What has become an annual spring ritual measured with a deeper impact than even the most magnified occasions in the past.
The May signing celebration played before a packed Hall of Honor in Cemo Auditorium and saluted more than two dozen Eagles representing seven St. Thomas sports … all now afforded desired university destinations stretching from Southern California to Washington University to Washington, D.C. … from the Ivy League to the “Little Ivies” … from military service to the most prestigious campuses within Texas.
“This is an absolute thrill,” beamed Mike Netzel, completing his eighth year as athletic director.
“We all live in a result oriented world. And these results are strong from a number of perspectives. Our teams continue to excel. Track just secured the 100th state championship in St. Thomas history. Golf was the state runner-up by two shots. Four other sports were regional champions. And these are the dividends … the number of our student-athletes in demand by elite universities. Those opportunities don’t present themselves unless our guys can offer the total package … as a student, an athlete, a person. It’s a gratifying day … very proud for the families … knowing how much collaboration goes into make all this happen.”
Six key contributors to the Eagle’s historic baseball campaign which has produced 29 wins in the first 31 games and a six-week stay in the MaxPrep national rankings will extend their careers into college … including tag-team left-handed starters Matthew Ashbaugh ’16 and Cameron Cash ’16 who have anchored the staff for consecutive seasons.
Ashbaugh … the STH National Honor Society president … has been accepted into the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis while Cash will enroll at Claremont McKenna College, 35 miles east of Los Angeles.
“I came to St. Thomas because it was known for its baseball program,” Ashbaugh said. “And I thought my academics might open the door for me to play at the next level. The clincher was that I can envision myself at Washington even without baseball. But this was one of the goals … to play at the next level.”
Like Ashbaugh, Cash held the same dream for college baseball as a STH freshman … fueled in large part by an extended up close view of the experience while serving as the bat boy at Rice University from 2007-2012.
Cash and his father attended a summer 2015 baseball camp at Stanford University and then mapped a tour of other West coast college stops before returning home. Claremont made an immediate impression and the mutual interested spiked during this spring semester.
“One of the compelling draws is the Claremont consortium,” Cash said. “Seven institutions each with about 1,500 students. Small school vibe similar as St. Thomas … diverse enrollment larger than it seems … one of the top liberal arts in the country … competitive baseball. Checked a lot of boxes for me.”
Three-year varsity and state champion second baseman Alex Carnegie ’16 played with Cash in the same Bellaire LIttle League program and has been accepted into Cornell University while Nolan Lundholm ’16 and shortstop Eric Moore ’16 are headed to Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Relief pitcher Paolo Cannatella ’16 previously committed to Wharton Junior College and catcher Shane Podsednik ’16 continues to evaluate final offers.
Decision day arrived the morning of the signing ceremony for Landon Malouf ’16 … one of the most versatile and decorated athletes in Eagle history and the irresistible force propelling St. Thomas Track to the 2016 TAPPS 5A state title … while also becoming the first-ever Eagle to capture an individual title at the prestigious Texas Relays when he won the 100 meter hurdles.
Malouf was choosing among offers from Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Oklahoma to compete as a decathlete … a testament to his multi-pronged skills as a high jumper, long jumper and hurdler at two distances.
Ultimately Malouf was swayed by the Aggies and one of the premier track and field destinations in the country with four outdoor national championships since 2009 and a recent one-month stay as the top-ranked program in 2016.
“I’ll likely go in and redshirt that first year which gives me a chance to lay the right foundation,” Malouf said. “I’m still developing in some of the field events and their coaches have had great success molding talent (including decathlete Lindon Victor, the current A&M and SEC record holder).
Malouf was a two-time champion (300 meter and 110 meter hurdles) at the recent TAPPS state meet … adding a second-place finish in the long jump and tying for third in the high jump … after winning four events in the regional competition for the second consecutive year.
But as Malouf turned his full focus to track his father Joe Malouf … who has served on the Eagle staff as a coach … supported by his own notable career at the University of Texas … believed A&M was “the front runner since his official visit.”
“What was so impressive In our ongoing discussions with them throughout the process was that the emphasis was always Landon as a student, Landon as a person, Landon as a success.” Malouf said. “No lip service. When he told the coaching staff what degree plans he wanted to pursue they had a representative there to talk specifics.
“Landon has the chance to develop that first year both in the classroom and on the track. Their resources and pedigree are obvious. They’re building a $40 million facility (set for completion in 2017). Very exciting.”
Malouf’s teammates Ishmael Callandret ’16 and Jarrett Richard ’16 will remain connected at Loyola University New Orleans while Christopher Kjellqvist ’16 will next compete at the University of Rochester.
Golfer Henry Fisher ’16 finished a hard-charging career as one of the top private school amateurs in the state and sealed his position at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley before winning individual medalist at the state championship in April. Teammate Cameron Condara ’16 will join his baseball pounding brother Ben ’14 at Loyola University New Orleans.
One of the by products from the recent surge in Eagle Swimming are extended opportunities for James Zetka ’16 at Grand Valley State in Michigan and Luke Nicholson ’16 at Catholic University.
Seamus Sullivan ’16 will include rugby into his appointment to the United States Merchant Marine Academy.
And the final installment of keeping up with the STH Joneses becomed complete. What began with father Jeff ’79 … and followed with three-time state champion son A.J. ’11 … concluded with twins David ’16 and Colin ’16 finally separating to pursue different athletic destinies.
Two-time TAPPS all-state defensive back and TAPPS academic all-state David closed a deal in the fall with Cornell University’s Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and Big Red football before being named Ironman of the Year by the Touchdown Club of Houston.
He and Colin then partnered in the same backcourt for the third varsity season … dribble-driving the Eagles to the state Final Four … before a late opportunity surfaced for Colin to take his game to Trinity University.
“I’m still feeling the rush,” Colin said. “I weighed some other options … considered not playing and concentrating exclusively on academics going forward. But the visit to Trinity really pulled me to continue playing. There’s great rapport with the coaching staff and players … style of play is a match. The degree choices are first rate. I really couldn’t be more excited.”
Previously all-state forward Jeremy Peck ’16 with Drexel University and fast-rising Randy Brumant ’16 opted for a year at the Kent School, a college preparatory school in Connecticut.
Eagle Football commanded center stage on National Signing Day in February when David Jones was joined by TAPPS second-team all-state linebacker Pete Huggins ’16 committing to Middlebury College … two-time TAPPS all-state defensive tackle Lorenzo Neal ’16 to Purdue University … and TAPPS all-state tackle Charlie Vatterott ’16 to Texas State University … later capped with quarterback Michael Keating ’16 heading to the University of San Diego.
Netzel allowed himself one final pause of appreciation …. hoping that the depth of the afternoon’s significance paves the way for similar festivities to come.
“I want our underclassmen to witness this and say to themselves, ‘I want to be at the table. I want to be next like the guys who came before me,'” he said. “But they’ll have to make the same investment this group made. Pay the price … make the same sacrifices so many others paid. And if that’s the case … you have a pretty idea of what to expect.”