CLIFTON PARK – The Shenendehowa High School spring National Letter of Intent signing celebration brought together 11 highly accomplished student-athletes in the High School East Gymnasium and as their journeys will begin in the fall on various college campuses, some of the notables are in non-highlighted sports.

Plainsmen senior aquaman, Jackson Homan, chose to continue lapping the competition at the University of Binghamton, joining the Bearcats and swim for the next four years at the Division I school in the Southern Tier.

“I like the combination of really good academics and athletics at a really affordable price too, so that helped make my decision,” Jackson Homan said. “After seeing some of the kids that committed prior to me in my class, they had a really strong program they were building for my class and that attracted me to Binghamton.”

An accomplished swimmer within the Shenendehowa program, Homan had a variety of options to take his swimming talents to.

“I knew going into the college process that I had the opportunity to go DI, but the interesting about swimming is that it doesn't really matter what division, there are many DIII programs that are comparable to DI programs,” Homan said. “I wasn't too focused on what division I was going into, but I knew I had the capability of going to whatever division I wanted to. It allowed me to look at many schools.”

His swimming coach, Chuck Dunham, once again provided sage advice to the young swimming star.

“He advised me to look where I could really see myself and not just where I thought the team was the fastest, look at where I could see myself fitting in with the team and to look not just at athletics, but at price and academics,” Homan said.

Now he jumps into the deep end of the pool at Binghamton looking to increase his strength and speed against his Division I competitors.

“What becomes a more integral part of our training is a lot more out of water training, lifting, running, it's more on strength building whereas in high school it's a lot more on technique, form and getting your endurance up,” Homan said. “In college you focus more on getting stronger for sprinting events to just hang in there with the bigger guys.”

While most eyes are on the action on the field or the hardwood during the football and basketball seasons, two Shenendehowa cheerleaders found homes at the next level and will continue their spirit leadership at Sacred Heart and the University at Albany.

Shen senior Aryanna Mello chose Sacred Heart University for the next four years in her sport, recognized by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association just four years ago.

“I definitely felt that the switch over to athletics just let our program gain more attention, especially in the school and at the state level,” Aryanna Mello said. “I think that promoted us to want to become better and want to compete at the level of the other athletes, be recognized just like them.”

Sacred Heart was not an early selection for the psychology major, but once she felt that it could be her new home, the work really began. Without hours of ‘game film’ to send out to coaches, she had to put her best foot forward to impress the Sacred Heart coaches.

“We were expected to contact the coach and give our own summary of who we are and highlight our accomplishments,” Mello said. “We show up, show our best stuff, which is very different from every other sport because you're able to refer back to videos, whereas in cheerleading there is no opportunity to do that, at tryouts whatever you show is what you represent yourself with, which is difficult.”

Her tryout earned a spot on campus for the next four years.

“Throughout the process and visiting different schools, I felt like that was my home and that's where I belonged, especially within the cheer program, trying out and going through the process I really felt like that was where I belonged.”

Senior Alexa Miller isn’t going too far from her Clifton Park home, but she is making a big step in her cheerleading, attending UAlbany this fall.

“It was always school first, but I wasn't ready to give up cheer and our UAlbany coach is the former Guilderland coach, Patty Palmer,” Alexa Miller said. “She's awesome, I've met her a bunch of times and this season is when I really started talking to her about Albany the possibility of me going there and she convinced me.”

Miller has no fear taking her cheerleading to the next level, overcoming two painful injuries early in her high school career.

I tore my MPFL (Medial patellofemoral ligament) in both of my knees, one was shredded, the other was nearly torn my freshman year,” Miller said. “I competed my freshman season, first surgery in March and then a few months later the other in June. Out for a total of nine months, out for sophomore football, cleared before basketball tryouts.”

She is excited to take her cheering skills to the next level, driving once again by the talent surrounding her.

“My whole team has had awesome success in Shen the last couple of years,” Miller said. “I think now meeting other girls on my team already I have girls that are state champions, they've already been to Daytona for nationals, they're friends with other national champions, just with those few more years of experience and being exposed to that, not only high school girls who did All-Star Cheer, had so much experience. Just being able to compete alongside those girls I think is what is really going to help me.”

Follow Stan Hudy on Twitter @StanHudy

Sportswriter

Stan Hudy has been a sportswriter with The Saratogian, Troy Record and Community News for the past two decades covering high school and local sports in the Capital Region.

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