Sunday May 29th, 2016 5:16PM

'A new beginning' -- Area stars reflect on National Signing Day

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
National Signing Day brought out visceral emotions for hundreds of athletes throughout northeast Georgia.

Here are some thoughts and moments that some of those athletes shared with us at Access North Georgia on Wednesday...

Gabrielle Ligas, West Hall, soccer -- Pfeifer College
"It's a new beginning, and I feel extraordinarily blessed. The people there (at Pfeifer) are awesome, and I already feel part of their family."
Major: Neo-natal nursing

Thomas Marchman, North Hall, football -- Mercer University
"I'm part of their first scholarship class, and I love being the first to do something. I really have a chance to do something special."
Major: Pre-med

Kristen Newstrom, West Hall, soccer -- Piedmont College
"This is a amazing, a dream come true. I'm so looking forward to it."
Major: Early childhood education

Maia Caldwell-Booker, West Hall, track -- North Carolina, Chapel Hill
"My junior year it finally hit me that maybe I could run in Division-I. And as soon as I walked on to the campus at North Carolina I felt at home."
Major: Medicine

Jarlissa Lattimore, West Hall, track -- Wingate University
"This is amazing, I'm the first kid in my generation of the family to go to college, and now I get to go on scholarship."
Major: Pre-med

Will Cape, North Hall, football -- Kennesaw State
"It's a challenge to stay focused (during the recruiting process). You have to play a day after getting 21 letters from different colleges."
Major: Biology

Danielle Berry, North Hall, soccer -- North Greenville
"When I was little I always imagined the possibility of playing in high school, but playing in college was so far fetched it seemed crazy. Now it's real."
Major: Healthcare

Alden Powell, North Hall, soccer -- Shorter University
"I have a lot of love for the game, but I also have a lot of love for the people I've met in the game. It's important to keep those connections, and I love playing."
Major: Psychology

Andrew Smith, North Hall, football -- Air Force Academy
"It's going to be tough at first, getting that used to being so far from home, but I'm looking forward to it. I won't be playing quarterback there, but as far as reading the line and defenses I've been prepared for that by playing at North Hall, where we had to learn fast and on the go."
Major: Undecided

Paul Powers, North Hall, swimming -- University of Michigan
"Recruiting was different for me; I figured out where I was going and didn't take a visit before I signed. Once I signed I went for a visit and got to see the Michigan-Notre Dame football game. It was an awesome experience."
Major: Mechanical Engineering

Russell Gillespie, North Hall, football -- Berry College
"I wanted to be part of a start-up and make a statement at a program. I went there this summer and immediately fell in love with the place."
Major: Pre-pharmacy

Gage Turner, Gainesville, football -- Charleston Southern
"At the beginning of the season I didn't think there was any chance I would be playing college football. ... I just learned about Charleston Southern last Thursday, and I was sold. I love the city of Charleston, and they're playing some big programs next year like Georgia and Vanderbilt."
Major: Biology

Hayden Savage, North Hall, softball -- Piedmont College
"It was a long process, but it was so good when it was official. ... It's so exciting."
Major: Nursing

Avery Smith, Lakeview Academy, baseball -- Brewton-Parker
"It's going to be a challenge, but I'm always up for a challenge. Every hitter I face is going to have power. ... I went for a visit this summer, and it was the hottest place I'd ever been, but I fell in love it, and the coaches were great."
Major: Business

Josh Panter, Gainesville, soccer -- Presbyterian College
"All the pressure is gone on me now for my senior season and I can just play. ... I met the coach this past summer at an away game and everything just clicked."
Major: Undecided

Corrie Thomas, Flowery Branch, soccer -- Shorter University
"At first I was kind of scared about the whole process; it was nerve-wracking. But as soon as I went to Shorter it all just clicked. I went for a tryout, and they offered me there."
Major: Education

Stephen Wechsler, Riverside Military, baseball -- Marion Military Institute
"It was 38 degrees the day I visited, but I still fell in love with the place. They have a beautiful field. And now I can just be relaxed about the season here. I always rush things anyway, and I think that in the back of my mind it's because I wasn't sure about my future. Now I have a plan."
Major: Undecided

Alex Martin, Lakeview Academy, baseball -- LaGrange College
"Coach Brown pitched in Division-I, so he knows what he's talking about. And the upperclassmen there were welcoming. A lot of places the underclassmen and freshmen don't mix, so that was great to see."
Major: Business

A'lencio Graham, Flowery Branch, football -- Furman
"Furman was the first school to talk to me my junior year. And I didn't think they would have a scholarship spot for me, but they cut one of their running back scholarships to add a receiver scholarship just for me. It feels unbelievable to know that."
Major: Sports management

Dylan Gibeau, Flowery Branch, baseball -- Young Harris
"I was in an extra in (the movie) "Trouble with the Curve," which was filmed at Young Harris, and it was beautiful up there, so when they contacted me, I stayed in touch with them."
Major: Business

Davante King, Flowery Branch, football -- Carson-Newman
"The players and the coaches put in a lot of hard work in the recruiting process, trying to get us into good schools. ... This means a lot. It's a blessing."
Major: Physical therapy

Jackson McDonald, Flowery Branch, football -- Western Carolina
"I don't think Flowery Branch could have prepared me any better for what I'm going to be doing in college. I just got the plays from Western Carolina last week, and they are just like what we ran at Flowery Branch, just a little more advanced."
Major: Education

Thor Smith, Flowery Branch, football -- Limestone College
"The school itself is really old; it's been there a while. They just never had football until now. This will be their first team. It's located in Gaffney, S.C. That's one of the things that made me choose it is the chance to set the bar."
Major: Physical therapy

Brenquese Dukes, Gainesville, football -- Middle Georgia State
"Gainesville's defense prepared me a lot for college. And coach (former defensive coordinator Jim) Pavao got you up and ready to play."
Major: Criminal justice

Brenquez Dukes, Gainesville, football -- Middle Georgia State
"It was something to think about. Should we (Brenquese and twin brother Brenquez Dukes) separate to play in college or play together? But if anybody is going to have his back, it's going to be me. We're there for each other."
Major: Criminal justice

Drew Satterfield, Gainesville, baseball -- Tennessee Temple
"I'm happy I got it over with. Now I'm ready to go on my senior season. ... It was a tight-knit family up there, and I felt wanted."
Major: Undecided

Chandler Newton, Gainesville, baseball -- Mercer University
"My sophomore summer I sat down with my family and made the goal of getting an offer to play baseball. Mercer was my first offer, and by the end I had 10 I could choose from, but Mercer's was just an overwhelming offer."
Major: Pre-med

Sims Griffith, Gainesville, baseball -- Furman
"This really sums up the hard work I've all put in since I started playing baseball as a kid. And it's a big burden off my shoulders. The goal should always be what's best for the team, and now I can focus on the team only."
Major: Health sciences

Michael Gettys, Gainesville, baseball -- University of Georgia
"I committed early and never really wanted to go anywhere else. Coach (Scott) Stricklin is the man. No one has had any bad things to say about him."
Major: Undecided

Katy Clements, Gainesville, gymnastics -- Central Michigan University
"The beam is my specialty; hopefully I can compete in the all-around. This is exciting, a once in a lifetime opportunity."
Major: Undecided

Grant Lasseter, Gainesville, golf -- University of North Georgia
"The recruiting for golf takes place in the summer tourneys. ... I tried to settle on realistic choices and find the place that best fit me."
Major: Sports medicine

Jackson Bishop, Gainesville, golf -- Western Carolina University
"The recruiting that came in my junior summer was very important and all that pressure made me a better player."
Major: Computer engineering

Morgan Reece, Gainesville, golf -- North Greenville
"I wanted access to my swing coach, and North Greenville is close enough that I can come home and see my swing coach. ... I played my best tournament right after I signed and shot my lowest ever score. I didn't have to impress anyone anymore and could just relax."
Major: Business, ministry minor

Sara Hayes, Gainesville, track -- Wofford College
"I was doing gymnastics until eighth grade and then started trying running and I won every meet I ran in eighth grade. I started getting better in sprint events, and then I started to realize I had a chance to do this in college."
Major: Biology

Colton Quinones, Gainesville, football -- Limestone College
"This is one of those dreams that's hard to get; I had to grow as a player; I had to show out. I never thought this would actually happen and now it's here."
Major: Physical therapy

Hunter Young, North Hall, golf -- Berry College
"Recruiting in golf is about emailing coaches constantly and playing in freezing cold weather or burning up heat. It's a full-time job, and that's crazy to say, but you have to make a commitment."
Major: Business

Haley Twiggs, North Hall, golf -- Young Harris
"It was stressful, I wouldn't necessarily say 'fun,' but it all worked out. I didn't have a free weekend for about half the year. My coach told me I'm the first girls golfer from North Hall to sign, so I like being the start of it."
Major: Sports medicine
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