Columbus High School senior golfer Ben Carr added another highlight to his standout year on Monday.
Carr was one of five Columbus seniors to sign their letters of intent. Carr signed with Georgia Southern; Tiondra Grant signed a track scholarship to Kennesaw State; Jonathan Brand signed to play baseball at East Georgia State College; Hannah Morales signed to play softball at Shorter College and Nyah Whittlesey signed to play volleyball at Auburn University-Montgomery.
Carr, who had an average round of 72.8 in the spring when the Blue Devils won their second straight state title, committed to the Eagles in October. He said his visit to the Georgia Southern campus made him feel at home, and he came away impressed with the coaching staff.
Carr said his ultimate goal is to play professionally, and what he saw led him to believe Georgia Southern can help him reach that dream.
“It’s really special to make it official,” Carr said. “I’m very excited to get down to Statesboro. They’re building something special down there, and I can’t wait to be a part of it.”
Like Carr, Grant is also staying in state. She said when she visited Kennesaw State there was a true family vibe that surrounded the program, and the positive attitude they showed her really struck a nerve. She said signing Monday was a relief, and now she can dedicate her time to becoming more explosive and getting stronger.
Grant will participate in the shot put, discus and hammer and weight throw in college.
“(Signing) was really amazing,” Grant said. “All of my friends and family came to support me, and my counselors and my teachers were all around. I was going to start crying, but I’m not going to cry.”
Morales, meanwhile, said there’s so many people who constantly rooted her on at games throughout the fall and helped in classrooms across the school. Monday was a chance for them all to show their support once again as she fulfilled a true personal goal.
“I don’t know where I would be if I wasn’t continuing my career,” Morales said. “I would probably be distraught, to be honest. I’m so happy I can continue playing. Softball is my love.”
Morales and Whittlesey had talked earlier in the year about signing together, which was exactly how things played out.
Whittlesey explained her former club volleyball coach first told her about AUM, which had restarted its volleyball program last year. After contacting the head coach and visiting soon after, she knew that’s exactly where she wanted to go.
Whittlesey said her experiences at Columbus both in the classroom and on the court have prepared her for what awaits.
“As a freshman, I’m hoping I go in, make some changes to help the team out and get some stats up there,” Whittlesey said.
Like Whittlesey and Morales, Carr and Brand sharing the stage together made signing even sweeter.
“It’s a really exciting day,” Brand said. “It’s a dream come true to play college baseball, and I got to sign by one of my best friends. It was a really great time, and I won’t ever forget it.”
Brand said East Georgia first showed interest his sophomore year, when they watched Columbus play Houston County and spotted his potential. He spoke highly of the coaching staff there and explained going on to play college baseball was truly special.
Brand understood the magnitude of the day for all five Columbus seniors, adding just how meaningful it was to see the others have their aspirations finally realized.
“It feels great to know the kids at this school are going on to the next level,” Brand said. “It makes me happy to know everybody’s accomplishing their goals and fulfilling their dreams.”
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports