More Zephs to continue careers
Editor's note - this is the first of a three-part series on students who signed to continue their athletic and academic careers at the next level.
The next chapter in the lives of a number of Whitehall High School student-athletes unfolded recently during a meeting in which they made those intentions known to schoolmates, families and friends.
On May 19, the Whitehall Athletic Department hosted an event in which 11 student-athletes discussed their intentions to pursue an athletic career in college. In February, 10 student athletes made the same trip to the podium to announce their decisions, bringing Whitehall's total to 21 for the 2016 graduation class.
May's list included LeAnna Cruz, Emily Brand, Gabe Lamm, Jude Luckenbill, Karly Klein, Shadimon Navarro, Nick Hassler, Mike Burkhardt, Madison Walker, Zachary Hixson and Anthony Dex.
LeAnna Cruz will be attending Penn State University Lehigh Valley this fall. Cruz, who was a starting guard for the Zephyrs, will continue her basketball career as a Lady Lion.
Cruz joins a fledging program that's in just its second year of competition, currently competing in Division II. They are a member of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association and are coached by Lorie Khalil who guided them to an 11-3 record this past season. Additionally, they were offered a bid to compete in the 2015 USCAA Basketball Championships, losing to Penn State Beaver in the quarterfinals.
Cruz said she that her focus at PSU-LV is to make sure she takes advantage of all her opportunities.
"My goal at Penn State Lehigh Valley is to be the best at everything I do, whether it be in the classroom or on the court," she said.
The senior was a tenacious defender, someone who wasn't afraid to mix it up inside with the bigger players. She could also drain it from beyond the arc, skills that will help her as she joins a strong program.
Cruz will be studying Labor Studies and Employment Relations while at PSU-LV.
Cruz, who also competed in track and field and soccer, said that one of the biggest lessons she learned while as a student-athlete at Whitehall was how to budget her time. She said that learning how to juggle school work and athletics is something that will benefit her as she enters the next phase of her life.
Emily Brand is always on the run it seems, and her decision to attend University of the Sciences will also feature a lot of running. Brand was a member of both the cross country and track and field teams this season, and will focus on cross country at USciences.
Brand said that upon visiting the Philadelphia campus, the professors seemed nice and it provided "a great pharmacy program." The school has been in existence for almost two centuries, originating as the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy.
Brand said that while at USciences, she'll become involved in a lot of activities, experiencing campus life as best she can.
"My goals at school are to try new things, be active in the school and the community, and to excel in my major," said Brand.
Brand was a standout distance runner for the Zephs, competing as a varsity member for four years in both cross country and track. She placed 24th in her final campaign at the AAA D-11 Cross Country Championships last October.
Brand will become a member of the Devils who compete in the Central Athletic Collegiate Conference. The team finished their season last November competing in the NCAA East Region Championships, placing 21st among the 31 schools competing. They are coached by Bob Heller who serves as both the men's and women cross country coach.
Brand said that her time spent as a student-athlete at Whitehall High School provided her with some vital learning opportunities.
"I learned many valuable lessons from being a student-athlete at Whitehall, but I think that the most important was that I learned how to budget my time, and have a good balance between academics, sports, family and friends," said Brand.
Karly Klein is packing her bags for Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, Pennsylvania. Once there, Klein will become part of the softball team that competes in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference. The Mounties finished 18-19 last season, with their final appearance in the AMCC semifinals.
Klein was a member of both the basketball and softball teams at Whitehall. She played first base for the Zephs and was two-year starter at the position. She was a four-year member of both the softball and basketball teams, someone who brought great intensity every time she suited up for Whitehall.
Klein said she was attracted to Mount Aloysius for a number of reasons, one of which was its proximity to the Lehigh Valley.
"It's far enough away, but not too far," said Klein.
It also had a great vibe, something she experienced on her visit.
"For me, it was the energy, it just has this great energy about it," she said.
Klein said that she was also in contact with the coaches on the visit and felt that kinship with the program from the beginning.
"I knew it was the right situation for me," Klein said.
Klein will be studying to be a physical therapy assistant while at Mount Aloysius. She also enjoyed her years as a student-athlete at Whitehall, playing with great teammates and learning from some wonderful coaches.
Klein now looks forward to the next chapter in her life.