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Five athletes sign at Boone

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Front row, left to right: Lexi McDowell, Makayla Ledford and Makenzy Bennett. Back row, left to right: Zac Branham and Caleb Sells.

See our photo gallery from the signing here

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

The little theater in Daniel Boone High School erupted with applause on Friday as each athlete walked toward the stage—and a few steps closer to their future.

The five athletes who have officially committed to continue their athletic career at the collegiate level were Zac Branham and Caleb Sells with Tusculum College for cross country and track, Makenzy Bennett with King University for basketball, Lexi McDowell with Walters State Community College for softball and Makayla Ledford with University of Virginia’s College at Wise for volleyball.

Though these Boone athletes will be venturing off to their new college home by the fall of 2017, two of the signees will get to be teammates for bit longer; Branham and Sells will both run for the Tusculum Pioneers after spending most of their childhood together.

“We’ve known each other since first grade,” Sells said. “He moved here from Maryland so we’ve known each other since we were little. So being able to go to the next level with him is going to be really cool.”

Both Branham and Sells were named all-conference and all-region twice and were part of the Big 7 Conference and Region 1 champions. They were also members of the Boone teams that placed third and sixth at the state meet and Branham was a member of the 2014 state champion team. He placed fourteenth at Nike National Championship.

Branham believes he owes a large part of his success to the Daniel Boone program.

“I always wanted to (play at the collegiate level),” Branham said. “It started to become a reality once I switched to Boone because their training here is so intense. It really prepares you for college.”

Next up was Bennett who signed to join the King University basketball team. Bennett has tallied 435 points, 153 assists, 89 rebounds and 130 steals so far in her Daniel Boone career and is a member of the Lady Trailblazer basketball team that is currently 9-0 in the Big 7 Conference. However, head coach Travis Mains said her skill set and understanding of the game is what sets Bennett apart.

“I have put in a countless amount of hours,” Bennett said. “I’ve worked every single day on trying to be a better player and a better person. And I’ve worked with many coaches who have pushed me. My teammates have pushed me and they’ve been with me through all of it.”

Bennett wasn’t the only Lady Trailblazer to ink her name on Friday; McDowell is headed to Walters State to continue her softball career after earning all-district tournament with the Boone team that won regular season, district and sub-state titles. Though McDowell said she felt some pressure when she transferred in from North Carolina, she’s ready to continue her college career.

“I was beyond excited (to sign),” McDowell said. “I’ve been a Blue Devil and I’ve been a Trailblazer and I’m really excited to be a Senator.”

Rounding out the day of Boone signees was Ledford who signed with UVA Wise. Ledford had 25 aces, 147 kills and 30 blocks last season, has been first team all-conference and all-academic for three years, was all-tournament and all-region, as well as the conference setter of the year.

During Ledford’s speech, she had a specific someone to thank — teammate Kaylee Rabun who passed away in September. The Boone squad was motivated by Rabun during the season and her memory is still a part of Ledford’s time on the court.

“I wouldn’t be the player I am, if it weren’t for you all,” the setter said to her teammates during the emotional speech. “The sister that we shared is what drives me to my best potential.”

“Me and her were always competitive against each other,” Ledford said after the signing. “She always pushed me to be better. Now every time I step out on the court, I’m like, ‘This is for her. I have to do this for her.’”