The University of North Alabama stayed local to sign three cross country athletes recently, while Martin Methodist and Shelton State plucked a couple of standout Deshler athletes to play softball and baseball.
The signings were part of a flurry of post-football signing day events across the area within the past week.
UNA cross country coach Scott Trimble signed Lexington's Maddy Cross and Hatton's Reid Harrison for his boys team and Covenant Christian's Anna Brown for the girls team in recent days.
Deshler standout softball player Kat Darnell is headed to Martin Methodist.
On Tuesday, Deshler's Justin Cantrell signed with Shelton State to continue his baseball career.
For Cross, signing with UNA was a homecoming of sorts. His father, Phil, was the head athletic trainer at the school, and Maddy spent afternoons interacting with many of the athletes and playing on the practice field. An older brother, Jake, is following in his father's footsteps at UNA as a student trainer.
"They went to school at Kilby and would come after school and run around the training room," Phil Cross recalled. "They had their X-Box and Nintendo and they'd play all the time. All the players would play with them and mess with them. They'd go out to practice and run around. It was a great atmosphere for them to be around. I know they missed it when I left."
Maddy said it's a dream come true to attend UNA on a cross country scholarship. His mother, Michelle, also is a UNA graduate.
"We tried to go back when we could just to see it because we missed it," Maddy Cross said. "We went back a few weeks ago and it brought back a lot of memories."
Maddy Cross said he dreamed of being a college athlete.
"I didn't plan on it being in cross country at first, but I wanted to make it to this level," he said.
Brown's journey to UNA on a cross country scholarship began shortly after her father, Kyle, began training for a marathon. A few years later, she's excited to be able to continue running in college.
"I was quite overweight in middle school and didn't do much of anything at all," she said Monday. "My dad started training for a marathon because my aunt talked him into it. I saw him losing weight and getting in shape and doing this stuff, so I thought I might like to be that person, too."
Brown has improved each year.
"My first season was terrible, I think my best time was something like 29 minutes," she said, laughing. "It was pretty bad. I kept running because I liked it. The next season I qualified for state as an individual. That pumped me up and kept me going. Now, I'm a college athlete after all that training."
Brown admitted running in college wasn't one of her main goals even as she improved.
"I thought it might be fun, but I wasn't dead set on it," she said. "As this season progressed and I started getting some calls, I realized I loved it and would miss it, so it's all worked out." Brown said the appeal of running is that she stays in shape and also because of the ‘runner's high.'
"That feeling of success you have about yourself," she said. "It's a great stress reliever. If you have bad day, give me 30 minutes in my running shoes and the world is a different place."
Signing a college letter-of-intent is especially sweet for Harrison, who missed his junior season after breaking two bones in his leg. He returned this season to help the Hornets win their fourth Class 1A-2A state championship in five seasons.
"It was tough to miss the entire season," Harrison said. "I knew I could come back, but I knew it was going to take a lot of hard work.
"As hard as I worked I still couldn't quite get back to my times I ran my sophomore season because I could only run so many miles during the summer. My best time was a little over 18 minutes this year where I ran a 17:19 two years ago. I know I can continue to get better and I feel coach (Scott) Trimble at UNA will get me ready."
Harrison finished 10th at the state meet, recording the best time on his team at 18:04:14. He was named all-state for the fourth time.
The opportunity to be a part of the cross-country team at UNA has been a goal of Harrison's for a long time.
"I've known several guys that ran at UNA and my parents went to UNA," he said. "I've always wanted to run at UNA.
"After my injury I wasn't sure if I would get this opportunity. I hoped and prayed for it and worked hard to make it happen. It's very rewarding to see it happen after all I went through the past two years."
Darnell signed Monday with Martin Methodist.
"I started talking to them back in the summer, and I also had some contact with UAH," she said. "I'm just glad I get to play four more years. Playing in college has always been a goal of mine."
Darnell will play first base at Martin Methodist.
Darnell, who also excels in volleyball and basketball, said softball is her favorite sport.
"I've been playing ever since T-ball," she said. "This means a lot to me because a lot of people don't think Deshler softball is very good. Last year, we showed them that we are pretty good."
Cantrell, a two-sport star with the Tigers, chose baseball over football when he signed with Shelton State.
The shortstop, who also was a standout quarterback, said baseball always has been his first love.
"There were a lot of options for football but baseball has always been my favorite," Cantrell said. "It's been my dream since I was about 3 or 4 years old, so it was a pretty easy decision when I got a baseball offer."
Although football is more popular than baseball, Cantrell said that didn't factor into his decision.
"Friday nights are hard to beat, but baseball is my passion," he said. "I just love it, You can't beat it."
Cantrell had contact with a number of schools before settling on Shelton State.
"It's the greatest feeling in the world (to sign)," he said. "It's a dream come true and you know all your hard work has paid off. It's a relief to get it over with."