Two young women, and five young men, all graduates from Franklin County High School last fall, are busy with college athletic careers.
Closest to home are the two women, Melanie Collins and Alexus Johnson, who are both on softball scholarships at Chipola College.
With Collins competing for shortstop against sophomore Haley Sandridge, from Chickamauga, Georgia, and Johnson vying for third base against Evette Morgan from Bemidji, Minnesota, the two freshmen got a chance to show their abilities during the fall season, which serves as a preliminary to the all-importn spring season that begins next month.
"They played a lot in the fall, when they let everybody play. They’re not necessarily worried about winning the games," said Collins’ dad Scott Collins, who coached both players as the Lady Seahawks softball coach. "They’re playing about half the time."
Collins went to most of the fall games, as did Brock and Kim Johnson, together with grandparents and other local fans.
Chipola faced tough Div. 1 competition through the fall campaign, falling 3-0 to Auburn, 9-3 to Florida State, 3-1 to Louisiana State University, 7-1 to Tennessee, and 6-5 in extra innings to University of West Florida, among their many games.
But when it’s time for the regular season against National Junior College competition, the team will be in the thick of things for a national title, hoping to repeat their championship performance last year and their runner-up status the year before.
Coach Belinda Hendrix, and her assistant and husband, Jimmy Hendrix, have won three national titles in 15 years.
Collins said he was impressed by both players’ performance in the fall season.
"They both are a lot better ballplayers than they were when they left here," he said. "The grueling schedules and practices are something like I’ve never seen before.
"They’re better fielders, better hitters and a lot tougher," he said. "They play a different brand of ball, diving headfirst, playing a rough, rough gritty brand of softball.
"Both had to grow up quick," said Collins. "They’re both a lot mentally tougher too."
Collins said both young ladies are doing well in school as well. "As soon as they get back from Christmas they start spring ball," he said.
During the football season, both Tonnor Segree, a six-foot, three-inch tight end playing for his former Seahawk coach Tim Mathis at Cumberland University in Tennessee, and Ethan Riley, a five-foot six-inch, 175-pound speedster at Florida’s Warner University were red-shirted this season, so both will have a chance to play four more years for their teams.
In the upcoming basketball season, Daijon Penamon, a five-foot 10-inch freshman guard, has been redshirted at Mount Mercy College in South Dakota, so he’ll have four more years to play for the Lancers.
At Enterprise State Community College, in Enterprise, Alabama, freshman Micah McLeod saw playing time at catcher for the Boll Weevils during the preliminary fall season.
At Iowa Central Community College, freshman Simon Brathwaite has already seen playing time for the Tritons.