burley will miss, in about a year.
Burley was waiting in the high-school’s gymnasium Feb. 3, getting ready to sign his letter of intent committing him to attend Norwich University, a military college in chilly Vermont.
Sitting at the table in the gym wearing his jeans and his Norwich University baseball T-shirt, his mother Lori called across the gym: “Where’s your hoody?”
“I took it off,” he said. “I’m going to Norwich, so I have to get used to the cold.”
Eight Riverdale Ridge seniors, all standouts in at least one sport at the high school, signed their college letters of intent. Originally scheduled for Wednesday morning, the ceremony was pushed back in response to the Feb. 2 snowstorm that shuttered schools throughout the region.
Burley said he’ll be fine in the cold. He’s eager to get started.
“My No. 1 goal is to serve, and I really want to serve and defend my country,” Burley said. “Also, having the chance to play baseball is great. And they have the best cyber security program.”
Riverdale Ridge Athletic Director Aaron Riessen applauded not just the athletes for their college choices, but the good-sized crowd of family, friends and Riverdale students that watched.
“These eight athletes have helped us create an identity and culture that we can be proud of at Riverdale Ridge,” Riessen said. “In four short years, you helped put us on the map.”
It’s only the second time the school has hosted the letters of intent ceremony and only the second year the school has had seniors to send to college. Riverdale Ridge first came online in 2018 and fielded its first senior class last year.
But coaches and school leaders said there has been plenty of time for the students to make an impression.
“You have made a mark throughout the entire Colorado high-school athletics community,” Principal Terry Elliott said. “They know Riverdale Ridge exists because of you and what you have done the last four years. You did it through a start-up, through a pandemic that impacted two or three seasons. I couldn’t be more proud of you.”
Like Burley, most of the students under the spotlight Feb. 3 sad they plan to attend college out of state. Soccer player Aryanna Day plans to take her skills to Phoenix’ Arizona Christian University.
“It’s 100 percent because of the coach there,” Day said. “She just supported my morals and values and stuff like that, which I really appreciate. She supports me, not just the way I play, but my character as well.”
Soccer player Molly Lancaster plans to attend Fort Hays State University in Kansas. She hopes to major in computer science, with a minor in political science.
“When I went there this summer, I got the feeling that this is where I belong,” Lancaster said. “As I got to meet the coaches and the other players and got familiar with the environment of the town, I knew it was the best fit for me.”
Basketball player Megan Drews plans to attend Hastings College in Nebraska. She plans to study business.
“I just liked the environment, the people,” Drews said. “It’s a new journey.”
Four of the students featured Feb. 3 came from the Ravens softball team, which made to the 4A semifinals this year. Coach Ray Garza had plenty to say.
“I get a lot of kudos, like ‘Coach, you’re doing an excellent job out there.’ I deflect those comments immediately because that’s not the truth,” Garza said. “The truth about why we did so well are the girls that are sitting here today.”
Senior Kyla Humphreys will attend the same school as Drews. She said she felt at home on the campus.
“I really enjoyed my coach. I walked on and just had this feeling like I was where I’m supposed to be.”
She’s planning to study biology with a minor in psychology, with long term plans to attend medical school.
“I am so excited for a new time, a new opportunity and to see what Hastings has to offer me,” Humphreys said.
Sydnee Fordham said she chose St. Charles Community College in Cottleville, Miss., because she’d get an early chance to play softball competitively.
“I want to go into nursing, so playing softball my third and fourth year is going to be pretty hard,” Fordham said. “I wanted to go to a school where I can almost guarantee I get to play my first and second years. “
Emma Hodnet plans to take her skills to Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa.
“I loved the environment and the moment I stepped on campus I knew it was going to be mine, my school,” Hodnet said.
Softball player Sienna Mullin was the only one on stage staying in Colorado for college. She plans to attend Fort Lewis in Durango.
“I wanted to stay close,” she said.
She loved the campus and the school. She hasn’t decided what she wants her major to be.
“I loved the coach and it has a lot of options for majors,” she said.