Family, friends and teachers were bursting with pride Wednesday while 26 Ankeny athletes took a moment to remember the road that led them to this day.
Ankeny High School was one of many schools nationwide that honored its graduating athletes who have committed to play a sport at the college level. The ceremony, which took place in the high school auditorium, was held in conjunction with National Signing Day.
Many students said the day was as much about the parents and coaches as it was the athletes themselves.
"Today was not meant to honor me or my accomplishments, but to honor those who sacrificed their time, money and sleep to make sure we would get here," said Patrick Bunting, a student who has committed to play soccer at Western Illinois University next year. "Without the sacrifices made by my parents, both personally and financially, I would probably just be some punk kid. I'm the product of a much bigger picture."
The ceremony, which highlighted each student individually, as well as his or her accomplishments, kicked off at 11 a.m. with a welcome by Kevin Biggs, the school district's athletic and activities director.
He, too, gave a lot of credit to the families.
"It's been an honor to present to you some of the best young men and women I've ever worked with," he said. "You, as parents, were responsible for getting them there. This is the culmination of your hard work."
Following each student's introduction, they were allowed to say a few words to those who attended the ceremony.
"I never thought I would still be heading toward a decision I made when I was 6 years old," said Erica Kirgan, who has committed to play softball at Upper Iowa University. "If it wasn't for my friends and family, I would have given up a long time ago."
Maddie Manning, who will play basketball for Oklahoma next year, had a few words for her fellow athletes.
"Never forget who you are or where you came from," she said.
Students also received a bit of departing advice from their superintendent, Matthew Wendt. He encouraged them to set reasonable goals, not to forget about school and do it in a manner of which the community of Ankeny will be proud.
"Be a representative of your community," he said. "Don't just be a follower — be a leader."
The ceremony concluded with a signing of each athlete's letter of intent. Those who signed a letter Wednesday included:
- Trevor Egli — Grand View College
- Mat Adriano — Minnesota State University
- Cole Netten — Iowa State University
- Jorden Studer — Iowa State University
- Ty Ash — Augustana College
- Connor Schabel — Upper Iowa University
- Cole Myers — Truman State University
- Maddie Manning — Oklahoma University
- Cory Myers — Truman State University
- Maddie Muhlenbruck — Simpson College
- Krista Pettepier — University of Pittsburgh
- Carson Powell — Iowa State University
- Erica Kirgan — Upper Iowa University
- Aly Cappaert — Iowa State University
- Shayla Starkenburg — University of Iowa
- Maggie Riley — University of Northern Iowa
- Emily Gehlsen — Luther College
- Marcus Varnum — Simpson College
- Patrick Bunting — Western Illinois University
- Alexis Heffernan — Truman State University
- Jessica Stout — Western Illinois University
- Alexandra Flatness — Iowa State University
- Luke Klinker — University of Iowa
- Brittney Buckner — Iowa Lakes Community College
- Connor Peck — Indian Hills Community College
- Taylor Rittman — Grand View College