Six 2021 Payson High student-athlete graduates plan to continue their athletic and academic careers at the collegiate level.
The group includes Raci Miranda, Trevor Cline, Kylee Carnes, Stephanie Ayres, Alex Hagan and Kyler Smith.
Miranda earned a softball scholarship to Cal State Fullerton. She enjoyed a dominating career as Payson’s pitching ace, leading the Longhorns to the 3A state championship game this season.
Cline earned an academic scholarship to Northern Arizona University, where he plans to try to earn a football roster spot with the Lumberjacks as a walk-on. He took over as the Longhorns’ varsity starter at quarterback in the second half of his freshman season and starred there and as a safety on defense, leading the Longhorns to the 2019 3A East championship during his junior season.
Ayres will play soccer at Trinidad State Junior College in Colorado after playing for Payson as a freshman and sophomore and on a club team her final two years of high school.
The other three are volleyball players. Carnes is heading to South Mountain Community College, Hagan to Scottsdale CC and Smith to Central Maine CC.
Five of the six — Miranda had another commitment — showed up for a ceremony at Wilson Dome on May 21.
Outgoing PHS Athletic Director Rich Ormand started these ceremonies in the first of his five years running the Longhorns athletic department.
“I just love it because it’s honoring our student-athletes that put four years of hard work into it and now they’re seeing the fruits of their labor and going on to the next level,” Ormand said.
“I just hope they succeed at that level. It’s just something great to celebrate. I love doing it. This is one of my favorite things all year. That and also all the scholar-athlete stuff I put them in for. I’m hoping this will be continued and the scholar-athlete awards will still be submitted.”
Ormand started these ceremonies, usually attended by parents and some coaches, to recognize those student-athletes moving on to college sports after arriving from Lakeside Blue Ridge High, where he served as athletic director.
“I started that when I was at Blue Ridge and just continued it when I got here,” Ormand said. “It’s just like the scholar team awards. Nobody had been submitting teams for scholar team awards for years or submitted athletes for scholar-athlete awards for years. It’s easy, it just takes a little bit of time.
“We’re celebrating our students and any way we can celebrate them we need to do it.”
Shelli Creighton, who retired as PHS’s varsity volleyball coach after the 2020 season last fall, was there to take part with three of her players just the latest PHS students to go on to play volleyball collegiately. The volleyball program has produced multiple college players in recent years.
“I think it’s awesome because a lot of times I think kids leave high school and they are kind of lost on where they’re going and when they can go (and do) something they’re successful in and feel important,” she said. “I think it’s good for them. It helps them connect to a college, have like a family when they walk into college, that security of having a team and having a coach.
“I get nervous sometimes when they go far away and they’ll miss home, but I’m excited for them. This is a time of their life when they can go, be independent and figure out who they are as a person and grow as a person.
“I’m real excited that we can produce athletes that are excited to go on to a college/university level.”