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Six Falcons among flock of college signees Wednesday

Several Prairie athletes share special bond on big day

By Andy Buhler, Columbian Staff Writer
Published: November 14, 2018, 9:57pm

BRUSH PRAIRIE — Family, friends and members of the community filed into the Prairie High School auditorium at lunchtime on Wednesday, where six students sat at a table on the stage, balloons in tow, clad in college-themed garb.

Six Falcon seniors signed letters of intent to play Division I sports in college, as part of a ceremony to mark the first official day of the signing period for all sports except football.

Prairie was one of 10 schools around Clark County to recognize a signee on Wednesday afternoon with 26 total locals players signing or planning to sign. Athletic director Jason Castro addressed over a hundred people packed into the crowded theater.

Jordan Chiles signed with UCLA’s gymnastics team, Brooke Walling signed to play basketball for Fresno State, Cassidy Gardner signed with Portland State’s basketball team and Kam Osborn signed to hoop at Oregon Tech.

“It feels great knowing I’m one of the athletes who gets to sign,” Walling said. “We all worked really hard today, it’s pretty cool we all get to do it together.”

A day before heading north to compete at state, Prairie soccer’s Malaika Quigley and volleyball’s Katie Vroman both signed with Southern Oregon, where they plan to room together.

Osborn chose Oregon Tech after, among other reasons, they traveled to see him — and just him, he says — play in an AAU tournament in Las Vegas over the summer.

Signing with longtime friends and training pals Gardner and Walling carried extra meaning for the senior point guard.

“I’ve known Cassidy since fourth grade,” Osborn said. “I homeschooled with her in the eighth grade. We trained together and all that. I knew Brooke a little bit before she came to Prairie. That little core three, we worked out a lot.”

Clark County’s quintet of top senior basketball recruits — Walling, Gardner, Beyonce Bea, Haley Hansen and Taylor Stephens all planned to commit at the beginning of early signing period.

The timing is conveniently paired with the start of basketball practices on Monday.

All five were committed going into the day.

Friends and AAU teammates for years, they were at Prairie supporting Gardner and Walling midway Wednesday, and planned to head up to La Center for Stephens’ signing Wednesday afternoon.

One of the attendees was MacKenzie Ellertson, who was there with her mom, King’s Way girls soccer coach Tina Ellertson to support Quigley, a former club teammate of MacKenzie’s.

In her comments read aloud during the ceremony, Quigley mentioned Tina Ellertson, her club coach, as one of the reasons she stood on the stage Wednesday.

MacKenzie Ellertson signed to play soccer at Washington State earlier Wednesday morning, one of two signees at 1A King’s Way. She signed surrounded by family and friends, and afterward held up a photo of her as a toddler in front of a Washington State Cougars flag.

For Osborn, looking to the left and right of him at the signing table was a bit surreal.

“It doesn’t come around often,” Osborn said. “Sitting there at the table with Jordan (Chiles) going to UCLA, that’s incredible. It’s good to see them not just going to good schools but people you grew up with. That’s fun.”

Chiles wasn’t always so sure she’d be going to college immediately.

With the 2020 Olympics approaching, Chiles missed the window to qualify for the 2016 Games by a mere four months, as she was not yet the minimum age of 16.

“During that whole situation if I was going to go to college or defer,” Chiles said.

But ever since she was little she wanted to go to UCLA, she said, and on Wednesday she donned Bruin baby blue.

“Just having my family here was a big moment for me, I didn’t think I was going to have this many family members here,” Chiles said.

Local signees

Breakdown of locals who signed or are intending to sign with four-year college programs:

Camas: Carla Jooste, soccer, Mercy College; Maddie Kemp, soccer, Gonzaga; Jazzy Paulson, soccer, Simon Fraser; Jenna Efraimson, soccer, Idaho; Callie Rheaume, soccer, Hawaii Pacific; Haley Hanson, basketball, Northwest Nazarene; Emma Cox, golf, Towson University; Daniel Maton, cross country/track and field, Washington

Columbia River: Evan Dirksen, basketball, Menlo College

Hockinson: Noah Stecher, baseball, Washington State

King’s Way Christian: MacKenzie Ellertson, soccer, Washington State; Madi Bertrand, soccer, Corban

La Center: Laynie Erickson, volleyball, Central Washington; Taylor Stephens, basketball, Central Washington

Prairie: Brooke Walling, basketball, Fresno State; Cassidy Gardner, basketball, Portland State; Jordan Chiles, gymnastics, UCLA; Katie Vroman, volleyball, Southern Oregon; Kam Osborn, basketball, Oregon Tech; Malaika Quigley, soccer, Southern Oregon.

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Ridgefield: Kaia Oliver, softball, Syracuse; Karli Oliver, basketball, George Fox; Vinh Dawkins, lacrosse, St. John’s.

Skyview: Gracie Brenner, volleyball, St. Martin’s; Noah Guyette, baseball, Air Force

Washougal: Beyonce Bea, basketball, Idaho

Woodland: Olivia Grey, softball, Portland State

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Columbian Staff Writer