Together again

Great Crossing High School seniors, coaches and administrators met Friday with the help of a Zoom video conference to hold its first-ever spring signing day. Represented on the call, left to right: top row, GCHS principal Joy Lusby, athletic director Austin Haywood, Braydn Johnson and Jacob Coats; second row, K.J. Tucker, boys’ basketball coach Steve Page, Parker Vanlandingham, cheering coach Brittany Thomas and cross country coach Nick Slucher; third row, Annalee Grififth, Emma Spencer, track and field coach Glenn Wilson, Annalise Jones and Ty Martin; fourth row, Lauren Lusby, Michael McKenzie, Keagan Morrin, Isaac Sullivan and girls’ golf coach Tommy Brummett; bottom row, Neil Baker, district athletic administrator DT Wells, boys’ soccer coach Nick Maxwell and Gabe Hogsten.

After two months of conducting much of their learning remotely through Zoom meetings, Great Crossing High School senior student athletes didn’t think it unique or unusual to use the video conferencing technology and salvage their senior signing day.

Friday’s noontime gathering lacked the balloons, banners and overflow crowd of classmates and family members in the school’s shiny, new gymnasium. 

When all was said and done, however, hundreds of Warhawk faithful had a chance to watch 15 of their favorites sign on the dotted line. And in an unprecedented time when proms are being canceled and graduations modified and streamlined, the 35-minute “virtual” celebration provided a reason to smile.

“Like everything these past two months, we’re doing things a bit different,” GCHS athletic director Austin Haywood said. “You may like it, you may hate it, but you’ll never do this again hopefully. You guys have been model students on and off the field and had a lot of success.”

Ten of the athletes who made their plans official will see plenty of one another in real time going forward: They’re all attending Georgetown College.

In that group of Warhawks turned Tigers, six — Jacob Coats, Braydn Johnson, Ty Martin, Keagan Morrin, Isaac Sullivan and Parker Vanlandingham — will play men’s soccer. 

Even though the team won its district and reached the region final before falling to eventual KHSAA champion Henry Clay to cap year one, yes, that’s an unusually high number. Max Agruna also is expected to make the in-town move from one GC to the other, bringing the total to seven.

“I believe that is the most for any team from Scott County in any year,” said Great Crossing coach Nick Maxwell, also a Georgetown alum. 

“You all have a great opportunity in front of you to make a difference on that team,” he told the players. “I look forward to seeing you wear my former colors.”

Also staying home while continuing their careers will be K.J. Tucker (men’s basketball), Lauren Lusby (women’s golf), and Annalise Jones and Gabe Hogsten (cheering).

Three GC boys’ basketball captains signed with their respective colleges. 

Along with Tucker, who joins a rich Tiger tradition that includes three NAIA national titles, Michael McKenzie is headed to Otterbein, an NCAA Division III school in Ohio, and Neil Baker to Indiana University Southeast, another strong NAIA program just on the other side of Louisville.

“All three of them had an opportunity to decide where they were going to play this year, so I was honored that they decided to come to Great Crossing and lead us,” Great Crossing coach Steve Page said. “They were our three leading scorers with 1,005 points between them. They obviously were huge contributors throughout the season.”

Hogsten’s road from Great Crossing to Georgetown is an unusual one. He spent the 2019-20 school calendar as mascot “Willie the Warhawk,” infusing the bird with his own personality at every turn and surpassing all the faculty’s expectations.

“Gabe came to me at the beginning of the year and said. ‘Hey, do you have a mascot?’  I kind of told him I wasn’t sure, that we would probably look at having tryouts or whatever,” Haywood said. “He took it and he ran with it, and man, was he awesome. He was at games. He was at events. He was in constant contact, to the point where he just took the mascot suit with him. He was there nonstop.”

Like crosstown rival “Scotty the Cardinal,” Willie was expected to show his beak most prominently at football and basketball games. 

Hogsten wasn’t satisfied with that level of commitment, and his persistence was an integral part of the school’s successful branding in its debut year.

“It was really a joy being able to be the first mascot at Great Crossing and share in all the excitement of the first basketball team and even first volleyball and wrestling teams, which is something mascots usually don’t go to,” Hogsten said. “It was fun cheering on everybody and getting the crowd excited, especially meeting the little kids. They all love Willie the Warhawk.”

Girls’ golf joined boys’ basketball and soccer among Great Crossing’s most prolific programs in year one. 

Lusby and Emma Spencer (Transylvania University) join longtime local standout Rylea Marcum and Grace Lawler as team members planning to play in coilege,

“Obviously all these student athletes had their senior year cut short, so I’m happy they’re able to do this and get some recognition,” Great Crossing coach Tommy Brummett said. “We had four senior girls on the team that will play in college, which really is an incredible accomplishment for them.”

Also signing Friday were Madison Sewall (Midway University cross country) and Annalee Griffith (Southern Virginia University track and field).

Kal Oakes can be reached via email at sports@news-graphic.com.

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