San Clemente High School honored 20 of its student-athletes signing their National Letters of Intent to continue their athletic and academic careers at the next level in a National Signing Day ceremony on Wednesday, Feb. 1.
The Tritons girls soccer team had the most signees with four players making their college choices: Malia McMahon (UC Berkeley), Adelaide Brislen (Colgate), Makenzie Gutkowski (Chico State) and Mia Owens (Utah Valley).
The San Clemente boys soccer team also added two signees with Isaac Nixon (UC Irvine) and Kai Trager (Coast Guard Academy).
For some, the weighty decision wasn’t made until recently, like cross country and distance runner Juan Chantaca, who signed with UC Berkeley. Chantaca only got contacted by the coaches at Cal late in his stellar senior cross country season just before the state meet. Chantaca’s decision process lasted until Tuesday when he made the choice to go to the Bay Area, and the senior said, “A lot of stress and anxiety went away.”
“It was the environment of the team,” Chantaca said of why he chose Cal. “It was a decision that I made and I was thinking about for the past two weeks. The whole environment of the team reminds me of San Clemente’s cross country team. I felt that I fit in to that school and that team.”
For others, the decision was made publicly months ago, like football safety Brad Gerken, who signed with Bucknell University on the opening of the early signing period back in December.
“It felt really nice to go in front of the school at lunch and be with all the rest of the signees from all the other sports that I haven’t really either been with or talked with college with,” Gerken said of the ceremony. “It was a cool experience.”
Reece Torticill also made her college choice in December, but she kept the decision to herself to soak it in. Torticill, known to many as the integral setter for the San Clemente girls volleyball team, chose to play rugby at Sacred Heart University.
“I’ve always been around rugby,” Torticill said. “My brother played. My dad played. So, it’s always been in my family, and I kept deciding back and forth, but my heart’s with rugby.”
Signing Day is always a family affair, as parents get to celebrate all the hard work put in by their children and themselves. For the Eshleman family, Signing Day was that but doubled as twin sisters Abigail and Savannah Eshleman signed on for STUNT cheer at Cal Baptist.
“We’ve done everything together,” Abigail said.
“Honestly, we didn’t plan or think about going to college together,” Savannah said, “but it’s the way it works out. We’re going to school together, rooming together. It’s like home but somewhere else.”
Abigail and Savannah Eshleman are part of just the third class of San Clemente cheerleaders to get scholarship opportunities in STUNT, known as competitive sport cheer in CIF. The Eshlemans were joined by Claire Zenisek, who signed with Hope International.
“I never really thought of STUNT until we came here,” Abigail said. “Cheer didn’t have many scholarships or opportunities to go to college for cheer. When STUNT became an avenue, we really pursued that and love STUNT.”
“I never really thought of STUNT until we came here. Cheer didn’t have many scholarships or opportunities to go to college for cheer. When STUNT became an avenue, we really pursued that and love STUNT.”
“If you were going to college for cheer, you’d have to go through sideline and do the whole football and all of that,” Savannah said. “STUNT gives you the opportunity to do the sport version and get scholarships and get all the same treatment as an athlete. It’s a really cool opportunity.”
Here is the full list of San Clemente honorees on National Signing Day:
- Chase Brunson (Baseball), Loyola Marymount
- Rhyn Chambers (Baseball), Chaminade-Hawaii
- Noah Sech (Swim), Princeton
- Wyatt Miller (Swim), Biola
- Madelyn Phillips (Swim), Purdue
- Abigail Eshleman (Stunt), Cal Baptist
- Savannah Eshleman (Stunt), Cal Baptist
- Claire Zenisek (Stunt), Hope International
- Lily Dwinell (Volleyball), Colorado
- Ella Scott (Volleyball), Cal Poly SLO
- Malia McMahon (Soccer), UC Berkeley
- Adelaide Brislen (Soccer), Colgate
- Makenzie Gutowski (Soccer), Chico State
- Mia Owens (Soccer), Utah Valley
- Isaac Nixon (Soccer), UC Irvine
- Kai Trager (Soccer), Coast Guard Academy
- Reece Torticill (Rugby), Sacred Heart
- Tess Bojorquez (Softball), Macalester
- Juan Chantaca (Cross Country/Track), UC Berkeley
- Brad Gerken (Football), Bucknell