By Kelli Gile
WALNUT—Six standout athletes made their college choices official during a lunchtime signing ceremony at Walnut High School.
Congratulations to the following students who received scholarships to play their sports in college: James Arakawa, University of the Pacific – Baseball; Trussi Li, University of Denver – Golf; Cara Le, Fresno Pacific – Swimming; Stephanie Dye, York College – Soccer; Tyiona Watkins, University of Washington – Basketball; and Katherine Muzi, University of Southern California – Golf.
Families, friends, teammates and coaches gathered on November 15 as the seniors made their commitments final.
“What a great accomplishment!” said principal Brandon Dade while addressing the crowd gathered to honor the Mustang athletes.
“I want to congratulate each of you. This is something that doesn’t happen very often,” he said.
After introducing the elite group, athlete director Jerry Person gave the signal for the athletes to sign National Letters of Intent to join their choice colleges for the 2018-19 academic year.
“Go ahead, get your pens, and sign your letters!” he announced.
Star guard/forward Tyiona Watkins committed to play basketball at the University of Washington.
She is currently ranked as the No. 14 wing player in the class of 2018 by ESPN and No. 20 by Prospects Nation.
“Tyiona is an outstanding athlete and leader,” said Walnut High coach Lori Huckler.
“She works hard on and off the court to always improve as a player and a student.”
The 17-year-old said she was having a “tough choice” selecting a team, but once she stepped foot on the Huskies campus, the decision became easy.
“When I went up there, I just felt like it was home,” she said.
Her father, Charles, shared that the family has been working toward a signing day since Tyiona was just six-years-old.
“It was our dream and today is a total milestone. We have a lot to be thankful for!”
Shortstop James Arakawa will be heading to University of the Pacific in the fall.
“This means a whole lot,” the 18-year-old said after the signing ceremony.
Arakawa, who first picked up a baseball bat at age six, said playing with a chip on his shoulder has given him more motivation to succeed.
“My job is proving myself every day on the field,” he explained.
Arakawa’s parents, Sandra and Jamie, were also among the happy families present at the signing ceremony.
His mother attributes the prized athletic scholarship to hard work and dedication.
“We’re just so grateful!” she said. “He has passion and heart – and he’s good at it!”
Arakawa experienced the pinnacle of success when the Mustang baseball team captured the Division 3 CIF title last spring.
“All the practice and hard work definitely paid off,” he said.
“I guess I’m going to keep having that chip on my shoulder – it’s working for me!”