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CJ Noland, a senior basketball player at Waxahachie, signed his National Letter of Intent with the University of Oklahoma on Wednesday. (Travis M. Smith/KBEC Sports)

7 Waxahachie student-athletes sign NLIs to continue playing careers

By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports

Seven Waxahachie student-athletes signed their National Letters of Intent on Wednesday afternoon to continue their playing careers after high school. Five of those 2021 graduates will soon move on to the NCAA Division-I level.

The group was headlined by DI signees CJ Noland (University of Oklahoma, basketball), Jalen Lake (Colorado State, basketball), Emma Curry (Vanderbilt, cross country), Angel Garfias (Northwestern State University, soccer) and Kate Morgan (Samford, volleyball). Emma Smithey (Colorado School of Mines, volleyball) and Emily Six (Texas Woman’s, gymnastics) will both compete at the NCAA Division-II level.

The signing ceremony, which is the first of three for the Class of 2021, was one of the more unique events to be held in the WHS Performing Arts Center thanks to COVID-19 protocols. The space provided a modest and socially distanced crowd of family and friends some sense of normalcy.

For WISD athletic director Greg Reed, who served as the emcee and on-stage interviewer, the celebration of athletic success was a welcomed one.

“Even though we didn’t get to do the big decoration of tables, the sharing of food and everything else you’d normally do to celebrate an accomplishment like this, I think it was the best we could make it,” Reed said. He noted the district even offered a live stream of the event, providing a new opportunity to family members too far away to attend.

“We got together and decided that we wanted to do this, set the parameters and did the best we could,” added Reed, who was quick to thank WISD administrative support staffers Krissi Mechelay, Ashley Ford and David Moore.

“Today wasn’t a huge ordeal other than it just being a new format and finding a way to get the kids involved and interact a little bit more. We wanted them to feel like they were more a part of the show and not just the show.”

Reed certainly did his part to shine the spotlight on the student-athletes too. He served as the event’s emcee and on-stage interviewer, bringing each athlete to the center-stage microphone to offer a little comedy and plenty of insight into the program for the first time.

The questions ranged from why Smithey’s nickname is “Brutus” on the court and details on Garfias’ trickshot arsenal to what Curry thinks about while pacing the field or how Noland came to choose OU.

When asked if he had any nerves leading the program, Reed laughed and admitted, “I can be socially awkward with a small number of people, but if there is a large group of people like when I’m standing up here, I have fun doing that kind of stuff. And I hope the kids had fun because we want this to be an experience that they could remember by coming out that way.”

“I think deep down inside we’d like to pat ourselves on the back and think we are doing something better than everyone else, but I don’t know if it’s that as much as it is just lucky,” Reed said. “More than anything, we just try to be consistent. You hope that consistency brings about good results. Not to say that we don’t have our flaws or could do better, because we always strive for that. But, as a whole, we just continue to try and be consistent to see how long we can make [these seasons] last.”

Thankfully, Wednesday’s event went off without a hitch, which is not something that can be said for the first post-COVID-outbreak semester.

Reed noted that fairly consistent scheduling changes have become bothersome to student-athletes, coaches, parents and administrators.

“I know that people get frustrated when one day [a game] is at this time and at this location and then the next day it’s at this time and this location,” Reed explained. “I think it wears on people, and it definitely wears on us and those who are doing all of the scheduling.”

Despite the last-minute scheduling changes or mask-mandated signing days, Reed and the rest of the WISD administration team are just happy to have a season of any kind.

“Like I told a group of coaches today, we would have given anything in April and May to have been out there playing soccer, baseball, softball, golf, tennis and finishing track seasons,” he said. “We didn’t have that opportunity, but now we do. I sometimes think amnesia sets in, and we just need to be glad that we are able to do it and, hopefully, we can keep doing it as long as we can.”


All photos by Travis M. Smith/KBEC Sports


Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith


About Travis M. Smith

Travis M. Smith is the owner and content director of Ellis County Sports and has over a decade of award-winning sports coverage. He most recently served as the digital sports director for KBEC 1390AM/99.1FM. He is the former managing editor of the Waxahachie Daily Light, Midlothian Mirror and Glen Rose Reporter.

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