Woodburn signs nine athletes to college commitments
The 2018-19 Woodburn High School athletic season will go down as one of the most successful in recent history. In addition to a third straight state championship for the boys soccer program — and sixth total — the Bulldogs saw marked improvements that led to playoff runs from programs such as football, girls soccer and boys basketball.
As such, it's no surprise that the increased success has led to further interest in Woodburn athletes competing at the collegiate level, and on Monday, June 3, the high school's athletic department recognized 10 seniors who intend to continue their athletic careers beyond high school next year.
"We want to wish you the best of luck," Woodburn Athletic Director Chad Waples said to the student athletes at the signing ceremony. "It's a recognition for you guys of the hard work you've done in athletics here and obviously academically too. Hopefully every year we just continue to grow it and continue to get better and better. These guys and gals are a part of that process."
Among the Bulldogs to sign were Nathalie Rios and Miriam Barbosa of the girls soccer team, Jacob Hesse of the football team and Edwin Silva, Jesus Rodriguez, Jose Ochoa, Pedro Hernandez, Jairo Aguirre and Salvador Perez of the boys soccer team. R.J. Veliz of the boys basketball team was also recognized, but was absent from the celebration, having signed his letter of intent in May.
"I'm very proud of all you guys," Woodburn football coach and teacher Nick Federico said. "This is very exciting to see how much you have grown in four years, and I hope to continue to see that as you go to college.
Jacob Hesse — Willamette University
An Honorable Mention selection at offensive guard for the Woodburn football team this year, Hesse helped play a part in the Bulldogs' first state playoff run in nearly a decade as the program returned to league play at the 4A level in 2018.
A three-year member of the team, Hesse saw Woodburn go from back-to-back 3-6 seasons to starting his senior year with four straight victories, followed by a play-in win against Tillamook to earn a state playoff berth in November.
"The biggest thing I saw in a change from this season from last season is that everyone really liked each other," Hesse said. "We weren't just struggling to be together, it felt a lot more fun than in previous years because we just enjoyed each other. It just felt really good in general."
"We've been through a lot together," Federico said of Hesse. "He's been a great model student, athlete, community member, everything."
Hesse joins the Willamette University Bearcats, which are coming off a down year in which the team went 1-8 overall and winless against conference opponents.
"I'm planning on being an offensive lineman — probably a tackle," Hesse said. "It really depends on where they say. They may change me to defense, but as it stands right now, offensive lineman."
While Hesse was drawn to the football team due to the similarities with Woodburn in coaching philosophy, it was the academic side of the school that really piqued his interest.
"I've always been interested in their academics, but I've connected with their coach and he's a lot like Fed," Hesse said. "So I just thought I liked him and that's where I went."
While he's not 100 percent sure of his academic future, he intends to initially work towards studying history or law with the possibility of transitioning into a career in local government or the legal field.
Nathalie Rios and Miriam Barbosa — Chemeketa Community College
Two of 11 seniors from this year's Woodburn girls soccer program, Rios and Barbosa helped the Bulldogs reach their first state playoff appearance in nearly 20 years.
"It's just exciting to see what they did for their soccer program this year," Federico said. "They had a lot of success, and it's probably because of the seniors and what they brought to the program."
Although Rios has been a four-year member of the program and Barbosa was with the Bulldogs for three years, neither was expecting to continue playing soccer in college until midway through their senior year.
"We were both thinking about it individually, and it just kind of happened," Rios said.
"Chemeketa was always my first choice since it's near where I lived," Barbosa said. "Just like her, I didn't think about playing in college until about mid-way through the soccer season. That's when I heard about their tryouts."
With the proximity of Chemeketa to Woodburn, the two are planning on continuing to follow their former teammates next year as the high school program attempts to follow on a successful playoff run.
"I feel like we've seen a lot of progress in the last two to three years, and it's kind of exciting to see where it will go," Rios said. "This year we made playoffs, it's going to be an expectation."
Edwin Silva, Jesus Rodriguez, Jose Ochoa, Pedro Hernandez, and Salvador Perez — Chemeketa Community College
Half of the Woodburn boys soccer team's graduating senior class this year, Silva, Rodriguez Ochoa, Hernandez and Perez helped guide the Bulldogs into a new era of 4A soccer where the team won its third straight state title in the fall.
Kind of an off-the-cuff decision.
"I couldn't say enough about them," Woodburn boys soccer coach Leroy Sanchez said. "They are hard-working kids. They made sure to take care of business on the field and off the field. They are going to surely be missed in my heart, and the program is going to miss their energy."
Rodriguez kept track of the Chemeketa soccer tryouts during the offseason, and through coordinating with each other via group chat, the Bulldogs sent a contingent of players to Chemeketa to attempt to make the team.
"If you guys aren't going to play anywhere, might as well just show up," Silva recalls. "If we make it, we can still play together."
"I feel like soccer is going to be a motivation in college to stay on track, do the right things and keep myself motivated," Ochoa said. "I'm happy to play another year with my teammates.
Jairo Aguirre — North Idaho College
The Woodburn boys soccer team's sixth senior to sign collegiately, Aguirre will make the trek to North Idaho's campus in Coeur d'Alene next year.
Aguirre was recruited by the North Idaho coach after a club soccer showcase in Seattle and liked what he saw out of the program and the campus.
"I liked it," Aguirre said. "It was a good feel. The soccer program should be good this year. It's also a good school to get to the next level."
Aguirre hopes to use the North Idaho program as a launching point to play at the D-1 level after two years, parlaying that opportunity to pursue a career in teaching.
"Not everyone gets to say they're college athletes," Sanchez said. "I know I envy them, but I'm happy for them, because I didn't get that opportunity to play."