Four Spartans sign scholarships
By Will Cornelius
Over a hundred people filled the commons of Berthoud High School (BHS) on April 13 to watch four Spartan seniors sign college scholarships. Runners Izabella Miller and Adam Beard will both attend Chadron State College in Nebraska. Toby Fraley is headed to Lakeland University in Wisconsin to play baseball and Lauren Zavednak will continue playing softball at Northeast Community College in Nebraska.
“Every one of these individuals standing up here, sitting up here in front, of you today, are able to sign to go continue their sport in college because they put the emphasis on being a student. And you have to be a student first — before you can be an athlete, even in college, as these guys will attest,” said outgoing BHS athletic director Michael DeWall as he opened the event.
Next to speak was Jordan Jennings, Miller and Beard’s distance running coach at BHS. “It’s really an honor to be able to present both of these athletes up here today,” Jennings stated.
He talked about the progress Miller has made in her running career. The track program created by the coaches emphasized family, Jennings said. “And I can’t think of someone more than Bella that really embellishes that within our program,” he said. During her time as a Spartan, Miller was a middle and long-distance runner. After Jennings congratulated her, Miller thanked her parents, coaches and teammates.
Joining Miller on the track and cross country team at Chadron State College is Beard. Jennings also spoke about how Beard bought into the program and became a leader and a role model to other student-athletes. “That’s why I think we’ve seen such a growth over the last couple of years, is because of folks like Adam. I couldn’t be more proud for him to go on to the next level and I know he has so much more to give the sport of running and running has so much more to give him,” he said. Like Miller, Beard also specialized as a middle and long-distance runner.
Beard thanked his family and friends for their support. But he also gave special thanks to his coaches for going above and beyond. “I really appreciate it. I know it takes a lot of time out of their personal time. So when they show up — I appreciate it for sure. So, thank you,” said Beard.
Buddy Kouns, BHS’s head baseball and softball coach was the final speaker for the signing ceremony. “It’s a super fun day to celebrate some of our own — and I love it! And it makes me emotional,” Kouns said. He described how special BHS was to him because he went to the school as a student-athlete too. “So, it’s a celebration of our roots and a celebration of our community,” he added.
Kouns then spoke about the connections between his family and Fraley’s family. “My history with Toby is longer and deeper than just Berthoud baseball,” he said. Kouns’ oldest daughter had been in Fraley’s grandmother’s first-grade class at Berthoud Elementary.
“Toby is a fantastic baseball player and he has been a great, great member of our program for four years,” Kouns said about Fraley’s athletic abilities. Fraley has been a standout hitter and outfielder during his Spartan career. But for Kouns, he also stressed how important it was for Fraley to cherish and enjoy the relationships he will make at Lakeland University “because now when you get to be my age, that’s what I remember.”
Fraley then spoke, thanking his parents for supporting him as well as his teammates and coaches. “It’s been a long ride for sure, the last eight or so years of playing baseball,” he said.
Zavednak was the last student-athlete to be honored. Kouns returned to the stage and said his family also grew up closely with Zavednak’s family. “It’s crazy that I’ve got two of them sitting up here that I have these stories about … Lauren’s mom was my next-door neighbor,” he said. Kouns then said that his oldest daughter is named Sarah in honor of Zavednak’s mother.
Kouns said that Zavednak was originally not interested in continuing her softball career in college despite being a four-year starter at BHS. But this February she changed her mind. “What a wonderful decision. Man, what a wonderful decision and I am so happy. It is going to open up a lot of stuff for her,” he finished.
Zavednak was the final student-athlete to speak. She thanked her family, coaches and teammates. “I would not have gotten this far without you,” she added.
After all the speeches, DeWall asked the four Spartans to finally put pen to paper and sign their respective letters of intent. The crowd then gave a loud round of applause and cheering for the soon-to-be graduating BHS seniors.
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