Athletics: National signing day a busy time for Brainerd athletes

Jacqui Rude committed to the University of Wisconsin -- Green Bay for swimming. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Yet another rite of passage will have come and gone without much pomp and circumstance for the senior student-athletes of 2020.

April 15 is national signing day for those athletes who will be prolonging their athletic career at an institution of higher learning.

Usually, on signing day, schools will have a ceremony where each athlete will sign their NCAA Letter of Intent. That was the plan in Brainerd.

“It’s really just a recognition of sorts to those high school students who are committed to playing at the next level,” Brainerd activities director Charlie Campbell said. “It doesn’t matter the level or location, but just those that are courageous enough and skilled enough to go out and take their talents and abilities to the next level.”

At the fall signing day, Brainerd seniors Broc Peterson (University of Minnesota Crookston for baseball), Seth Vagts (University of Mary for baseball), Gina Wasniewski (University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point for soccer), Clare Ceynowa (University of Minnesota for softball), Avery Eckman (University of Minnesota, Duluth for volleyball), Sophie Robinson (Dartmouth for hockey) and Gabbie Smith (Bemidji State Univeristy for hockey) all signed their letters of intent.


Wednesday was going to be a bit busier at Brainerd High School.

“I think when you look statistically, about 97% of kids who play high school sports are done when their high school career is done,” Campbell said. “I think that our number of athletes signing indicates a number that’s larger than 3%. What a unique class, first of all, that has so many kids who have the ability and desire to go on and play at the next level.

“The other message is, there is a place for most kids. Somewhere there is a college that has the team at the right level that you can go and be a contributor in that program.”

Seniors in Brainerd who will continue their athletic careers next year and who were going to sign Wednesday were Owen Davis (University of Minnesota Duluth for football), Ben Staehling (Minnesota State University Moorhead for football), Jon Berry (Northern State for football), Jacob Drietz (Northern State for football), Luke Wilheim (Valley City State University for football), Jacqui Rude (University of Wisconsin - Green Bay for swimming), Hannah Tatge (St. Ben’s for swimming), Josh McLain (Bemidji State University for football), Georgi Aus (Trinity Western for hockey), Cody Evans (St. John’s for golf), Cade Barrett (Bemidji State University for football), Colby Waltand (University of St. Thomas for baseball), Ethan Sannes (Augustana University for baseball), Kaleb Sundquist (Northwestern in St. Paul for soccer), Nick Whiteman (Gustavus for soccer) and Jack Thorkelson (Gustavus for soccer).

Christian Kadolph and Michael Laber are going to play junior hockey.

Ian Aadland and Conner Powers are torn between a winter and spring sport and have not decided yet. Aadland is a hockey and tennis player. Powers is a basketball and track and field athlete.

“I was looking at a list of letterwinners from last year and it really shocked me the number of student-athletes that are one-sport athletes and their sport is in the spring,” Campbell said. “I thought about those seniors where that was the case and I’m so thankful we had a very successful hockey season and Connor Powers had a great basketball season because there are some of their classmates that the one sport they compete in was ripped away from them.

“The eternal optimist in me would ask what are the silver linings. Sometimes those are hard to see in the midst of the storm. It’s not until we get out on the other side and get back to whatever normal is going to be and we can look back and say, “I really appreciated these things. I really learned these things.’ My message to those seniors is to weather the storm and then look for those silver linings when we come out on the other side and see them and embrac


Jack Torkelson committed Gustavus for soccer along with his teammate Nick Whiteman (not pictured). Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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