PD Preps Insider: Empire athletes to sign letters of intent

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Today is National Letter of Intent signings day across the country, the first day high school seniors playing fall sports can enter a binding agreement with NCAA institutions to continue their sports careers in college.

In return, the institution agrees to provide athletics financial aid for one academic year.

The sports with a Feb. 5 signing day are football, soccer, field hockey, track/cross-country and water polo.

Schools all across the Redwood Empire will be marking the occasion today with signing ceremonies for their star athletes.

Many athletes already have announced their decisions but some wait for signing day to reveal the news. Casa Grande quarterback JaJuan Lawson, the region’s top football prospect, is among the latter group. He’ll tell the world where he’s headed at a gathering this morning at the school.

Here comes track

Prep track practice officially starts Monday, but runners already are getting into race shape.

A distance standout returning on the boys side is Zach Price of Windsor.

Price ran good times at the recent California Golden Bears All-Comers Track & Field Meet at Edwards Stadium in Berkeley. Price was fifth overall in the 1,500 meters and fourth overall in the 3,200 meters,

An All-Empire cross-country selection, Price holds the Windsor school record in the 1,600 meters.

Carrillo grad coaching

The 2004-05 All-Empire volleyball player of the year, Kaitlin Sather Nielsen, was hired recently as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the UCLA women’s volleyball team.

Nielsen, a Maria Carrillo and UCLA graduate, was part of the Bruins’ coaching staff in 2013 as a volunteer assistant and an assistant during the inaugural year of UCLA sand volleyball last spring.

She remains an active member of the Association of Volleyball Professionals tour.

“It is a dream come true to be coaching at my alma mater and offer a unique perspective as a former student-athlete to our current student-athletes,” Nielsen said.

Heady days for hoops

The popularity of Sonoma County basketball (both boys and girls) has never been higher.

In the past two weeks, four games were watched by near-capacity or standing-room-only crowds: Cardinal Newman at Montgomery (boys), Montgomery at Maria Carrillo (boys), Cardinal Newman at Santa Rosa (girls) and Petaluma at Casa Grande (girls).

The crowds figure to grow later this month when league tournaments are decided, and then it’s the North Coast Section playoffs.

Jaguars LB on television

Windsor’s Alex Borowski was among the high school student-athletes interviewed for a “NewsHour” report that aired Monday on PBS. The report focused on health issues in contact sports and the lengths to which high school athletes will go to try to hide possible concussion injuries.

Borowski, a senior, was a two-time All-North Bay League linebacker for the Jaguars.

Contributing to this report were Press Democrat sports writer Michael Coit, education reporter Kerry Benefield and correspondent Howard Senzell.

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