HARKER HEIGHTS — Eight Harker Heights student-athletes signed national letters of intent to compete at the collegiate level in both track and basketball Wednesday afternoon.
The Knights track and field team saw Shamel Allwood, Michael Collier, AJ Pemberton and Samantha Creek sign their letters in front of a large gathering in the Harker Heights High School gym.
Devany Wall and Caitlin Gillespie of the Lady Knights basketball team signed beside Knights hoops’ Jayvon Young and Keelan Downs.
“These kids have worked extremely hard over the course of these four years, both academically and athletically,” Knights athletic director Jerry Edwards said.
While those words ring true for all eight athletes, Allwood remembered when he was one witnessing others signing.
“I was like, one day I’m going to be there,” he said. “And now, I made it.
“I was dedicated to it and today’s the day.”
Creek started the ceremony by signing with Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College. As she wrote her signature on the paper, she was another step closer to fulfilling her childhood dream of running in college.
“It feels great,” she said, looking around the gym. “It’s just amazing to have people that I support and who support me around me.”
Creek is a four-year member of the track team who moved her way up from the freshman team to junior varsity before making the varsity team her junior year.
She was a regional qualifier in the 4x100-meter relay and was an area qualifier the past two years in the 4x100 and 4x200.
Signing to run for South Plains College in Levelland puts Pemberton one step closer to his dream of running in the Olympics.
After 10 former South Plains track and field athletes competed in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, including men’s quarter-milers Jereem Richards and Renny Quow, Pemberton was certain it was the school for him.
As a member of the Knights track team, Pemberton qualified for state with the 4x200 relay team in 2017 and set two school records: 10.54 in the 100 and 41.31 with the 4x100 relay.
And while winning area champion last season is a highlight of his high school career, Pemberton is looking forward to a new level of competition.
“It kind of got old being one of the fastest in the city, so it’ll be good starting from the bottom again,” he said. “I miss that feeling.
“You can’t stay as hungry when you’re at the top.”
Collier also has his eyes set on running in the Olympics and chose to sign with Langston (Okla.) University.
“I feel like all my hard work has finally paid off, to finally go to college and compete at the next level,” he said, “and in my favorite sport.”
Collier has competed in the long jump, triple jump and 100 for Harker Heights.
He isn’t the only Knight who committed to run for the Lions. Allwood also signed with Langston.
“He’s actually the reason why I started doing track, so I owe a lot to him,” Collier said of Allwood. “That’s my best friend.”
Allwood is a three-time state qualifier, competing in the 4x200 in 2016 and 2017 before running in the 4x400 last weekend at the state meet, where the Knights finished fifth.
He also helped set a school record as a member of the 4x200 relay team.
Allwood is looking forward to all that college has to offer, on and off the track, “I’m looking forward to having fun and I’m going to go into kinesiology.
“I know college is very competitive and I love competition. It’s adrenaline, it’s a rush. I love it, so it’s the best thing I could ever ask for.”
Wall transferred to Harker Heights in her junior year and started at point guard for the Lady Knights.
She signed with Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins.
“I feel like it’s not the end of my career but it’s just the beginning of it,” Wall said. “It’s just amazing and exciting, and I can’t wait to play on the next level.”
With plans to study kinesiology, Wall is most excited about “gaining the collegiate level experience and growing in my skills.”
Gillespie signed with Western Oklahoma State College.
Gillespie knew the Lady Pioneer program was meant for her following her campus visit and is now ready to compete for a starting position.
“I plan to be a very big help to the team,” she said. “I just hope to continue to dominate boards and continue to stand out.”
For Heights boys point guard Jayvon Young, signing day represented something more as he signed with Mountain View College in Dallas.
“Coming from where I come from, most kids don’t make it out,” he said, “but with God I was able to continue to work hard and stay focused and make it out.
“I’m just thankful for today and for the opportunity to play at the next level.”
Standout perimeter shooter Downs signed with Ave Maria University in southwest Florida.
“It’s what I’ve just dreamed of as a kid,” he said, thinking back to all the drills and dedication he put in over the years. “I finally see it paying off signing my name today.
“It’s a sense of relief but I know this isn’t the end, I’ve got to keep going, keep getting better and these next four years are going to be good for me.”
The chance to play college basketball while relocating closer to his family in Florida is one of the many things that drew Downs to play for the Gyrenes.
But there is one person who played a major role in helping him achieve this opportunity: head coach Celneque Bobbitt.
Downs said he’ll always remember Bobbitt’s coaching, “He yelled at me and told me, ‘Keelan, I’m always on you because I want the most for you.’
“I thank him for that today because now here I am.”
HARKER HEIGHTS SIGNINGS
- Samantha Creek (girls track, Coffeyville Community College)
- Caitlin Gillespie (girls basketball, Western Oklahoma State College)
- Devany Wall (girls basketball, Jarvis Christian College)
- Keelan Downs (boys basketball, Ave Maria University)
- Jayvon Young (boys basketball, Mountain View College)
- AJ Pemberton (boys track, South Plains College)
- Shamel Allwood (boys track, Langston University)
- Michael Collier (boys track, Langston University)