PITTSBURG — It was a big day for Pittsburg High School, as Reese Willis, Myla Turner, McKenzie Wilks and Madison Vogel signed letters of intent to continue their playing careers at the college level.
Although all chose to go different directions to play their respective sports, they are thankful for the opportunity to represent PHS and are excited for what the future holds.
After completing his fourth season with Purple Dragons’ track and field team, Willis will be throwing the shot put and discus at Missouri Southern.
“I’m really excited to take my talents to MSSU,” Willis said. “They have a great program over there and I’m really excited to take the next step in my journey.”
With plenty of talent and potential, Willis hopes to help out the Lions in any way he can.
“The team is really good,” he said. “They’ve been ranked in the top-25 for the past four years and coach is well known for taking throwers to the national level.”
In addition to joining Southern’s decorated program, Willis said he likes the idea of staying close to home.
“It’s awesome to be close to home,” he said. “It’s almost like I’m an arm-length away, so I can come back if I want to, but I still feel like I can get away.”
Willis went on to say he hopes to leave a legacy at the program.
“I bring a really strong work ethic and I think I can become a leader on the team,” Willis said. “I want to try and leave my mark on the school.”
While Willis will be crossing the border to play for MSSU, Vogel will stay at home to play softball for Pittsburg State.
“I chose Pitt State because it was just close to home and it has a great nursing program,” Vogel said. “I was thinking of another school, but they didn’t offer nursing, so I knew Pitt State was right for me.”
Vogel also said she is excited to continue playing in front of her friends and family.
“I’m really excited that my family will still be able to watch me play,” Vogel said. “They’ve put in a lot of time and money for me to travel and play, so I’m glad they will still be able to continue watching me.”
Throughout her high school career, Vogel has been a strong bat at the plate and a quality glove in the outfield for the Purple Dragons.
“I’m hoping to bring my attitude to the table,” Vogel said. “I hope to bring to the table my ability to play the game in addition to my hard work and passion.”
Among the four student-athletes who signed on Wednesday, Wilks is the only one to join a DI program, as she plans to run cross country at the University of Kansas.
“It feels awesome,” Wilks said. “I’m really happy the recruiting process is over with and know where I’m going to be next year. I’m excited to be a Jayhawk.”
Many schools reached out to Wilks throughout the recruiting process, but she said KU seemed like the right fit.
“For me, I just really loved the team and the coaching staff at KU,” Wilks said. “They perform well and they have a good Biology program.”
Wilks said she is excited for the future and is thankful for everyone who has helped her to achieve her dream.
“Honestly, it’s such a blessing,” Wilks said. “I’m grateful to get this opportunity and I’m super excited and humbled.”
Traveling the furthest away from home is Turner, who will be playing volleyball at Highland Community College.
“I feel very excited for this upcoming season at Highland,” Turner said. “I’m thankful that I get to continue playing volleyball because I love it so much. My goal is to eventually make it to DII or even DI, but I’m glad that Highland is going to give me an opportunity to do that.”
Although some may think being away from home is a negative, Turner says she thinks of it as a positive.
“The distance was a big reason why I chose Highland,” Turner said. “The further out I go, the more opportunity I will have. Being able to go up there and be noticed by other colleges is an awesome opportunity.”
Turner hopes to eventually work her way up to a university, but says she is thankful for the opportunity at hand.
“I’m so grateful for the ability God gave me to play this sport,” Turner said. “I’m thankful for my parents and my siblings who have supported me and I just can’t get over how thankful I am. It’s just an awesome opportunity to play the sport I love.”
— Jordan Buckamneer is the sports editor at the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @jbuckamneer.