Twelve seniors from Gig Harbor High School signed National Letters of Intent last Wednesday. The class included two football players who signed with Big Sky schools, one record-breaking swimmer and two members of the Tides’ national-championship cross country team.
All 12 took part in a brief ceremony at the Gig Harbor High library.
After he narrowed his list of schools to three choices, Tides wide receiver Reese Carlson decided on the University of Montana.
“At Montana, (the coaches and players are) very personal people,” Carlson said. “I like the outdoors. They fit the blue-collar mold that I really like.
“When I was at the (football) camp, they offered me a scholarship. That’s where God was telling me He wanted me to be, so I was really happy with that.”
Carlson will get a chance to play against his teammate, offensive tackle Owen Taylor, who signed to play football at Eastern Washington University.
“(It’s a) great family atmosphere, they’ve got a very successful program, and the Big Sky Conference is amazing,” Taylor said. “It’s great ’cause I get to play against Reese every year, which will be really fun.”
Aaron Chantler, head coach of the Gig Harbor High football program, fought back tears as he spoke about Carlson and Taylor.
“Obviously, I get to take a little bit of pride today,” Chantler said. “We came here under some adversity. These two could have walked away. They were two of the first players that I met and bought in wholeheartedly. They are probably the largest part. These two are not only excellent players on field, they’re excellent men off the field.
“This is the proudest moment I’ve ever had, watching these two guys sign. I love you both. Thank you for being everything we want Gig Harbor football to be.”
Carlson said high school football has been one of the highlights of his life.
“I wanted to thank the school district for the coaching change, with putting Chantler in, I think everyone knows now that it was the right decision,” Carlson said. “We haven’t had a year like this in forever. The community and everything just really means the world to me, and I say that really truthfully, because it’s been huge.”
Meanwhile, Gig Harbor’s Celia Vaughn signed with Seattle University. A midfielder, Vaughn played for the Tides during her first three years and made a change last fall.
“I decided to really focus on my soccer and improving, so I decided to train with the boys team up at Washington Premier for a couple months and really improved my game a lot,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn said she cherished her time with the Gig Harbor soccer team, which reached the state semifinals two years ago.
“The amount of people and encouragement that we had from this whole community was just unbelievable,” she said. “It has definitely helped shape me as a player and as a person.”
Vaughn said she’s looking forward to helping the Seattle University soccer program continue to grow.
“I’m really excited about the incoming class,” she said. “We have of 12 recruits, which is really big for a soccer team. I’m really looking forward to helping build that program into a well-known soccer program over the next couple of years.”
The Tides’ Wolfgang Beck and Logan Carroll, the top two runners from Gig Harbor’s national championship in December, both will head east. Beck signed with Princeton University, and Carroll will attending the University of North Carolina.
“It’s a great academic school,” Carroll said of UNC. “It’s going to give me what I want and challenge me academically. I’ll get a great degree from there.”
Carroll likened the Tar Heels’ athletics to the culture at Gig Harbor High School.
“Along with that, it’s going to be the athletic program,” he said. “It’s a great team, great coach. I just fit in really well. I got the same kind of vibe that the team that we have here is. Everyone was really hard-working. For me, that was a really big deal. I just wanted to keep that consistent as I moved on to college.”
Carroll helped the Gig Harbor High-based club team win the national championship during the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Ore.
“It’s hard to kind of put it into words,” he said. “It’s what I’m used to. Being part of Gig Harbor is being part of Gig Harbor, you know? People know who we are. People know how people treat each other and support each other.
“I couldn’t ask for a better place to grow up and really get developed into an athlete, and just a student as well,” he said. “The whole school has been so supportive of the cross country team, and that includes me.”
coming next week
Five Peninsula athletes also signed national letters of intent.Sports reporter Jon Manley can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at email@example.com.