By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
Last Wednesday (February 3rd), there was a packed second-floor banquet/weightroom at the Belton High School Multipurpose Athletic Center as the fever pitch of National Signing Day hit epic levels in Tiger Nation.
Thirteen Belton Tiger Athletes made their collegiate intentions known by their signing of National Letters of Intent before many fellow athletes, classmates and family.
Claire Woodson, Alexis Mack, Taylor Parillo, Morgan Thomasson, Chris Jones, Olajuwon Taylor, Zach Shackelford, Sydney Andrews, Kaitlyn Jones, Baylee Leifester, Tanner Frick, Cameron Whitman and Nathan Vail signed their letters and addressed the packed room that buzzed with excitement.
Woodson signed with The University of Incarnate Word to continue her track career as a pole-vaulter. Woodson, who is preparing for her fourth year on the Lady Tigers Track & Field team as a varsity pole-vaulter, has been a mainstay and the face of girl’s pole-vaulting in Belton. She is also lighting quick, running hurdles and sprinting.
During her freshman year, she placed second at District and fifth at Area in pole vault, with a personal record of 10’6”. In addition, she was awarded Track & Field’s “Freshman of the Year Award” for her commitment, hard work, and dedication.
During her sophomore year, Woodson tore her ACL running a hurdle relay race at Fredericksburg Relays, which she still won, defeating all odds. Due to this serious injury, Claire was unable to compete for the remainder of the season.
After a year of aggressive rehabilitation, Woodson returned to the track and was absolutely stellar. During her junior year, she placed first in District, first in Area, and fourth at Regionals, with a personal record of an 11’9” vault. Woodson was awarded Track & Field’s “Most Improved,” for her strong come back.
Also a member of Texas Elite Pole Vaulting, Woodson’s personal record is an outstanding 12’ vault, which could fall at some point this upcoming season.
Mack signed Division I Soccer at Prairie View A&M. Mack, a four-year letter winner, has been a member of the Varsity soccer team at Belton High School all four years. Mack has incredible drive and determination. She practices as hard as she plays games and its her competitive nature and drive has led her to achieve a great number of awards over the years.
Also an excellent student, Mack has been a member of the Academic All-District team her first three years. She was named to the honorable mention all-district team as a freshman, was selected to the NEPS 1st team all-tournament team as a sophomore, and has been a first team all-district selection for the past two years. She was also named to the All-Area team as a junior.
Mack was selected as the team captain for the 2016 season, an honor richly deserved. Her leadership and tenacity shows both on the pitch and off of it.
Mack has scored 14 goals and 13 assists. Her defense has helped contribute to countless shutouts helping set the school record for the most shutouts in a single season.
Parillo signed her letter of intent to play at Ancilla College, a small college in Donaldson, IN.
Previous to her arrival to Belton High School in the spring of 2015, Parillo played for Kenton Ridge (OH) High School. She lettered three consecutive years, along with first team All-Conference her sophomore and junior years.
During her short time at Belton High School she was able to letter after four short months as a Lady Tiger. She has contributed to several team wins, a district runner-up championship, a regional appearance, and helped with the team low at Tera Vista in the fall. “She is a great attribute to the Lady Tiger Golf team. Taylor is consistent player and a great team leader,” Belton Lady Tigers Golf head coach Lauren Marx remarked.
Thomasson, a 2016 graduate of Belton New Tech at Waskow, is the first Lady Tiger golfer to come from BNT@W, as has signed a letter of intent to play collegiate golf at Howard Payne University in Brownwood.
A four-year letter winner for The Lady Tigers, Thomasson has garnered two individual All-District honors and has helped guide the Lady Tigers to three District Championships and three Regional berths.
It is not uncommon to see Thomasson on the putting greens and the driving ranges, as well as playing in junior tournaments around central Texas.
Thomasson, a 2015 Wildflower Belle, is a National Honor Society member, and active in the youth group at Belton Church of Christ.
Chris Jones made his intention to play football at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, joining his brother Tevin.
Chris was a tireless worker in his three varsity years as a Tiger. An invaluable member of the Tigers’ defense, Chris had 58 solo tackles and assisted on 38 others. He missed time during due to injuries, but when he was on the field he was a key piece of Belton’s success.
“He was a joy to coach and was a three-year starter,” Belton assistant coach Sam Skidmore said. “He did what was asked with a good attitude and was an invaluable part of the Belton defensive unit. We wish him luck and success in his college-playing career. We have no doubt that Chris will do great things in the future!”
Taylor had one of the best years as a receiver in the history of Belton football in 2015 and inked his intent to play football at West Texas A&M University.
A benefactor of much of quarterback Peyton Mansell’s passing offense, he caught 54 passes for 767 yards and 12 touchdowns. He set single-game school records with 225 receiving yards and three touchdowns at Pflugerville Hendrickson. He set a school record for receiving touchdowns in a year with 12. He contributions helped Belton set a single-season scoring record with 452 points in 11 games, a whopping 41.1 points per game.
He was a team captain and unanimous first team All District 12-6A s both a wide receiver and kick returner, where he averaged over 35 yards per return.
Taylor was also voted Most Valuable Player for the 2015 season by his teammates and received the Outstanding Wide Receiver award.
One of the fastest athletes in Belton Athletics, Taylor has played football, basketball and is a three-year letterman in track.
He was been a member of the district champion 1600 meter relay team his sophomore year and a member of a regional finalist 1600 meter relay his junior year.
Shackelford was the center of attention in the state, having changed his initial intent. The talented Shackelford shifted his intent from Kansas State to play football for the University of Texas and head coach Charlie Strong.
A very intelligent player, Shackelford 729 snaps in which he performed at an outstanding 98 per cent grade, 72 knockdowns, and 28 pancakes. He and his line mates helped Belton achieve a school-record 3,202 rushing yards in 2015, blocking for Mansell, Davion Peoples and Demeatric Brandon.
“Zach has an intangible that every coach dreams about, to tell him how to accomplish something one time and you never have to tell him again,” Skidmore said. “Not only is he extremely coachable but he is an outstanding young man off the field. He strives to better himself as well as doing whatever he can for the team. His attitude once he steps on the field is another intangible that someone cannot coach and that every coach in the world wish they could teach. Zach is truly a special young man who is going to do great things with his life as well as impact many. Shack departs from Belton, but will leave a legacy on how to play the game of football.”
He was first team All-District, Academic All-District, THSCA Honorable Mention Academic All State, THSCA First Team All State, and a member of the Subway Super Team.
Andrews started her four-year career as the Second Team All-District 8-5A catcher as a freshman in 2013 and has been a solid add to Belton head coach Matt Blackburn’s team in her three seasons as a Lady Tiger.
Since coming to Belton, Andrews has compiled a .356 batting average and a .400 on base percentage through the 2014 and 2015 seasons. She had a clutch home run against the Sachse Lady Mustangs in Hillsboro last season, which helped the Lady Tigers sweep the bi-district series against Sachse last May.
Sydney has spent time as a DP, catcher and outfielder.
Kaitlyn Jones inked her intent two weeks ago with Temple College to play softball and had her Belton ceremony. She has lettered for the past two years in softball and will letter for a third time this season, following her commitment as a guard on the Belton Lady Tigers basketball team.
A tenacious fielder and a terror to retire at the plate, the diminutive Jones In 2014, Kaitlyn hit .431 and had an on base percentage of .433, earning her All-District and All-State honors. She had 13 consecutive hits during a stretch of the District 8-5A schedule. The Texas Sports Writers Association voted Jones Third All-State DP/Utility.
In 2015, Kaitlyn hit .487 and had an on base percentage of .574. She hit an impressive .667 (22-of-33) with runners in scoring position. This earned her All-District and All-State honors once again. The Texas Girls Coaches Association voted her to the All-State Softball team. The TSWA voted her as Honorable Mention Second Base
Leifester signed her intent to play softball for the University of Dallas.
She lettered in 2014 and 2015 for the Lady Tigers Softball team and will letter again in 2016.
Leifester has had to overcome various injuries to continue her softball career in red and white, but has done so in a positive fashion.
In 2014, Leifester hit .364 going 4-for-11 in pinch-hit situations. She also compiled a .588 on base percentage that season.
In 2015, Leifester hit .400 in pinch hit situations and had an on base percentage of .455. She had a clutch, game-ending double against Harker Heights last April.
A flexible athlete in the field, Leifester has pitched and played third base for the Lady Tigers.
Frick is a three-year starter for the Tigers’ Baseball program and stated his intent to pitch at McLennan Community College.
Over the last two seasons, Frick has accumulated a 12-3 record and has an opportunity to become one of the few pitchers in Belton Baseball history to hit the 20-win plateau for his career
Frick is as tough as they come on the mound and as a left-handed at 6’4 with a lethal fastball and a jelly-legging curve ball. With his intense stare, he is legitimately intimidating.
Tanner is a two-year first team all district pitcher and will be a force to contend with in Tiger red-and-white in 2016.
If there is a right-handed compliment to Frick, look no further than Whitman. He signed with Temple College to pitch for the Leopards and head coach Craig McMurtry.
Whitman is coming off a junior year in which he was 5-1 on the hill, 2.38 ERA and struck out 46 hitters in 43 innings to earn himself First Team All-District Pitcher honors in 2015.
Capable of bringing the heat near the 90-miles per hour mark, Whitman also has a solid curve ball and a sweeping breaking ball, which is tantalizing to swing at, often with fruitless results for opposing batters.
Vail made his intent to play baseball at Hill College in Hillsboro. He comes from a family line of solid Tigers baseball players, following his brothers Garrett and Tyler.
A returning letterman, a returning starter, and a first team all district player from the 2015 season, Vail backed up former Tiger catcher Jacob Alexander, who currently plays for Temple College.
“We see great things from Nathan this season,” Belton head coach Eddie Cornblum said. “He has an unbelievable work ethic and a presence about him that can’t helped to be noticed. We can’t wait to see what his senior year brings, but we are also excited for him and can’t wait to see what he is able to do at Hill College.”