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Kainoa Sayre, back strong from a junior-season injury, to play football for Air Force

PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tualatin High School seniors (from left) Kainoa Sayre, Bella Valdes, Halle Mitchell and Kaitlyn Gearin signed their college national letters of intent during a ceremony at the school.PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tualatin High School seniors (from left) Britney Muralt, Sarah Hall, Brett Gydesen and Bryce Hatcher signed their college national letters of intent during a ceremony at the school.TUALATIN — Eight Tualatin High School students.

Seven different sports. Various parts of the country.

But the same excitement.

Kainoa Sayre, Bella Valdes, Halle Mitchell, Kaitlyn Gearin, Britney Muralt, Sarah Hall, Brett Gydesen and Bryce Hatcher all made their college choices official, as each signed their national letters of intent in front of friends and family during a ceremony held Feb. 5 at Tualatin High School.

"This means everything," said Tualatin senior Bella Valdes, who signed to play softball at Western Oregon University in Monmouth. "All of those years, getting up early, and the long practices, it just all comes together, when you actually figure out where you're going."

"It means the world, especially after missing all of last year," said Tualatin senior Kainoa Sayre, who signed to play football at the Air Force Academy, located near Colorado Springs, Colo. "I was blessed, and beyond grateful, when they offered me, and it was great to make it official today."

"It means a lot. I'm really excited for the next four years," said Tualatin senior Kaitlyn Gearin, who signed to compete in both track and field, as well as cross country, at Southern Methodist University, located in Dallas, Texas.

Other Tualatin seniors that signed their letters of intent on Feb. 5 included Halle Mitchell, Britney Muralt, Sarah Hall, Brett Gydesen and Bryce Hatcher.

PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tualatin High School senior Kainoa Sayre (right) will play college football at the Air Force Academy.For Sayre, the signing came at the end of a journey that saw him miss his entire junior football season, due to an ankle injury, and then come back to have an outstanding senior campaign for the Timberwolves.

"When I was sitting out my junior year, I never doubted myself," Sayre said. "(Division) I has always been the goal, and always a dream of mine. So, when I had to sit out, I just took it as a minor setback. I was motivated, for sure. I just kept persevering. I stayed dedicated and put the work in."

All of that work led to a senior season where, at running back for the Wolves, Sayre rushed for 1,283 yards on 163 carries, while scoring 30 rushing touchdowns. Sayre, a first-team All-Three Rivers League pick at running back, helped the Wolves go 9-3 on the season, while reaching the quarterfinal round of the Class 6A state playoffs.

Now, Sayre is looking to continue that success, and he feels the Air Force Academy is the best place for him to so so.

"I thought it was the best opportunity I had to continue doing what I love," Sayre said. "I get to go play in front of 50,000 people every Saturday. I get a great education, and it sets me up for the future. When I went out there, I could tell all of the coaches wanted me there, and it's a beautiful play to spend four or five years."

Valdes has been a fixture at shortstop for the Tualatin softball team, helping the Wolves win the Class 6A state championship in 2018, and reach the state championship game last year. She also feels that she has found the right place to continue her scholastic softball career.

"It definitely has a community feel," Valdes said of Western Oregon. "I think I needed a smaller place, where I felt like I was at home. The girls and the coach were so awesome and welcoming. That made me feel like I was falling in love there. I'm excited to continue my education, and all of that, there."

Valdes added that Western Oregon is looking to keep her playing in the middle infield.

PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tualatin High School senior Bella Valdes (left), shown here in the 2019 Class 6A state championship game, will play softball at Western Oregon University.PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tualatin High School senior Kaitlyn Gearin, here on her way to winning the Three Rivers League district cross country championship, will run for Southern Methodist University."I have a lot of travel ball this summer, and I'm going to start doing my workouts and, hopefully, when I get there, I'll be ready," she said.

Gearin has been a four-year standout for the Tualatin cross country team, claiming the Three Rivers League district championship this past fall. Last spring, she won both the 1,500 and 3,000-meter runs at the Three Rivers League track and field district championships.

"I kind of started thinking about it during my sophomore year," Gearin said of running at the collegiate level. "Then I really wanted to."

And SMU turned out to be the right place for her.

"After visiting the campus, and getting to know the coach, it was an easy decision," Gearin said.

Mitchell signed to play women's water polo at Chapman University, located in Orange, Calif. This past fall, Mitchell earned second-team All-Three Rivers League honors as she helped lead the Timberwolves to the state playoffs.

PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tualatin High School senior Halle Mitchell signed to play college water polo at Chapman University.PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tualatin High School senior Britney Muralt signed to swim for Willamette University.PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tualatin High School senior Sarah Hall (left) will play college soccer at Connecticut College.Muralt signed to compete on the women's swim team at Willamette University in Salem. This February, Muralt helped the Tualatin girls 200-yard medley relay team take seventh place at the Class 6A state championships.

Hall signed to play women's soccer at Connecticut College, located in New London, Conn. This past fall, Hall was a second-team All-Three Rivers League selection, as she helped the Wolves win the Three Rivers League title, and reach the quarterfinal round of the Class 6A state playoffs.

Gydesen signed to play football at the College of Idaho, located in Caldwell, Idaho. This past fall, Gydesen was an All-Three Rivers League first-team pick at offensive tackle.

Hatcher signed to play men's golf at McKendree University, located in Lebanon, Ill. Hatcher, a varsity golfer at Tualatin the past three years, played in the Class 6A state tournament as a sophomore, placing 20th individually.

PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tualatin High School senior Brett Gydesen (58) will play football for the College of Idaho.PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tualatin High School senior Bryce Hatcher will play college golf at McKendree University."I think this says Tualatin is a very competitive high school," Valdes said of the eight Tualatin seniors signing on the same day. "It's awesome that there are a lot of people here that are going to go on and play college sports. It made this awesome, knowing that there are so many people here for us."


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