Connor Cole tries to stay in the background in almost everything he does.
He’s not a big talker, and running as a hurdler for South Forsyth’s track team, he plays a sport that sometimes, albeit unfairly, takes a back seat to others. That’s precisely one of the reasons he chose to run in the first place, though.
“I just enjoyed it,” Cole said. “It was more low-key than baseball and I think I was just better at it. I liked it more since it was easier to work hard at it.”
And Cole’s hard work into his craft certainly paid off on Wednesday morning when he signed to continue running at the collegiate level with Berry College. He’s the first boys sprinter from South to continue running at the next level, an accomplishment that he’s happy about but quick to downplay.
“It sounds good, but I think it's mostly because all the
boys sprinters have been football players,” Cole said. “When they sign, they do
football. I'm not a football player — I do track.
“I think that's the main reason, but I think it's still good.”
Along with Cole, 10 other athletes from South signed their National Letters of Intent to play at their respective colleges. About half of those were runners: Michael Patterson and Harrison Seigel, who both contributed to the War Eagles’ 2018 boys cross country state championship, signed with Mercer University and Samford University, respectively.
Sophia Baker, a first-team All-County selection who finished eighth at state as a junior, signed with the University of Georgia. She’ll join former South teammate Aleesa DeCastro, who is about to start her freshman season of running in Athens.
“This is just one of my dreams to run at this level, especially for this college,” Baker said. “Three years ago, this is where I dreamed of being and now I'm here, and I'm just so grateful and so excited.
“(DeCastro) wasn't my biggest factor, but it's also nice seeing a familiar face.”
The War Eagles had two signees from tennis in Ashton Morrison and Will Fullett, who signed with Georgia College and Wofford College. Fullett was the Forsyth County News Player of the Year in 2019, and owns a 54-10 record over his three years at South.
Football had the highest number of signees of any sport, with five. Second-team All-County safety Chase Calloway signed with Shorter University, while fullback Dylan Malissa signed with Defiance College in Ohio.
Cameron Schurr, a second-team All-County selection on offense, will attend Army West Point after posting 47 catches, 742 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior.
Rounding out the list were linebacker Keegan Toner (Slippery Rock University) and defensive lineman Allan Reyes (West Virginia Wesleyan).
Toner led the War Eagles with 10 tackles for loss, with 73 total tackles and 4 1/2 sacks in 2019. Reyes had 49 tackles, two for loss, four sacks and three forced fumbles.
“Today is everything coming full circle, you know?” Reyes said. “For the last four years of our lives we've kind of devoted everything we've had, not just for our team but to our teammates and family. To think that it's kind of all come full circle, it's paid off in its own way as an individual after working for a team, I think it's a blessing from God, honestly.”
For Reyes, who is originally from Queens, New York, moving to West Virginia not only brings him closer to his roots, but it’s also a chance at something brand new. Even so, he hopes to find the same kind of camaraderie he’s felt at South for the last four years.
“It feels like a family there, and to find a place that feels like home the same way South Forsyth felt like home, it's all I could ask for in a school,” Reyes said. “It's a dream come true.”