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Ten Panthers sign to become college student-athletes

St. Croix Central senior athletes who announced their college intentions on Wednesday are (front, l-r) Claire Frankiewicz, Marie Hamlin, Abigail Widiker and Caitlyn Cody; (back) Austin Kopacz, Will Soderberg, Joe Hueg, Derek Myer, Nathan Berends and Keagen Berg. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 11
St. Croix Central senior Austin Kopacz is shown signing his letter of intent Wednesday to attend UW-La Crosse and compete in football. He is shown (l-r) with his sister, Brooke; mother, Kelly, and father, Mark. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 11
St. Croix Central senior Joe Hueg signed Wednesday to attend the University of St. Thomas where he will compete on the men's track and field team. He is shown with his parents, Amy and John. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 11
St. Croix Central senior Will Soderberg is shown signing his letter of intent to attend Loras College, where he intends to join the men's basketball team. He is shown with his parents, Kurt and Paula Soderberg. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 11
St. Croix Central senior Keagen Berg is headed to UW-River Falls to play football. He's shown with his father, SCC football assistant coach Ryan Berg. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia5 / 11
St. Croix Central senior Claire Frankiewicz is shown signing her letter of intent to attend Edgewood College in Madison and join the Edgewood women's basketball team. She's shown with her mother, Jenny. Dave Newman, RiverTown Multimedia6 / 11
St. Croix Central senior Caitlyn Cody on Wednesday signed a letter of intent to attend Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. and be part of the equestrian team. She is shown with her parents, Andi and Steve Cody. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia7 / 11
St. Croix Central senior Abigail Widiker signed Wednesday to attend the Missouri University of Science and Technology where she will play volleyball. She's shown with her parents, Tim and Mindy. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia8 / 11
St. Croix Central senior Derek Myer signed Wednesday to attend UW-La Crosse where he will play football and baseball. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia9 / 11
St. Croix Central senior Marie Hamlin has signed a national letter of intent to attend the University of Minnesota-Duluth and to compete in track and cross country. She is shown with Panther track coach Ben Lamb (left) and her father, Mark Hamlin. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia10 / 11
St. Croix Central senior Nathan Berends signed a letter of intent on Wednesday to attend UW-Stout and play football for the Blue Devils. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia11 / 11

Wednesday was a landmark day in the history of St. Croix Central athletics.

Ten Central seniors announced their intentions to attend colleges where they will compete in a wide variety of athletics. While no records have been kept, the Class of 2019 appears to be putting more athletes into collegiate sports than any other previous class at Central.

St. Croix Central athletic director Jason Koele said he expects that there will be more Panther seniors who will announce their college athletic intentions during the next college signing period.

Koele said this is the start of an effort to chronicle where SCC students extend their athletic careers at the collegiate level. The event on national signing day highlighted the combination of academic and athletic success the Panthers are seeing. Koele said that past signings have only been done for athletes headed to Division 1 or Division 2 college programs, but he said athletes going to smaller college programs deserve the same level of attention, because they are making the same level of commitment, academically and athletically.

Koele said he’s never seen one high school produce as many students who are going to compete collegiately as Central’s Class of 2019. He also marveled at the wide range of sports, with the Panthers sending athletes to college in nearly every varsity sport. They range from football to equestrian, along with volleyball, basketball, baseball, track and cross country.

The Panthers have placed several athletes at the college over the past few years and Koele said he hopes this is a pattern the athletic programs can build upon.

“Just like academics, we’re increasing the rigor and making it the standard,” Koele said.

Dave Newman

Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for more than 30 years.

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