MELISSA — Three Cardinal seniors signed national letters of intent on Friday, signifying their commitment to continue their athletic and academic careers at the collegiate level.
Taylor Thomas signed to play basketball with Texas Woman’s University, Ty Graham signed with Rogers State University for cross-country and Brittany Melcher signed with Arkansas Tech University for volleyball.
Thomas averaged 11 points, four assists and 3.4 steals per game last season and was the District 11-4A Offensive Player of the Year and a first-team all-district pick in 2016.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” Thomas said, “because I worked really hard for this. I’m excited to advance my career in basketball.”
Now starting her fourth varsity season with the Lady Cards, Thomas said she has high hopes for this season. “I hope that we can make [school] history and go past the second round [of the playoffs].”
The NCAA Division II TWU Pioneers are members of the Lone Star Conference and are coming off a 16-11 season. “The girls seem like a family off the court,” Thomas said, “and they play like a team on the court. They also seem to really get along with the coaching staff, which is not something everyone can find. I’ll be excited to be a Pioneer next year.” She is currently undecided on a specific field of study.
At Rogers State, Graham will join the 2017 Heartland Conference-champion Hillcats, a team now headed to the NCAA Division II national championships. And he’s looking forward to being reunited at RSU with 2017 Melissa graduate and former teammate Elijah Mackey.
“I took an official visit to Rogers State and loved it,” Graham said. “I just feel like this is where God is leading me and where I’m happy to be. [RSU head coach] Chris McCormick is a great man. They have great facilities and I just felt at home.”
Graham and the Cards have claimed the last two Class 4A Region II cross country championships, earning trips to the state meet in Round Rock, Texas. Not only did Graham’s state time improve this time around but the squad moved up from a seventh-place finish in 2016 to being the No. 4 Class 4A team in Texas.
“It was a good experience,” Graham said, “because the more big meets I have under my belt the more confident I am in both my abilities and what I can do from here. Running collegiately, all the meets will be important and, of course, faster.”
Melcher will join an Arkansas Tech team coming off a 32-0 conference-championship season.
The Golden Suns, who compete in the Great American Conference, finished their undefeated run as the No. 9-ranked NCAA Division II team in the country.
“For me, the most important thing was getting somewhere that had a good engineering program. And I just loved the campus and I loved the coach,” she said.
Melcher and the Lady Cards just concluded a 28-10 district-championship season and she was named the District 11-4A Libero of the Year.
“Senior year is definitely going to stay with me for a long time,” she said, “because we went through a lot as a team and we all were really close to each other.”