Nick Mandell lifted the Southridge High School boys golf program to new heights in the spring of 2012, when the Suns won their first state championship.
His next step after high school is an even bigger one into a much bigger pond.
Mandell, a senior, will sign a letter of intent at 7:30 a.m. today in the Southridge library to play at Washington State University, joining classmate Nicole Larkin, a Suns gymnast who will sign with the University of Alaska Anchorage.
“I’m nervous, but I’m real excited. Now I don’t have anything to prove anymore. At tournaments, I can relax now,” Mandell said. “I still want that competitive edge, but I think it will help me knowing I’m already committed.”
Mandell has placed at state in each of his first three seasons, tying for fourth this past spring. He finished 12th as a freshman and eighth as a sophomore, leading Southridge to seventh-place finishes both years.
Mandell said WSU golf coach Garrett Clegg showed an early interest, which helped influence his decision.
“They sent a really nice letter saying what they liked and what they thought about my game. I was intrigued the whole way,” Mandell said. “I feel this fits me the best. I could get a lot of playing time if I work my butt off, and I’m still close enough to home if I want a home-cooked meal.”
Mandell and Larkin are just two of several Mid-Columbia athletes putting their name on the dotted line to play at the next level.
Hanford senior Sierra Troxel, who went 23-1 in tennis and finished third at the Class 3A girls state championships this past spring, will sign her letter of intent today to attend Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn. She also finished sixth at state in 2011.
Fresh off its second-place team finish at the WIAA Girls State Swimming and Diving Championships, Richland has three seniors moving on to college programs.
Nicole Weinman, who finished second in the Class 4A 500-yard freestyle and fourth in the 200 free, will compete for the Idaho Vandals. She was a four-year state qualifier like her brother, Nathaniel, who now swims for South Dakota State.
Sarah Olsen, Richland’s sixth-place finisher in the 100 butterfly, will head to Vermont.
“I got recruited to a lot of places on the East Coast,” Olsen said after wrapping up the state meet in Federal Way. “I fell in love with the school, and they offered me a scholarship.”
Vanessa Whattam, who took seventh in the 100 free, also will head back east to Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y.
Hunter Thompson, who anchors a strong Bombers boys golf program, will sign with California State University, Fullerton. Thompson tied for third at the Class 4A tournament in 2011.
Connell softball player Ashley Thompson, a pitching and hitting dynamo who has led the Eagles to the past two Class 1A state titles, will sign with BYU at 9:45 a.m. today.
The Cougars are getting one of the state’s most sought-after softball players.
Thompson, a 4.0 student, had verbally committed to Alabama-Birmingham and then Washington. She has a 59-6 record and a .699 batting average at Connell.