It was as high-wattage the star power that there has been at a signing for Denison athletes, a trio headed to the Division I level that have provided some of the best performances in school and state history with records and milestones and firsts — either ever or since — along the way to what will be the end of their senior seasons.
Their dominance has been spread out across campus. Lindsey Looney’s took place in the pool. Zya Nugent’s took place on the basketball court. And Christian Ruebeck’s was out on the pitcher’s mound.
On Wednesday morning those three signed letters of intent to continue their athletic careers — Looney to swim at Arizona State; Nugent to play basketball for Stephen F. Austin and Rubeck to play baseball for Oklahoma.
Looney, who picked ASU over Louisville, announced her commitment in April after defending her Class 5A state titles in the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly, including lowering her own state record in the 100 fly. She will look to close out her career with seven state titles, including a four-year run as the best in the 200 IM.
“I’m so excited. I felt like everyone at Arizona State was family. They treated me like one of their own,” Looney said.
Looney captured the 200 IM in 2:00.54, winning by two and a half seconds, and then won the 100 fly in 54.40 seconds. It was 0.01 faster then her winning time as a sophomore that set the 5A state record. Her closest competition in that race was nearly three seconds behind her.
She was named the 5A Female Athlete of the Meet for her performance and is a USA Swimming Scholastic All-American and a NISCA All-American.
Looney, who will be attempting to qualify for the 2020 Olympics, won the 200 IM for the third straight year and has six medals overall in her career — she was the silver medalist in the 100 fly as a freshman.
She became the first Denison swimmer to win a state championship and is already the most decorated swimmer, regardless of gender, for the program in terms of total medals. She joins her brother, Davis, and Tori Fryar as the only Yellow Jacket swimmers to make it to state at least three times and both Looneys are the only ones to do it consecutively.
When she qualifies for state later this season, she will be the only DHS swimmer to make it all four years.
“It’s exciting to be able to represent Denison,” Looney said. “I feel pressure but it’s more of an excitement than pressure. I love competing and racing no matter what it is.”
Looney had five top 100 finishes, including placing in the top 10 in the 200 butterfly, at the National Championships this past summer. She won the B Final in the 200 fly with a time of 2:10.03 to finish ninth in the country.
She was 41st in the 400 individual medley in 4:54.07, 77th in the 200 free in 2:03.77, 88th in the 200 individual medley in 2:21.85 and 94th in the 100 butterfly in 1:02.45.
Arizona State finished the 2017-18 season ranked No. 22 in the nation and was 23rd at the NCAA Championships. The program had four All-Americans.
“The coaches there, led by Bob Bowman, are really going to push me to be the best I can and that is something I’m really looking forward to,” Looney said.
Nugent decided to choose Stpehen F. Austin over Tulsa, New Orleans and Fresno State right before the school year started.
“They’ve been recruiting me since last fall. The relationship with the coaches was a big thing,” she said. “It’s exciting to be getting to play D-I basketball.”
She opened her senior season earlier this month as the second-all-time leading scorer with 2,019 career points, behind only Shayla Moore, who scored 2,777 points from 2002-2006 before playing at TCU.
“I don’t look at records. Just being in the gym trying to be a better player and a better teammate,” Nugent said. “The season’s going great but it could be better. We have to stay humble because we have to earn the success we want.”
As a junior Nugent was an all-state selection by the Texas Girls Coaches Association and the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches and was the District 5-5A Most Valuable Player after averaging 25.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.1 steals and 3.8 assists. The Lady Yellow Jackets had the best season in school history, going 31-5, a program record for wins, and reaching the region quarterfinals for the first time.
She was an all-state selection by the Texas Girls Coaches Association during her sophomore year when she was named the 5-5A Offensive Player of the Year and averaged 22 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.2 steals as Denison made the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons, reaching the area round.
As a freshman she was the 10-5A Newcomer of the Year and averaged 15.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
Stephen F. Austin went 25-7 last season — a second-straight 25-win campaign — with a first-round loss in the WNIT and finished 16-2 and second place in the Southland Conference before losing in the conference title game.
Ruebeck, who chose the Sooners over Oklahoma State, has been at the forefront of the baseball team’s resurgence both as a shortstop and pitcher.
“They want me as a pitcher,” he said. “I’m looking at pitching right in freshman year, starting in relief and then see where I fit going forward.”
This past spring Denison put together its best season in more than 25 years as the Yellow Jackets reached the Class 5A region quarterfinals, the deepest run by the program since making the state tournament in 1992.
“I’m expecting a bigger year than we had,” Ruebeck said. “We should be a really good team and I’m excited about that.”
The Jackets won a playoff game for the first time since 2000 and went 21-15 — the most wins since 1998. Ruebeck was 4-7 with a 2.02 earned run average and 69 strikeouts in 59 innings. He also hit .303 with an on-base percentage of .370 with 26 RBI and scored 19 times.
The right-hander was 4-4 with a 3.28 ERA and struck out 60 in 49 innings and helped Denison make the playoffs for the first time in six years as a junior. He was selected first-team all-district in 5-5A for his sophomore season.
Oklahoma went 38-25 last season and 14-10 in the Big 12 to finish fourth in the conference standings. The team has made two straight NCAA tournament appearances, coming up one win short of a Super Regional appearance in 2018. The program last won a Big 12 title in 2013 and made the College World Series in 2010, the most recent of 10 trips to Omaha along with national titles in 1951 and 1994.
“The Sooner blood in me, I couldn’t turn it down,” Ruebeck said about going to his father’s alma mater. “It’s truly an honor they want me. It’s a blessing to play for a school I’ve wanted to play for my whole life.”