Top row, left to right: Annabelle Gersch, Keiran Watson, Derek Osman, Sean Ronaldson, Jack DeDonato and Evan Dickstein. Bottom row, left to right: Collin Ralston, Dan Gao, Josh Chang, Leah Stednick, Jack Mattox, Nathan Buchan, Alec Willett and Gihoe Seo. Not pictured: Michael Lee, Mason Gronewold and Jenin Obeidat. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

Top row, left to right: Annabelle Gersch, Keiran Watson, Derek Osman, Sean Ronaldson, Jack DeDonato and Evan Dickstein. Bottom row, left to right: Collin Ralston, Dan Gao, Josh Chang, Leah Stednick, Jack Mattox, Nathan Buchan, Alec Willett and Gihoe Seo. Not pictured: Michael Lee, Mason Gronewold and Jenin Obeidat. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

Mercer Island High School student athletes honored at signing day ceremony

They’re set to compete on the college scene.

They’ll soon be off and running to the next level of their sports careers.

Seventeen Mercer Island High School student athletes were honored during a college signing day ceremony on June 2 in the school’s lower commons area. It was a masked-up and physically distanced event that was also streamed online.

The Islanders were first seated with their parents, and then one by one they strolled to the front of the room to sign on the dotted line. As they sat at the honorary table, athletic coordinator Kyle McKenna read glowing comments from each of their coaches.

On the lacrosse front, Annabelle Gersch will attend Bowdoin College, Leah Stednick is headed to Linfield University and Sean Ronaldson will play at Kenyon College.

In the baseball realm, Nathan Buchan will attend the University of Redlands, Jack DeDonato is set for Washington State University, Michael Lee will play at Vassar College, Evan Dickstein will attend Emory University and Mason Gronewold is headed to George Fox University. (Lee and Gronewold were not present at the signing.)

Three swimmers are set for college action: Keiran Watson at the University of Denver, Dan Gao at Pomona Pitzer and Collin Ralston at Colorado College.

A pair of soccer guys who will take their skills to the college scene are Alec Willett at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and Josh Chang at George Fox University.

In other sports, football player Derek Osman will attend Choate Academy – post grad, tennis player Jack Mattox is headed to the University of Redlands, golfer Gihoe Seo will play at Amherst College and Jenin Obeidat will compete in track and field at Dartmouth College. (Obeidat did not attend the signing.)

Nick Wold, associate principal/athletic director, said it was a momentous occasion for all involved.

“This is always one of my most cherished days and events. We get a chance to see all of the smiling faces get through a mask today. We can still see it through the edges of your mask and the wrinkles in your brow of how proud our student athletes are and how proud our families are,” he said.

Stednick, who has played lacrosse for the last eight years, is thrilled to be taking her skills to Linfield. She said the high-energy sport doesn’t allow players to get bored on the field.

“I’ve learned to have grit and tenacity. Not everything will go your way all the time. You just kind of have to get up and brush the dust off yourself and just back out there and give it your all,” she said.

Fellow lacrosse player Gersch said that players create tight bonds through their involvement in the large Mercer Island program.

“I played with these girls for probably most of my life and definitely all my lacrosse career, which has been awesome getting to grow up with them and kind of grow as a team together,” she said.

Hard work and communication with her coaches and teammates has paid off during her years on the squad. After losing at state during her freshman season, the team rebounded to win state the following year. She’s developed a “tenacious mindset,” which has served her well the last few years and she’ll carry that onto the college scene, she said.

Golfer Seo said that she’s enjoyed making friendships with her teammates on the Mercer Island squad and is looking forward to bonding with her teammates at Amherst.

She garnered many prestigious honors in 2019, including being named girls junior player of the year by the Washington Junior Golf Association, Pacific Northwest Golf Association and Washington Golf.

“If I didn’t have my parents supporting me all the way through, or push me when I wasn’t feeling motivated, I definitely wouldn’t have got to that point,” she said. “It’s also just perseverance and being positive. I used to be really negative on myself every time I hit a bad round, bad shot, but after I started thinking positive, I started seeing better results.”

Seo feels the strongest part of her game is hammering the ball off the tee. She consistently reaches 230 to 240 yards, but one time bombed the ball in the 270-, 280-yard range.

“I’m a pretty far hitter even though I’m the shortest one out there. Everyone’s always a little alarmed I hit further than them,” she said with a laugh.

Over on the baseball diamond, towering left-handed pitcher DeDonato — who stands a little over 6-foot-3 — attracted the attention of Washington State University. He’s excited to have some fellow seniors set to play college ball as well.

“(Coach Dominic) Woody has got a great legacy of forming players into great ballplayers and great men,” he said. “I learned from Woody just to always want to do more than everybody else. Always compete with everybody, whether it be in a practice, whether it be in a game.”

If DeDonato’s team loses, he thrives on returning to the field for another matchup and turning the score around.

“You can still go out there after and get more work in than them and say, ‘I’m not gonna let you beat me again,’” he said.

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