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Heritage, Altavista hold spring signing ceremonies

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From left to right: Reagan Patterson, Matt Cassidy, McKinley Pennix, Deuce Crawford and Darius Brown pose for photos at the end of a signing ceremony Thursday afternoon at Heritage High.

The first offer Deuce Crawford received from coaches at Appalachian State was marked at a 50%. The second offer was more to the liking of the Heritage High track & field star: a full-ride scholarship to run at the Boone, North Carolina school. 

"A week or so [after receiving the first offer], he texted me and was like, 'I'm gonna go ahead and offer you the full [scholarship] because I believe in you, and I believe that you're gonna get better once you get here," Crawford said of the Appalachian State coach who recruited him. 

There's a lot to believe in. Crawford is currently ranked the state's No. 1 sprinter in the 100 and 200 dashes among Class 3 boys by Milestat.com. In the 400 dash, an event he only recently added to his repertoire, the senior is ranked second in the state. He's gearing up for what should be a successful outdoor postseason after winning three state indoor titles earlier this year. 

Crawford signed his national letter of intent to run at Appalachian State on Thursday afternoon in a signing ceremony that featured four other Heritage athletes: Darius Brown (track, Bluefield State), McKinley Pennix (track, Bluefield State), Reagan Patterson (cross country and track, Radford University) and Matt Cassidy (baseball, University of Lynchburg). 

"Goal is go three for three at states," Crawford said of his high school swan song, the Class 3 state championships, which will be held June 3 and 4 at Liberty University. "And hopefully win a fourth ring with my team."

He called the 400 dash "a man's race." It's a daunting, one-lap sprint off starting blocks that ends in a test of endurance. "I've actually grown to like it a little more," Crawford added.

Cassidy, the only non-track athlete at the event, has served as a catcher and pitcher at Heritage. At Lynchburg, he'll play for Lucas Jones, a Heritage grad in his fifth season as Hornets head coach. 

"I think they liked the way I take my approaches hitting. I don't really hit for power that much, but I can get on base," Cassidy said. "And I'd say I have a better than average arm behind the plate."

Lynchburg (33-8) is in the midst of a dream season and is currently ranked sixth nationally among Division III schools. The Hornets are attempting to capture the Old Dominion Athletic Conference tournament crown. Cassidy has been keeping up with the run. 

"I hope I can be a part of that next season," he said. Asked what prepared him for the next level, he added: "I think the adversity I faced. I wasn't really a big kid until my junior and senior year. So going through adversity and injuries really turned me into the player I am now."

Brown — a standout in track, football and basketball throughout his high school career — plans to room with Pennix at West Virginia's Bluefield State, which competes at the Division II level. Brown gave Bluefield's track program a verbal commitment first. He told Pennix he should come along. "I don't know if that played into his decision, but I'm just glad we get to go together," Brown said. 

Brown said his goal in college is to help build the track program. "It's [a] new [program], so we're really going up there to help build it, lead it and hopefully break records, put this program on the map."

He plans to compete in triple, long and high jumps, while Pennix will specialize in hurdles, sprints and jumps. 

"His leadership and his dedication," Brown said when asked about Pennix's best qualities. "Sometimes you might be mad at a teammate for a day. He might make you mad for a day, but that's what you need, because it pushes you to be better."

Brown will go for his first state title next month. So far, he has a runner-up state finish to his credit. 

"I honestly expected to play basketball or football in college," he said. "But I had a different plan, and [Heritage assistant track coach Shawn] Webb has helped us grow a lot and get scholarships for track." 

Patterson has competed in distance events throughout her time at Heritage: mainly the 800 and 1,600 runs and the 4x400 relay. She'll take on the same type of duties at Radford next season. The Highlanders also feature another local prep standout, Rustburg graduate Parker Goldstein, a freshman specializing in the high jump. 

Patterson's best times in distance events during the outdoor season have been a 2:38.80 in the 800 and 6:14.26 in the 1,600. 

Another signing took place at Altavista on Thursday. Three-time state swimming champion Kristopher Schultz announced his intentions to swim for Bridgewater College next season, while Trinity Shirlen decided on Randolph College to continue her cross country career. 

Schultz won his third career state title this winter at the Class 2 state championships. He claimed the 500-meter freestyle with a time of 4:53.13, dominating the race and winning by roughly 11 seconds over the runner-up.

deBernard honored by VHSL

Altavista girls basketball, volleyball and track standout Keegan deBernard received a $1,500 scholarship from the Virginia High School League, the league announced Thursday. The VHSL chooses 19 total students for its scholarships, which total $28,500. DeBernard was named the league's Class 1 female athlete. She plans to study at Virginia Tech. 

 

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