Century athletes sign on dotted line
Century High School recently celebrated five of their student athletes with a ceremony to display and honor their signing letters of intent to accept scholarships to compete at colleges across the United States.
Luke Thornbrue, Micky Thompson, Gavyn Shafer, Justyn Herzog and Liza Lunina signed their letters of intent, and later celebrated doing so in the cafeteria at Century High in front of family, friends, coaches and administrators. The ceremony was the culmination of years of practice, countless games and hard work building toward the next step in each of the athletes' lives, both on and off the field of play.
Thornbrue, who won two state championships in the pool his freshman year at Century, will be attending and competing for Notre Dame next fall.
"I chose Notre Dame because I instantly felt at home when I set foot on campus and I didn't want to leave," said Thornbrue. "They also have amazing academics, and the coaching staff is building an extraordinary program, especially in the events that I swim and specialize in."
The Century standout — who swims primarily for Hillsboro's HEAT, a club team — is a seven-time Winter Juniors qualifier, had three best times at Junior Nationals this past summer, and won the 400 IM at Oregon Seniors at Federal Way Speedo Sectionals last March. He's excited about his future competing for the Irish and said he was particularly eager to participate in the college environment that puts a much greater emphasis on team competition than individual success.
"I'm looking forward to getting to contribute to something bigger than myself," Thornbrue said.
The senior plans to focus on freestyle in college, primarily in the 200, 500 and mile distances. He thanked his club coach, James Resare and his many teammates for pushing him to be his best, but specifically wanted to thank his parents for the many sacrifices they made to put him through the sport.
"I wouldn't be here without them," Thornbrue said.
Thompson, Herzog and Shafer earned their stripes — or scholarships in this case — on the diamond. Thompson is headed to Washington State, Herzog to Western Oregon University and Shafer, a two-time first team all-league honoree, is headed to the University of New Mexico to play softball for the Lobos.
"I chose New Mexico because it's always been a goal of mine to play Division I softball," said Shafer. "I also wanted to get away from home and discover a new place to spend a few years of my life in."
Shafer plans to study sociology and hopes to be a social worker after college. She thanked a bevy of people for help along the way, but singled out her dad in particular for committing his own time to help her improve on the field. She sees her upcoming New Mexico experience as a natural step in her evolution as a softball player, and she is enthusiastic about the chance to judge herself against a higher level of peers.
"I am very excited for this new start and opportunity, and equally excited to compete at a new level and better myself at the sport I love," she said.
Like Shafer and Thornbrue, Herzog is keen on the idea of getting better, and sees college as great opportunity to do just that. He chose WOU because he wanted to stay close to home, along with an affinity for their coaching staff, but he also appreciated the chance it will afford him to become the very best player he can become.
"I am extremely excited to compete at the collegiate level," Herzog said. "It has been a goal of mine for the longest time, and the fact that I get to play with college athletes who are bigger, faster and stronger is going to make me that much better as a player."
The infielder, who plans to study exercise science at Western as a means to becoming a physical therapist, was extremely thankful of his coaches, friends and teammates, whom he said were instrumental in getting him to this point. But he couldn't say enough about his parents.
"I don't have a clue where I would be if it wasn't for them and all the help and support they have given me," he said. "They both have helped guide me to this point and I am so thankful to have them in my life."
Thompson, Herzog's teammate at Century, is committed to pitching at Washington State. The 2018 Metro League first-team pitcher and outfielder chose the Cougars are a handful of other suitors due primarily to the campus and its surroundings, in addition to the coaching staff, whom he referred to as "more like dads to me than coaches." He also likes the idea of competing against the very best, and the Pac-12 Conference — which is one of the most competitive in college baseball — should afford him that.
"I am committed as a pitcher, and being able to have the opportunity to pitch against the best talent was a huge factor in my decision," Thompson said.
Thompson plans to study business at WSU, and hopes to one day start his own business revolving around sports, and specifically the game of baseball. The left-hander — like most — thanked his parents, along with his many coaches through the years for his success. But in addition, he singled out a specific coach as being instrumental to his development on the mound.
"I would like to thank Kevin Gunderson," said Thompson. "I wouldn't be near the pitcher I am today without his guidance."
Lastly, Lunina will be attending and swimming at Colorado State University. The Century senior — who also swims for the HEAT — was a three-time finalist at last summers USA Futures Championships in Santa Clara, Calif., placing fifth in the 200-meter backstroke, sixth in the 100-meter backstroke, and 15th in the 50-meter freestyle. She ultimately chose CSU due to the welcoming atmosphere of the team and coaches, along with her affinity for the campus in Fort Collins, not far from the Wyoming state line.