— By GREG WEBB
Kelsie Coplen — Cameron University — Volleyball
PEASTER — Senior Kelsie Coplen had her offer in-hand, so to speak, last fall. And the invite came from the school she eventually chose to further her education and extend her athletic career. But she had to perform a bit more due diligence before deciding to sign a national letter-of-intent for Cameron University.
“ I could have committed last fall,” Coplen said, “but I wanted to make sure I visited the other schools that had some interest.
“At the end of the process, it was an easy decision to make. Cameron had many advantages, including being close enough to home.”
Located iu Lawton, Okla., just a two and a half hour jaunt up U.S. Hwy. 281 from Peaster, the burgeoning volleyball program and her potential contribution was also an attraction to become an Aggie.
“Coach [Doug] Tabbert said he was bringing in a lot of new players in, and that I could make a difference in the way Cameron plays volleyball,” Kelsie said. “He just showed a lot of interest in getting me up to Cameron.
“I loved the campus at Cameron too, and had the opportunity to talk to several of the players. They all said the coach was great and was helping turn the program around.”
Coplen has degree plans in place (biology major, chemistry minor) to pursue a career as a physical therapist. Though she describes her current curricular path as “set in stone,” she is also realistic about the possibility of repointing her studies as thoughts change.
Though she describes her volleyball beginnings as dubious, her persitance eventually won out — and paid off.
“I started playing for the Peaster Pounders in the sixth grade,” she said. “We were awful, but our teams started getting better in the seventh and eighth grades, when I was playing on the A-teams.
“But my game really improved when I started playing club volleyball.”
Coplen’s improvement before entering high school earned her a varsity slot on the Lady Hounds squad as a freshman, offering up some starry eyes in thr process, which she readily admits.
“Courtney Haney (former Peaster standout athlete) was really my idol,” the middle hitter said, “and to have the opportunity to play with her and those other girls — and get to go to regionals and the state tournament — it was just a great experience for me.”
Haney’s eventual signing to play at North Central Texas College in Gainesville provided more inspiration for Coplen to continue her athletic career, and when she began getting offers in her junior year, the dream became reality.
Ink on the dotted line taken care of, packing for life in Lawton ahead, Coplen also admits to a minor malady emerging in her last few weeks of prep school.
“Senioritis is definitely beginning to kick in,” Kelsie said.
Tyler Nelson — University of Mary Hardin-Baylor — Baseball
BROCK — Tyler Nelson and the Eagles are on the cusp of beginning another run in the state playoffs, and the senior is glad to shed one more task off his to-do list before beginning the march.
“I’m really happy about getting [the offer and the letter-of-intent] done,” Nelson said. “It really takes a lot of the stress off my back.”
Amidst a formidable gathering on Thursday at Brock High School, well-wishing attendees helped Tyler celebrate his national letter-of-intent signing to attend and play baseball for the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, which is located in Belton.
A mutual feeling developed between Tyler and the UMHB coaching staff, ultimately making his decision a confident one.
“The pitching coach and I connected right away and I just feel like I can contribute to the team,” Nelson said. “The UMHB program is really a good one and they kept in touch with me.
It should be relatively easy for the baseball coaching staff at Hardin-Baylor to promote a family atmosphere among its team members. Head coach Ben Shipp, who took over the reins a couple of years ago at UMHB, is assisted by sons Kyle and Nate Shipp.
After checking out the school and its curricular offerings, Nelson, who looks to a career as a pharmacist, felt he has found a home for the next few years.
“The school is really nice,” he said, “and they have all of the curriculum I need for a pre-med major.”
Tyler’s to-do list still has an entry left, just above the graduation ceremony.
“Playing for Brock has been a very special experience for me. This program has taught me how to win.
“We got really close to the state championship last year, and that just gives me the desire to push even harder so I can help this team get back there, again.”
Jonathan Mitchell — Stephen F. Austin — Track & Field
WEATHERFORD — WHS senior Jonathan Mitchell celebrated his intentions for the coming fall at The Outback on Friday morning. WISD track coaches, Executive Athletic Director Richard Scoggin and of course, mom, were all on hand. The tall senior will attend Stephen F. Austin and join the Lumberjacks Track & Field team to continue his career in the high jump.
The beginning of Mitchell’s recruiting process came via U.S. Mail, around the start of the 2013 track season.
“I got a letter from Stephen F. Austin Coach (Dess) Meek,” the high jump specialist said. “I thought it looked like the real deal, and when I showed it to [Weatherford track] Coach (Debra) Wood she said ‘Well congratulations. You just got a recruiting letter.’
“I emailed Coach Meek, who is the high jump coach at SFA, so she scheduled a recruiting visit. The visit [to Nacogdoches] went really well.
“I pretty much fell in love with the campus right away.”
Mitchell had an inkling, along with some amount of confidence, that he could compete at the next level.
“My junior year, I cleared 6’6” in the very first meet of the season,” he said. “I was really excited about that, so I went on-line to see what heights the colleges were jumping, to see if I could compete at that level.
“I’m pretty sure I can compete.”
A few months after his visit to SFA, located in Nacogdoches, Meek made a trip to the Area trials to watch Jonathan jump. With a second-place finish at the Class 5A, Region I Area trials, Mitchell qualified for the regional meet.
“Soon after the Area meet, [the SFA coach] sent me the scholarship letters,” Mitchell said, “so it was pretty much a done deal at that point.”
Mitchell will pursue a degree in business, likely opting for either management or economics disciplines.
Although Jonathan competed in other events as a member of the Roo T&F squad, he has primarily been honing his high jump craft, and mostly through singular efforts and intends more of the same at SFA.
“I’ve usually worked mostly on my own,” he said, “just trying to get verticle and more athletic.
“I’m not expecting too much of a social life, between all the training and studying I will be doing.”
Amending the statement, the soon-to-be grad indicates his priorities are intact.
“Actually, it will be studying, then training,” he adds, “which is why I’m called a student-athlete.”