Everyone who attended the national collegiate signing day ceremony for Whitefish Bay High School athletes Feb. 1 could agree that the display of up-top talent was astounding with seven-time WIAA state track champion Camille Davre declaring for Michigan and stars of the two-time state D2 champion boys soccer team Zavier Ware (Northern Illinois) and Nicholas Anguil-Andriacchi (UW-Milwaukee) also inking significant NCAA D1 letters of intent.
"It will not surprise me one bit if some of the individuals seated at this table will one day grace the hall of fame behind them," said athletic director Jason Kasmarick.
The event was staged in the hallway by the fieldhouse right in front of the wall where the school athletic hall of fame plaques are displayed.
But for all that up-top talent, it was the depth and the breadth of the nine-person group that was the most impressive thing about the event. It was a testament to the wide range of athletic interests that are available throughout Bay.
Grace D'Souza will go to the University of Wisconsin for rowing, Isabella Mandli to Butler for Lacrosse, Xavier Johnson to Clarke University in Iowa for basketball, Taylor Kerwin to the Louisville University for women's soccer, Chris Caspari to the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota for football and Michael Kirkendoll to Minnesota State-Mankato for football.
Each person had a good support group for the event seated or standing in the lobby by the fieldhouse, which made the event all the more festive.
Davre, for one, was very impressed by what her classmates were able to accomplish.
"This was a very nice event," said Davre, "because some of these sports and kids don't get the recognition they deserve. They deserve more for all the hard work they put in."
Davre is just the latest in a long line of NCAA D1 and D2 signees for the storied girls cross country and track program while Ware and Anguil-Andriacchi are also part of a continuous chain of success for a soccer program that shows no signs of slowing down. The 10 or so supporters for the pair at the event chimed in that they felt at least four players out of the current junior class could be seated at this particular table next year.
Ware, who was injured in the WIAA sectional final and could not play in the state tournament, said that Northern Illinois has been very supportive. He is looking forward to being a major contributor once he is fully healthy.
Anguil-Andriacchi said that UWM made it very easy for him as one of its coaches is one of his club coaches. He was happy to be part of this select group.
"This is still fun for everyone," he said. "It just shows all the diversity we have (athletically). It's cool to be a part of it all."
Football coach Jake Wolter was very pleased for Kirkendoll, who just sent in his official signing information at 10:30 a.m. that morning. He said that Caspari has a bright future as well.
Wolter later added that the Blue Dukes could be even better represented at the table next year.
Bay, which made Level 3 of the state playoffs for just the third time in program history last fall, was heavily junior-dominated with many talented players capable of earning significant collegiate interest.
Kirkendoll, also a state-level track athlete, made the rounds of several of the NCAA D2-level schools that offer football in Minnesota and noted that he really liked the vibe of Mankato.
"There's a really homey feeling there," he said. . "They really made me feel like I was part of a family. I think I'll have a lot of opportunities there."
For Johnson, his summer exposure as part of the Wisconsin Shooters AAU team was a big help in landing a slot with the NAIA D1 school Clarke.
"They were impressed with me and picked me up right away," said the future shooting guard.
He said he also has high hopes for current freshman Blue Duke teammate Harry Grams, who will also play for the Wisconsin Shooters. Johnson's older brother, Isaiah, plays basketball and is a sophomore at Northern Michigan University.
D'Souza and Mandli were also cited for being "tips of the spear" in their sports, as participation in the Milwaukee Rowing Club's youth project increased from about 15 to the current 60 in D'Souza's time while the still very new lacrosse program at Bay has already had state-level success behind Mandli and other players.
The signees all had individual placards in front of their seats at the table and there were commemorative (and I heard quite tasty) cupcakes for them, too.
In short, it was a moment to treasure.
"All the seniors ahead of me say the time goes by very fast," said Davre, "and they were right. I can still distinctly remember freshman year, so this is all kind of bittersweet. But I'll be ready for the spring (track season) with the same goals, hopefully getting even better.
"Then I'll be thinking of new teammates and coaches."