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Plethora of Wildcats sign to play college sports
Jackson and Allen
Kayla Jackson, left, and Courtney Allen will be rivals next fall. Jackson signed with Jacksonville University, while Allen is headed to North Florida to play women’s soccer.

Courtney Allen and Kayla Jackson are good friends and teammates but that all changed last week when the Richmond Hill soccer standouts signed national letters of intent to play their chosen sport in college. Allen, who led the Wildcats’ Region 6A champs last spring, signed to play with the University of North Florida. Jackson, a dominating athlete in both soccer and flag football, signed with Jacksonville University.

The two schools are just miles apart in Jacksonville, Fl., and are bitter rivals. Both are members of the Atlantic Sun Conference which means the two will be squaring off against one another on an annual basis for the next four years. “Friends off the field, enemies on it,” said Allen with a grin. “We’re competitors and we’ll both be wanting to win.” Also signing were Class 6A state golf champion Hannah Barrett who is going to the University of West Georgia, volleyball standout Rory Schuler who is headed to South Carolina-Aiken and baseball players Hunter Legas with Andrew College and Blayne Newman with South Carolina-Aiken.

The Richmond Hill girls soccer team was dominant last year in posting an 18-3 record, 12-1 in its last year in Region 3-6A, and first-year coach Kelly Anderson will be fielding another strong team as the Wildcats move up to Region 1-7A. Allen, however, will not be part of that team as she will be an early enrollee at UNF as she will be graduating in December.

College soccer is played in the fall which will give Allen a full semester to acclimate and she plans to make the most of it.

“I just wanted to get a head start on the training,” Allen said. “I wanted to get there early and it will help me get closer to the team quicker. And I was just ready to go off to college.”

Jackson found the environment of both the waterfront campus and the team to her liking plus it’s only two hours from home for both players.

“It just felt like family,” Jackson said. “They made me feel really welcome, like they wanted me. The coach said I could make an impact there.”

Barrett’s family moved to Richmond Hill two years ago and she has quickly adapted thanks to her golfing ability.

Last spring at Jekyll Island the then relatively unknown Barrett came out of nowhere to win the Class 6A individual championship by six strokes. She is, she said, putting herself on a fast track when it comes to college.

“I hope to play well in college and graduate early and go to med school,” said Barrett who started playing golf at age 7. “Golf has really taken me far and want to make the most of this opportunity.”

New baseball coach Hill Thomas will be looking to Legas and Newman to make a big impact next spring as the Wildcats, who were region champs last spring, move up to 7A.

Legas was 7-4 last year for the Wildcats who were 24-9 and advanced to the second round of the state playoffs. He also hit .245 while playing second base when not pitching.

Newman is an unproven as he plays infield and pitches. He saw limited action last year, pitching one scoreless inning and getting one hit in seven plate appearances.

However, he showed enough in camps and travel ball for the Pacers to want him.

Schuler was a mainstay this year at libero as the Wildcats won the region with a school record 39 wins before falling in the second round of the state playoffs.

“Honestly, the thing I’m most proud of is us winning the region and beating Effingham County my sophomore year,” Schuler said. “And I’m proud of being on the first Richmond Hill team to win a 7A region championship and setting a school record for wins, too.”

Photos by Mike Brown

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