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Several Area Athletes Ready to Take Their Game to the Next Level

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HARTINGTON - With rising tuition prices at colleges and universities across the country, it is always advantageous to earn scholarships to help pay for that next journey. For nine students from Hartington-Newcastle and Cedar Catholic, they will also be able to continue playing the sport they love so much.

Ashley Hamilton, Matthew Schaefer, Allie Rosener, Cassidy Ulrich, Anna Reifenrath, Cole Schmidt, Dain Whitmire, Seth Wiebelhaus, and Brian Santiago all signed Letters of Intent this year to play one or more sports at their respective colleges.

Whitmire, Wiebelhaus, and Santiago will be playing at Mount Marty College, the only school that will have multiple athletes coming from Hartington. Wiebelhaus will be teammates with Whitmire and Santiago still, as he is going to run cross country and indoor track along with playing baseball. Whitmire signed to the baseball team and Santiago will run both cross country and track and field.

“I’ll feel a lot more comfortable knowing I have teammates with me,” said Wiebelhaus.

Currently, Whitmire and Wiebelhaus are in the midst of their American Legion baseball season where they are each leaders in both batting and pitching this year. Wiebelhaus leads the team in hits and RBIs, with Whitmire leading his team in doubles, ERA, WHIP, strikeouts as a pitcher, and innings pitched.

Santiago and Wiebelhaus have been running on the same cross country team but have been competing against each other in track over the past four years. Santiago graduated from HNS and Wiebelhaus graduated from Cedar. They pushed each other to greatness in high school and now Santiago has some big goals.

“My goals are to qualify for the nationals and to be an All-American,” said Santiago.

Santiago and Wiebelhaus will not be the only runners coming from Hartington. Allie Rosener ran for the Wildcats over the past four years, and she will continue as a Wildcat at Wayne State where she will run track. She says she looks forward to the unknown of jumping to the next level of competition.

“I am nervous, as competition will be accelerated, but I am super excited to start this opportunity,” said Rosener.

Rosener is a long distance runner that ran both cross country and track, and this year she expanded into sprint races as well, scoring points in the 200 meter dash.

There will be one more Wildcat that will be a jumper for his track team in college, as well as playing on the basketball team. Cole Schmidt will be going to Hastings College where he will continue his jumping career after winning the Class C State Championship in the long jump and finishing second in the triple jump. Schmidt will also be playing on the basketball team in the winter.

“It feels great to be one of those guys will be representing Hartington over the next 4 years,” said Schmidt. “[I want to] go have fun, make the most of it, and see if I can reach my full potential.”

Cedar will also be sending a basketball player to the next level. Anna Reifenrath will continue her athletic career at Briar Cliff University, where she will join the basketball team. Reifenrath’s mother, Sue, also played at Briar Cliff. Anna says there is a whirlwind of thoughts as she prepares this summer.

“Most of my feelings are a mix of anxiety and excitement.” said Reifenrath. “I'm very excited to meet new people and keep playing basketball, but I'm nervous for the shift between high school and college sports as well as school and living away from home.”

Reifenrath played in both the Northeast Nebraska All-Star Basketball and Volleyball games, and one of her teammates from the basketball game will join her at Briar Cliff. In the volleyball game, Reifenrath was able to play one final game with teammates Madie Arens and Ashley Hamilton.

Hamilton went through shoulder surgery this past basketball season, but she still signed with Nebraska Wesleyan to play volleyball this past Spring. Hamilton says she is excited for her next chapter and looks forward to learning to play in a new system with new teammates while representing Hartington.

“I’m super honored to be one of these people,” said Hamilton. “It’s a great opportunity that i’m very thankful to have. I’m ready to make opportunities for myself. I’m excited to be on my own and make a name for myself outside of my home town.”

Cedar had a prolific sports season, but the school’s golf programs have shown amazing consistency. Two seniors, Cassidy Ulrich and Matthew Schaefer, will be continuing the sport in college.

Ulrich initially committed to University of Nebraska - Kearney, but it has recently been revealed that her plans may be changing. Her and her family have held the news close, telling this reporter that she could not share the news until after a meeting on Monday.

After finishing second individually at the Class C State Golf Championship, Schaefer has been preparing for his move to the .collegiate level. He will be attending Northeast Community College where he will play on the golf team with intentions to transfer and play at a four year college. Schaefer says there will be two former competitors from Randolph, Mason Stubbs and Andrew Schnoor, that are on the team already. Schaefer notes that it is no small feat to be a part of the nine athletes continuing their sports careers out of Hartington this year.

“To be a part of those nine people is special,” said Schaefer. “Each one of those kids has a passion and love for the sport they’re going to play in college. Being a part of that group is awesome.”

Nine of the graduates will be going on to play a sport next year, but there were actually 10 commitments this year. Maddie Wieseler just finished her junior year at Cedar, and she already announced her verbal commitment to play volleyball at Midland University after she graduates. Wieseler still has a year before she graduates, and she says she wants to make the most of it. 

“I am very excited to play at the next level because it will be a great experience playing in a bigger gym against bigger teams,” said Wieseler. “I am a little nervous as well because I know it will be challenging transitioning into that next level.”

Each athlete will look to continue their own story, and each will have a challenging road as they face the difficulties of moving away from home, balancing schoolwork and athletics, and finding themselves. Each of these ten students have an opportunity to continue doing what they love for four more years while also earning a quality education. For many, that is a dream come true already. For others, it is only the beginning of the next chapter.