A plethora of Mercer Island High School (MIHS) senior athletes flowed into the school commons on the afternoon of June 6 to sign their national letters of intent to continue their sports journeys next year on the collegiate and university levels.
Donning their future school colors, 24 of the 29 Islanders were present at the ceremony along with a throng of their parents, coaches and friends.
Athletic Coordinator Lindsey Blaine said the school is proud of the student-athletes, who share a combined grade-point average of 3.74 (girls, 3.84 and boys, 3.66).
“Thank you to all our coaches who are dedicated to our students and have helped them get to this point. We congratulate our athletes and their families and will be watching them proudly next year as they pursue athletic success at the next level,” Blaine said.
The Reporter reached out to four of the athletes to gain some insight into their high school sports careers and what they’ll ferry with them from the Island into their future endeavors.
Girls soccer player Mia Shanafelt, who is headed to Wellesley College in Massachusetts, said that when undertaking a captain’s role during her senior season she learned to lead with compassion.
“I furthered my confidence as a soccer player and as a human being. Walking around wearing the Mercer Island girls soccer logo put some pride in my step,” said Shanafelt, who hopes to major in neuroscience.
Meeting people and making friends throughout her soccer trek lead her highlights list.
“Particularly Mimi Pietila and my coach Erin (Bourguignon). They are both incredibly important people in my life and have been huge parts of my support system. I wouldn’t be here without them,” noted Shanafelt, adding that one of the reasons why she chose Wellesley — a historically women’s college — was because, “I wanted to be surrounded by strong and confident women in a predominantly male (STEM) field.”
In the baseball realm, a record nine Islanders from this year’s squad will hit the basepaths at the next level.
Edgar Nakamura hopes to major in marine biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. During his time with the MIHS team, he’s learned to throw strikes and has enjoyed hanging out with his baseball brethren.
On what drew him to Hawaii, he noted, “The coaching staff and program are great and they really wanted me, so it was a perfect fit, plus I like the island living.”
Westmont College is awaiting Evan Otte, who plans to major in business and economics at the Montecito, California, school.
“Westmont has positive and supportive coaches. They’re a winning team and will switch to Division 2 next year, plus I love the Santa Barbara area,” said Otte, who added that his interactions with many different people and personalities will benefit him in the next stage of his life.
The pitcher’s top highlight while playing for the Islanders was starting — and winning — the 3A state championship game in 2022 with his brother Halen manning the catcher’s spot.
On the women’s rowing front, Emma Williams will display her mettle at the University of Texas at Austin.
“Rowing is one of the toughest sports out there and you can’t stop. I’ve found that this also applies to life and have learned to push myself even when things get really hard,” said Williams, who will major in environmental science and plan II honors.
A standout experience for the Sammamish Rowing Club member was competing in her first big race in front of a crowd of people lining the Montlake Cut.
Next up is Texas rowing and she was impressed with the school after her visit.
“It was unlike any of the others I had visited in the sense that the collective drive and passion on the team was on an entirely different level,” she said.
Here’s the full list of signees:
Alex Henderson – Occidental College
Austin Cupic – University of San Francisco
Cutter Werdel- Chapman University
Edgar Nakamura – University of Hawaii at Manoa
Evan Otte – Westmont College
Jack Beebe – Whitman College
Lucas Fuji – Knox College
Marques Abulhosn – Gonzaga University
Max Clark – University of Washington
Track and Field
Arianna Nguyen – Western Washington University
Callum Iverson- Colorado College
Max Youssefnia – Amherst College
Renn Novak – Whitman College
Boys Swim and Dive
Emmett Ralston – New York University
Evan Liu – Boston University
Matt Williamson – Brown University
Girls Swim and Dive
Brooke Andrews – Cornell University
Katie Pedersen – Amherst College
Mia Shanafelt – Wellesley College
Samantha Weiss – Columbia University
Jackson Barker – University of Redlands
Samir Lumba – California Lutheran University
Hanri Luo – Whitman College
Lindsey Whelan – University of Redlands
Noelle Niederman – Santa Clara University
(She is the school’s first beach volleyballer to sign)
Emma Williams – University of Texas at Austin
Honor Warburg – Stanford University
Marin Lee – University of Washington
Brielle Gradek – Boston College