Six Blair Bears woke up and came to school early Wednesday morning to sign the necessary paperwork to play collegiate sports.
Those six Bears picked six new institutions, adding to a list of at least nine BHS seniors who have already made the commitment to athletics at the next level.
Aaron Bartholomew, Buena Vista football
Aaron Bartholomew's signing to the Buena Vista University football program is a homecoming of sorts.
“I was born in Storm Lake,” the defensive back said. “So, that kind of swayed my decision.”
The Iowa school plays in the American Rivers Conference, which also includes Nebraska Wesleyan. The Beavers were 3-7 last fall.
Bartholomew said he's excited to find out what its like to play at the next level, but, ultimately, he's glad he made the decision to sign based on one key factor.
“In the long run, just getting the opportunity to do what I love,” he said.
Eva Dunker, Hastings College soccer
The Hastings College women's soccer team was 17-5 last fall, finishing up in the NAIA National Championship.
Now, the Broncos are reloading with Blair senior Eva Dunker as one of their newest signees.
“Their soccer team was really good this season,” she said. “Their coach likes to push them and that's what I like.”
The business program at the school was also attractive to the Bears midfielder.
“I like the school and its size,” Dunker said. “And the campus is just beautiful.”
Overall, she's enthusiastic to enroll at Hastings College.
“I'm excited to play college soccer and meet new people,” Dunker said. “Live the college experience.”
Hannah Keatts, Midland volleyball
It didn't take Hannah Keatts long to accept a spot in the Midland University volleyball program.
“I actually went on a visit and I got offered to play,” the BHS senior said. “And it was right then and there. Super quick.”
After an injury sidelined her for much of her final high school season, Keatts is looking forward to continuing along in her sport.
“I've always wanted to play volleyball,” she said.
The Bear is excited to join her new Warriors team, her new coaches, the new experiences and the travel that is a part of college athletics.
“A whole new environment,” Keatts said.
Marissa Jonas, Central College soccer
Pella, Iowa, is the home to about 10,000 people.
Next fall, it can count on one more.
“I knew I wanted a smaller school, but I kind of thought I wanted it in a bigger city,” Blair senior Marissa Jonas said. “Which Pella is definitely not that.”
But the Central College soccer team was welcoming on her visit and helped make the defender's decision.
“I really the liked the family feel,” Jonas said. “It kind of felt like I was still at home.”
Now, the future Big Red soccer player is looking forward to the challenges of college ball.
“I just really want to get better,” Jonas said, noting speed of play in particular. “I'm just excited to play.”
Halle Clary, College of Saint Mary soccer
Halle Clary admits that college soccer wasn't always in the cards, but the College of Saint Mary provided the right opportunity.
No. 1, it was already the school of the Blair senior's choice.
“It was close, it was smaller and it was easier to become an occupational therapist,” Clary explained.
No. 2, it gave her the opportunity.
“I'm excited to continue to play soccer,” Clary said.
The Bear said she hopes to have a strong college career with the Flames.
Brady Soukup, Concordia football
Brady Soukup's college football decision came down to the wire before Wednesday's signing to Concordia University.
“I decided last week,” the senior lineman said. “I was kind of on the fence with another school, but I knew my heart was right with Concordia. I'm really excited to play college football. I think its really going to be a fun experience.”
The Bulldogs were 3-7 last fall with three wins in the Great Plains Athletic Conference. Soukup looks forward to joining the program.
“I'm just looking forward to having a fun time with my teammates and extending my time to play the game,” he said. “You only get a short time to play football.”
BHS up to 15 college athletes
Wednesday's six new signees join at least nine more BHS seniors who've committed to and signed on for college athletes — with, likely, more to come. They are: Maydson Ray (Midland track), Sam Lueders (University of Nebraska-Kearney track), Ashlyn McMillen (Morningside College softball), Katie Frazer (Iowa Western bowling), Max Nickerson (Morningside College baseball), Tory Villotta (Southwest Minnesota State softball), Lina Scott (College of Saint Mary softball), Samantha MacDonald (Briar Cliff softball) and Sophia Grantham (University of Missouri-Kansas City soccer).