Today they are Red Wings. But by this time next year, they will be Eagles, Raiders, Wildcats, Friars, Panthers, Crimson, and Broncos.
Last week, seven Rivers seniors signed letters of intent to attend Division I colleges as recruited members of athletic teams. Like so much else, the annual ritual that is Signing Day unfolded a bit differently in 2020, with little fanfare and fewer photo ops. But the end result is the same: The students are excited for their next chapter, eager to take their game to the next level, and grateful to Rivers for launching them into collegiate athletic careers.
Echoing the sentiments of many, Cara Schmidlein (soccer, Colgate University) said, “I’m excited for the challenge that the Division 1 level will provide and the opportunity for growth as a result of such a high level of play.” Gregg Dennison (lacrosse, Providence College) says, “I’m most looking forward to testing my skills against the best college players in the country.”
For these young athletes, entering an elite college athletics program is the realization of a long-held dream. Talia Davis (basketball, University of New Hampshire) reflected on the journey. “It’s odd to have arrived at the place of committing and signing to play Division 1, because this has always been my theoretical dream,” she said. “When I was younger, I would always whisper, ‘I hope to play Division 1 basketball,’ because I didn’t want to jinx my chances of getting there. Now that I am at the cusp of realizing that hope, I’m incredibly excited to face the new challenges and new opportunities.”
The recruitment process can be a lengthy and complicated one, and students are called upon to weigh a number of factors in their final decisions. Jenna MacDonald (hockey, Harvard College) says, “I was looking for a place where I could find a balance of strong academics and athletics. I love the culture and sense of community at Harvard, and right away I knew that it would be the right fit.” Being close to home, she says, was also a plus.
Ceanna Kinney (basketball, Virginia Union University) says, “I chose Virginia Union because I have always wanted to experience schooling at an HBCU (historically black college and/or university). … I’m excited to see what college has in store for me as an athlete but also as a maturing young woman.”
For Cam Tongue (basketball, Santa Clara University), the choice was partly informed by thoughts about his post-college future: “A big part of my commitment is the business school aspect of Santa Clara and pursuing my dream in that part of my life. Of course, playing basketball beyond college would be great, but as we well know, the ball stops bouncing someday, and that’s the truth. It’s always important to have something to fall back on.”
Mallory Hasselbeck (lacrosse, Boston College) is excited to follow sister Annabelle ’20 to the Heights, where they will be teammates. “Since the moment I stepped on campus, everyone I have met has been so welcoming and takes so much pride in being a BC Eagle,” she says.
These athletes leave Rivers with a trove of special memories and a deep-seated gratitude for their high school experiences, on and off the field. They have been part of winning championships, earned personal accolades, and formed lifelong friendships with teammates. Hasselbeck fondly recalls the girls’ lacrosse tradition of swimming in Nonesuch Pond after the last game of the season; Dennison delights in the memory of Rivers’s come-from-behind victory at last year’s Homecoming football game.
And many of the new recruits credit Rivers with putting them in a position to succeed at the D1 level. Says Schmidlein, “Rivers and SDon [girls’ soccer coach Susanna Donahue] specifically have been a key part of my development as an athlete and as a person. I don’t think I would’ve been able to play Division 1 soccer if it weren’t for the high-level athletics Rivers offers.”
Perhaps speaking for the entire Rivers community, Athletics Director Keith Zalaski added these final thoughts: “We couldn't be happier for these kids and know that they will have as big an impact in their next home as they have at Rivers. All of them have displayed tremendous leadership and have given so much to the school beyond the world of athletics. They model a level of commitment to personal growth and team success that anyone can admire. We wish them all the best of luck in their next step and can’t wait to follow their journey.”