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KINGSBURG - On National Signing Day, five athletes from Kingsburg High School signed their national letters of intent in front of friends, family, and coaches on Feb. 6.

Over 350 people gathered inside the Little Theater to support Carla Duarte (softball), Kylee Silva (soccer), Maddy Reed (basketball), Jonas Huckaby (swimming), and Colbi Stewart (soccer) continuing their academic and athletic careers at the next level.

Silva and Reed will stay the closest to home by attending UC Merced next fall. Silva will play on the Bobcats’ women’s soccer team while Reed will be a member of the women’s basketball squad. Silva and Reed considered each other as “best friends” throughout high school.

The UC Merced athletic teams compete in the California Pacific Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division II.

“It just felt like a place where I could call home,” Reed said about her decision to sign with the Bobcats.

The signing was a bittersweet for Silva, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament in the third game of the 2018-19 season. Silva lost her senior season, but attending the same college as Reed and playing soccer in college are things she’s looking forward to next year.

“[Reed] raved about all the great things they offered about us athletes over there,” Silva said about her decision to attend UC Merced. “I know I didn’t get to finish my senior year like I thought, but I’m really excited about UC Merced.”

Silva was also a track athlete throughout high school.

Stewart, who is Silva’s current teammate, will be attending Evergreen State College, which competes in the Cascade Collegiate Conference in the NAIA. Evergreen is in Olympia, Washington and its mascot is the Geoducks, which is a saltwater claim that is native to the coastal waters of the pacific northwest of the country.

“When I got connected with the coach, I really like what he stood for,” Stewart said about her college decision. “When I got the chance to go and visit, It was amazing and I liked the campus and everything. I got to connect with the team and it was a really good experience.”

Stewart and Silva have been apart of a Kingsburg Vikings girls soccer team that has won back-to-back Valley championships and recently a third-straight Central Sequoia League championship. Over the past three years, the Vikings have gone 32-0 in CSL play.

“Both Kylee and Colbi are high character and high integrity people,” Kingsburg head coach Scott Hodges said. “I’m just really excited that they’re going to get a chance to further their education and also do what they love by still playing soccer.”

As for the other two signees, Duarte will play softball at Holy Names University in Oakland and Huckaby will join the swim & dive team at Biola University in the Los Angeles County town of La Mirada. Both universities are NCAA Division II institutions and teams from both colleges compete in the Pacific West Conference.

Duarte, an outfielder, decided to commit to Holy Names after talking with her former travel ball teammate Aly Cerda, who is currently on the Hawks softball team. Cerda is also a former Selma High catcher.

“I got to talk to her about it and she gave me good feedback,” Duarte said. “That really helped.”

The proximity and enrollment of the university were other factors that helped Duarte make her decision.

“One thing I liked about it was that it was 50 percent athletes on campus,” Duarte said. “The teacher to student ratio is really small, so it’s easy for classes.”

Carla’s parents, Ricardo and Connie Duarte, were proud of their daughter’s decision.

“I’m proud of all her hard work and sacrifices she’s made all these years,” Ricardo Duarte said. “Missing birthday parties and everything. Sacrificing all year long to play softball.”

As for Huckaby, he chose to attend Biola University, after his visit with the coaching staff.

“I really connected with the team and the coach is a great guy,” Huckaby said. “I felt like it was a great team atmosphere for me there.”

Over the past four years, the Kingsburg swimming program has won four-straight Valley championships and Huckaby has been part of the last three title teams. Huckaby was also the Central Sequoia League MVP and All-CSL first teamer in boys water polo for the 2018 season.

“That’ll be fantastic if I could carry on that atmosphere of winning,” Huckaby said. “Hopefully, we’ll win conference all four years while I’m there, that’ll be fantastic. Maybe make a run at a good top D2 level at NCAAs.”

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Jeremiah Martinez can be reached at 559-583-2413 or jmartinez@hanfordsentinel.com

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