By Dan McWilliams
Knoxville Catholic High School celebrated its first signing day of 2015-16 on Nov. 11 as five student athletes committed to universities at a ceremony in the school library.
Two softball players signed, Gianna Carideo with the University of Washington and Jessica Hamilton with Transylvania University. A pair of baseball players signed with Lincoln Memorial University, Turner Whitfield and Hunter Judd. And Alec Connolly signed with the University of Tennessee in swimming.
The KCHS library was filled with students and family members of the athletes.
“I would like to open by first saying on behalf of our five student athletes a great big ‘thank you’ to each person in this room who has made an impact in their lives, and has had a hand in making this day possible,” said KCHS athletics director Jason Surlas. “Parents, families, and friends, but especially parents, thank you for pushing them a little harder than maybe they thought they needed to be pushed.
“Thank you for all the times driving them to and from practices and games, all the times you had to wash a uniform the day of the game because your son or daughter forgot to tell you, and the times volunteering to help with anything that needed to be done for the team; all the times spent watching and supporting them in all kinds of weather.”
Mr. Surlas also thanked the five athletes “for simply choosing sports.”
“I’m sure when you were very young and you wanted to play softball, baseball, or swim, that you just wanted to have fun, and you didn’t think, ‘This is going to get me a scholarship in college someday,’” he said. “But as you grew older, that fun sport turned into something more complex. More time commitment, more preparation, more sacrifice was required, and you endured it all.
“Thank you for sacrificing your ‘fun time’ a lot in the last several years, for never giving up when times were tough, for spending all those hours in the summer and on the weekends practicing or playing your sport, when a lot of your friends were at the lake or pool or movies. Most people see the ‘body of work’ when you compete in a game or meet, but it’s the behind-the-scenes work you put in that allows for a day like today to happen.”
Alec said he is excited to be going to the University of Tennessee. His swimming career has come on strong in recent months. One website called him an “insane athlete.”
“I started this August or September swimming year-round,” he said. “I guess they called me an insane athlete because I’ve played a lot of different sports, like football, track, soccer, and lacrosse.”
Alec’s time of 20.94 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle caught the attention of UT swimming and diving head coach Matt Kredich.
“I got the national cut for the national meet in my 50 freestyle,” Alec said. “[Coach Kredich] actually saw that race. It was at a summer-league meet. He saw that race, and I guess he was like, ‘well, I want that kid.’”
Alec was joined at the signing by his parents, Ami and Michael Connolly, twin brother Luke, brother Derek, and sister Marisa.
With Jessica at her signing were parents Steven and Renee Hamilton and siblings David and Alexis.
Gianna’s parents, Toni and Jim Carideo, witnessed her signing, as did travel team coaches Shelby Burchell and Brandon Carr, throwing coach Kyle Brady, and Lady Irish head coach Sarah Bailey.
Turner was joined by his parents, Chris and Katie Whitfield, sisters Emily and Mary Kate, and brother Baker.
Hunter’s mom, Lisa Slaton, and dad, Seth Judd, witnessed his signing. Also present were stepfather Dave Slaton, stepmother Sally Judd, brothers Aaron Slaton, Ben Smith, and Walker Smith, and sister Haley Judd. ■