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Reward for 10 Trojans on National Signing Day

Ten West High student athletes declare their plans
Chandler Haight, Braden Houston, Michael Schilling, Ruby Martin, Rachel Saunders, Colby Greene, Logan Cook, Keimoney Lang, Maddie Laffey and Kylie Heisdorffer. (photo by Chris Umscheid)

IOWA CITY– Relief and excitement mingled Wednesday, Nov. 8, as 10 Iowa City West High student athletes participated in a National Signing Day event in the West High cafeteria.
Athletic Director Craig Huegel recognized Logan Cook, Rachael Saunders, Michael Schilling, Kylie Heisdorffer, Braden Houston, Ruby Martin, Colby Greene, Maddie Laffey, Chandler Haight and Keimoney Lang.
“Every year, I’m always impressed by the skill of our kids, the talent of our kids, the hard work and the effort that they put into things…and this is where they get rewarded,” Huegel said. “We have 10 athletes who will be pursuing their athletic passion after high school, and that’s outstanding.”
For many of the elite 10, relief came from finalizing a decision, which some have pondered for at least a couple of years. Excitement came from sharing their achievement and optimism for their future athletic careers with family, friends and Trojan Nation.
Saunders committed to the Creighton University Bluejays women’s basketball team last October and said she felt a deep personal connection with the coaches.
“When I visited with the current players I was really pleased with how they felt about how the coaches presented themselves, and how they made connections with their players,” she said.
She added the culture of Creighton felt right to her. Saunders was the second-highest point scorer for the Women of Troy last season with 272 points, averaging 12.4 per game. She said West High plays at a high level, being in Class 5A, and, “I feel that really helps me prepare for a high level of college basketball.” Part of that high level is found in teammates Cook (University of Iowa commit) and Cailyn Morgan (University of Northern Iowa commit). “So, we have a lot of D (Division)-one players on our team, and even in practice, it really helps playing against them and competing against them,” Saunders said. “It helps build my character and IQ as a basketball player.” Northern Illinois, North Dakota State, and North Dakota were among eight other D-I programs that courted Saunders. “A lot of great programs, a lot of great coaches,” she said.
Heisdorffer will play softball for Kirkwood Community College. “I just really love the program they have,” she said. She received offers from other programs including at least one full-ride scholarship. However, the Eagles won out. “I think they’re one of the best teams in the state for softball, they’re really, really good,” she said.
Heisdorffer said her teammates and coaches pushed her to become a better player, and to go to the next (collegiate) level. “It’s been really fun here, and I’ll get to go play with some (players) I used to play with, like Skylar Ryan (West High grad).”
She compiled a 13-8 record in the circle for the Women of Troy last year with 124 innings of work. Heisdorffer gave up 38 earned runs for a 2.15 ERA and struck out 66 while giving up 132 hits.
Houston has committed to Southeastern Community College (West Burlington) and the Blackhawks’ baseball team. “I really like the facilities they have and the coaching, and they’re one of the first to contact me, and they’re always open-minded with me, which is nice,” he said. “They had a lot of positives.” Houston said he looked at Kirkwood and other D-II programs, but the Blackhawks won out.
He said the coaching at West High, his teammates and the overall atmosphere have helped him prepare to transition to college-level ball. “It’s just a great place to play,” he said. Looking ahead, he added, “There’s still a lot of work to do this season (including bringing home a state championship for head coach Charlie Stumpff).”
Houston went 9-1 on the mound last season with 63 innings of work with 46 hits, 60 strikeouts and only eight earned runs for a 0.89 ERA. Houston said he’s been trying to get his name out to coaches and programs for two years. “It’s been a process, but it pays off in the end,” he said.
Schilling is a commit to Wartburg College’s soccer program.
“It’s just the right thing for me, the size of the school, and the program,” he said. Central College in Pella also caught his eye, but in the end, Schilling knew he had to be a Knight. “The culture just felt right,” he said. He scored three goals, made four assists and produced 10 points for the Trojans last season. His high school and club coaches have done a lot to prepare him for the next level during the three years he’s been looking for a college home, he said.
Lang will play volleyball for Des Moines Area Community College.
She said her time spent there during a volleyball camp swayed her to become a Bear. “I really like their coach a lot,” she said. Drake University and Kirkwood were also looked at, but the way the coach motivated her players resonated with Lang. “Coming to practice each day and being pushed by my coaches has really helped,” she said.
Lang produced seven kills and 29 ace serves this season for the Women of Troy, with 37 assists and 363 digs as a libero.
Greene is headed to Southeast Missouri for volleyball after producing 300 kills for West High this season with an average of 3.23 per set. She also had 18 ace serves.
Martin will join the Arizona State University (ASU) swimming program after dividing her time between the Women of Troy and preparing for the U.S. Olympic Trials. The team atmosphere sold Martin on the Sun Devils during her one and only official visit in September, which is also when she committed to the program. “What really put me over the edge and what made me want to be a part of what’s going on down there is getting to meet everyone,” she said. “The girls and the guys, they were one team, they made me feel very welcome.”
Martin said sometimes on visits it’s hard to tell if the current athletes are being sincere or putting up a front. With ASU, though, “You could really see (that it was genuine),” she said. “I loved the enthusiasm of all the coaches and I’m really excited to be a part of something I truly believe is something great.”
Martin said she also considered the University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Michigan (where older brother Oliver plays football) and the University of Louisville.
Haight will compete with Drake University’s track and field team. “They gave me such a great offer with their schooling and their track program,” she said. “It was just unbeatable.” It’s also familiar territory. “I’ve been there (Drake Relays and the State Co-Ed Track and Field Meet) every year.” The University of Iowa and Illinois State also were considerations, she said. But, Drake’s pharmacy program, her field of study, was unbeatable. Haight was second in the 2017 State Co-Ed Track and Field Meet in the shot put and 14th in the discus competition. “I’m just so excited for the opportunity I have and am just... really excited.”
Cook is also very excited to be not only moving on, but also realizing a dream come true as she committed to play basketball at the University of Iowa.
“It’s been a dream of mine since I was really little,” Cook said. “I’ve looked up to the Iowa men’s basketball players and I’m just really thankful for the opportunity to play for coach (Lisa) Bluder and her staff.”
Creighton, Bradley, Providence and North Dakota also made offers, but Cook’s heart was set on becoming a Hawkeye. “Iowa is just a dream come true and a place I’ve wanted to go to for a long time.” She described achieving her dream as surreal. “I’m just so blessed with this opportunity,” she noted.
Cook led the Women of Troy with 375 points, an average of 15 per game last season.
“It’s great, it’s so exciting, now I can focus on my senior season and I’m really excited for that,” Cook said. “Hopefully we can make a run at the state tournament this year.”
Laffey has committed to play volleyball at Aurora University (outside Chicago). She made 130 kills this season with an average of 1.44 per set.