Four Durant High School seniors signed National Letters of Intent on November 9. Three baseball players, Dylan Lapointe, Jeremy Ortiz and Preston Rogers, signed, and soccer player Emma Harnage committed to a university as well.
“They set up a table with multiple chairs for the athletes on the stage in the auditorium and had a cake and photographer. Our [principal], Mr. Graham, was also there to introduce every athlete and give a little speech about how they have impacted Durant athletics,” said Ortiz.
Prior to the signing day, Durant’s former athletic director, Candace Culpepper, left. However, Durant’s coaches worked with the booster club to host the signing event in the auditorium with the help of Principal Gary Graham.
“Mrs. Culpepper was the AD at the time. The booster club spearheaded the entire event. Mr. Graham was kind enough to allow us to have it in the auditorium,” explained baseball coach Butch Valdes.
Each player sat at the front of the auditorium surrounded by balloons, representing the college where they will continue their athletic pursuits.
The athletes that committed this year were led to their athletic successes by Valdes and soccer coach Melissa Brown.
“This is my first year playing for Durant, but in the short time I’ve been here, coach Valdes has been one of the best coaches I’ve ever played for, in the sense that he makes you feel that it’s OK to make mistakes. It was really easy to feel comfortable playing for him, and I feel like I could just be myself,” said Ortiz.
Valdes led Durant’s team to a 18-9 overall record during the 2022 season and will continue to lead the team during the 2023 season, which starts in the spring. Three of his players committed to play at a university in November as they look forward to a promising senior year.
“My contribution is minimal. My job is to make sure they are respectful young men both on and off the field. These young men showcase themselves every time they step on the field,” Valdes said humbly. “I just provide the facilities and support. Most of the credit goes to my coaching staff.”
Valdes said Ortiz has already played a huge role on both offense and defense in his first year at Durant. Like Ortiz, Rogers joined the team in the fall but has made a great impact on Durant’s baseball organization.
“[Starting catcher Dylan LaPointe has] been a key part of our team for four years. He is definitely one of the major leaders for Durant,” added Valdes about his third signee.
Harnage was Durant’s only soccer player to sign during the National Signing Day event. Harnage will continue her academic and athletic goals in North Carolina. She has played on Durant’s varsity squad since her freshman year, scoring 35 points and 17 goals in her 35 career games played.
For more information on Durant’s athletic department, visit the athletic department’s at www.hillsboroughschools.org.