FORT DEFIANCE — Five Fort Defiance graduates made their college athletic decisions official in individual ceremonies with their families last month.
While signing day lacked most of the typical fanfare of a day of celebration for the Indians, the 2020 class boast a Division I signee and four new members to the ODAC conference.
Fort Defiance graduate Taylor Mitchell is going to the University of Cincinnati to be a flyer on the cheer team. Mitchell is only the second Fort graduate to cheer for a DI school ever — Brandon Hill being the other one.
“It feels special that it’s the two of us and that we have that special bond, and it feels good that my hard work paid off in the end,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell will be on the sideline cheer team for football and basketball along with competition cheer at Cincinnati. Her mom, Kim Mitchell, said Cincinnati ranked highly on her daughter’s list for both cheerleading and nursing.
Mitchell herself said the feel of the campus is what brought her there.
“The feel of the campus and the people there is the main reason I chose Cincinnati compared to other schools. It felt like home,” Mitchell said.
The remaining four signees will be athletes in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. However, they’ll all be competing at different schools and different sports.
Fort Defiance graduate Meredith Lloyd is going to continue her basketball career at Shenandoah University. Lloyd plans to pursue Biology major with plans to tack on another two years in the Early Assurance Master of Physican’s Assistant Program.
“Shenandoah was the first college I toured. I fell in love with the campus, fell in love with the coach. It’s like a family there,” Lloyd said. “I visited a couple ODAC schools, and they didn’t feel like home like Shenandoah did.”
Lloyd will join former Wilson Memorial star Sarah Sondrol on the Hornets starting next season. Lloyd is looking forward to playing with Sondrol under coach Melissa Smeltzer-Kraft.
“I’ve known the Sondrol family since I was three. It’ll feel really good to actually play with her again,” Lloyd said. “It’s rare to have two Augusta County players on the same team in the ODAC. Smeltzer-Kraft is very compassionate with her players, she’ll do anything for her players.”
Lloyd is the gritty player that’ll do anything it takes to win at all cost like former James Madison University point guard Logan Reynolds.
“I’ve been told by my high school coach that I’m a hybrid player where I can play the post, or guard position. My physicality is an asset for coach Kraft and that’s what she is looking for in me. Think of it like a Logan Reynolds type of mindset,” Lloyd said.
Brianna Allen committed to Eastern Mennonite University to play softball and will play shortstop with the Royals. Allen’s main focus was education when it came to her decision for colleges.
“I’ve been playing softball all my life, so I started to look at colleges for academics. EMU was perfect for me because I wanted to get into the biology major,” Allen said.
Clayton Michael decided to play baseball at Ferrum College. Michael is going to be an infielder for the team while pursuing an agriculture major as well.
Ferrum is where MLB Hall of Famer Billy Wagner went to college.
“They’re usually one of the top teams in ODAC, the small town feel is great and there is a potential to get drafted to the MLB,” Michael said of his choice to attend Ferrum.
Rounding out the Indians athletic class of 2020, Addison Knicely announced that he’s going to play football for Emory & Henry.
While Knicely also considered other ODAC schools including Ferrum, Shenandoah and Bridgewater, he said culture and atmosphere was a big part of the decision.
“I loved the culture and atmosphere at Emory,” Knicely said. “The fans and alumni there truly care about football, and I knew after my first visit it was where I wanted to play.”
Knicely is going to play safety for the Wasps during the duration of his career while he majors in health and exercise science. Knicely said he loves the anticipation it takes to play the position, as well as all of the roles a safety has on defense.
“I like being able to see the play develop in front of me then reacting off what I see,” Knicely said. “I like it especially because all of the action. You have to be involved in stopping the run as well as the pass which I love doing both.”