Wednesday was a busy day for county athletes looking to lock down their college choices in their chosen sports.
It was the first day prospects could sign with NCAA Division I and II colleges, and most signed the first day they could.
But, for the Brighton hockey program, it was a bit of a first, as Adam Conquest signed a national letter-of-intent to play for Bowling Green.
“From our perspective, they’re usually playing a year or two of juniors before they sign,” Brighton coach Paul Moggach said. “It’s unusual in that schools are trying to lock players up now before they get out of high school.”
Last year’s Mr. Hockey, Brighton’s Jake Crespi, committed to Lake Superior State after his high school season, but later switched to Michigan Tech.
Moggach thinks that the earlier signings reflect a recognition of the improved talent level in Michigan high schools.
“I think there’s more acceptance of high school players moving on to juniors and to college,” he said.
Generally, the prevailing line of thought was that travel hockey is the surest path to juniors and college and beyond. High school, the thinking went, was for those were weren’t good enough or those who had decided that travel hockey wasn’t for them.
“I don’t think we’ve done a very good job of marketing the value of playing for your high school, being able to work out in the same building and be home at 6:00 every night,” Moggach said. “There are things we can do as a coaches association to let people know how many kids are playing juniors and Division 1 out of high school hockey. There are a lot of them.”
Conquest says he’s been on skates since he was 6 or 7, and stayed with hockey after a flirtation with football fell through.
“Now I have to work to the next point in my future,” he said Monday. “Being the best I can be as a college player, and maybe playing pro.”
Conquest came to high school hockey the same way Crespi did, joining the team after souring on travel hockey.
“I know I’ll leave high school with more friends that if I had kept playing AAA,” he said. “The experience made me realize I shouldn’t take hockey for granted.
Conquest plans to major in business at Bowling Green.
There were more signings on Thursday, including a group signing at Howell. The group included Henry Bauer (swimming, Northern Michigan), Jessica Krakowiak (volleyball, Aquinas), Lexie Miller (basketball, Wayne State), Kara Sleeper (volleyball, Roosevelt University), Ty Weatherly (baseball, Ball State) and Leah Weslock (Carnegie-Mellon).
Howell athletic director John Young was busy before and after, setting up the table for the signing and shooting endless photos for the athletes and whomever they wanted their pictures taken with.
“It’s always a great day for the kids and the families in our programs,” he said. “It recognizes the work ethic and the commitment our coaches have made through the years, both at the middle school and high school level to get these kids to the next level.”
Other signings included Rudy Ramirez, a two-sport standout at Brighton who chose baseball over football and signed with Wayne State. He’ll join Max Hendricks, a senior at Hartland, there next year. A Hartland grad, Hunter DeLanoy, is a freshman there.
Sarah Matlock of Fowlerville and Hartland’s Bri Robeson, both softball players, also signed on Wednesday. Robeson signed with Hillsdale and Matlock signed with Spring Arbor.