SOUTHINGTON — They were all smiles in the Southington High School library on Wednesday afternoon as five standout senior athletes put pen to paper on Signing Day and inked National Letters of Intent to Division I schools.
A trio of the college-bound Blue Knights are track athletes: Matt Penna, Trinity Cardillo and Sydney Garrison.
Penna will be attending Iona College, Cardillo is off to Northeastern University and Garrison signed with the University of Hartford.
Also signing Wednesday were soccer player Katherine Crouse, who is heading to Central Connecticut State University, and Katie Gundersen, who will play softball at Florida Southern University.
The quintet was surrounded at Wednesday’s ceremony by a collection of classmates, teammates, family and coaches.
Crouse is a three-year starting defender. She and the Blue Knights are the No. 1 seed in the Class LL state tournament and will host No. 17 in the second round Thursday.
“Kat has played soccer for most of her childhood in the Southington Soccer Club, at the FSA premier club, and has been a varsity player for four years,” Southington coach Mike Linehan said. “Kat is an extremely talented player and has the versatility to play multiple positions.
“As a freshman, she made an impact on the team as a forward and, as a senior captain, she has helped to lead the defense.”
That defense allowed only five goals during the regular season.
At CCSU, Crouse will study business.
“I’m really excited because it’s been a great year and I’m excited to join another great team,” Crouse said. “I’ve grown as a player over the years. I used to be a more offensive player and now I’m a lot more defensive-minded. I like how I can see the whole field as the center-back. I like to anchor the defense and talk to the girls on the backline. It’s been a fun year.”
Gundersen was a four-year player for both volleyball and softball. She will follow her older brother to the Sunshine State. Matt Gundersen was a standout lacrosse player at Southington.
“I will be the third person in my family to go to Florida Southern and I’m excited to join my brother at the school,” Gundersen said. “I’ve worked my whole life toward this moment and to make it official is pretty cool.”
Gundersen wanted to go far from home for her college experience.
Gundersen caught the final out for the Blue Knights in their Class LL softball state championship run last spring.
“Katie Gundersen is a stellar athlete,” Southington softball coach Davina Hernandez said. “Her presence on the field alone is enough to intimidate her opponents. However, Katie is one of the kindest, sweetest souls I’ve ever had the opportunity to coach.
“Katie has been a key contributor at the varsity level for the last several years. She has always been a selfless player, willing to play wherever her team needed, always doing what’s best for the team.”
Gundersen played all over the field for Hernandez, both infield and outfield. Offense is another story. Gundersen is always in the heart of the Southington order.
Penna has been Southington’s top distance runner for the past two years. He was Southington’s first runner across the finish line in every competition this season.
He logged a 16:41 at Wickham Park during the CCC Championships. That was the third fastest time in school history on the Manchester course.
The All-CCC runner will study business at Iona after putting in his final seasons of indoor and outdoor track.
“He’s the No. 1 returning steeplechase athlete in the state,” Southington track coach Connor Green said. “He’s coming off of a strong cross country season and we are happy to see him move on to one of the top college programs in the country
Cardillo has been a force around the state during her career as a thrower at Southington. Last spring, as a junior, she was the state champion in the hammer throw and ranked No. 22 in the nation.
She was the Class LL champ in shot put during the indoor season and the Class LL champ in the discus in the outdoor season.
“It’s excited about this,” Cardillo said. “It was a long time coming. I’ve worked four years for this. I’m excited for the next season coming up. It was exciting finding my home for the next four years.”
Cardillo will study nursing at Northeastern.
Garrison excels in the jumps and owns Southington indoor and outdoor girls records in the high jump. She’s been an All-Conference jumper since her freshman year.
Last spring, Garrison was the CCC West high jump champ and went on to earn All-State and All-New England honors. She also excels in the long and triple jumps.
“She’s primed to have a big senior season and I know she will do great things at the University of Hartford,” Green said.
Garrison will study political science.
“It makes me really happy knowing that I got this far in a sport that I just tried when I got to high school,” Garrison said. “In my last year, I’m hoping to go to Nationals and compete with the best in the nation. I want to keep getting better.” Cheshire signees
Four seniors at Cheshire High School signed their formal National Letters of Intent on Wednesday.
Three of them are swimmers: Sam Hanke and the Stevens sisters, Jillian and Julia.
Hanke is on his way to University of South Carolina. The Stevens girls are heading in opposite directions — Jililan east to Bryant University in Rhode Island and Julia west-by-southwest to Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.
Also signing on Wednesday was soccer player Caroline Campion. A knee injury cost Campion her senior year at Cheshire High. She’ll resume her career at Marist College in New York.