In many ways, the Niceville quintet has already proven themselves.
Chloe Hill is the face of Nicevilles throwing program, a record
holder in the discus and shot put.
Max Warnecke, sometimes referred to as
Sunshine or Pony or Baby Thor
due to his 6-foot-6 frame and long blond locks, is a two-time district
long jump champion.
Midfielder Brayden Thomas has the unbeaten Eagles
soccer team in state title contention, Fridays Sweet 16 trip
to Tallahassee the next step in their bid.
Meanwhile keeper Anthony Morales and center-back Travis Sherwin
have the Sweet-16 bound Eagles ranked second in the state and 10th
in the country.
if you talk to them, their best days are ahead. Both in their prep
swan songs and, etched Wednesday in Niceville Highs auditorium,
in their college stops.
Hill is bound for UCF, where she fell in love with the campus,
the people and the coaches.
Warnecke is bound for Troy University,
a home that will allow him to be the best I can possibly be.
Thomas is bound for, appropriately enough, Thomas University in
Georgia, a dream come true in her eyes.
Morales is bound for Evangel University in Missouri, a huge
weight off his shoulders.
Sherwin is bound for South Dakota School of Mines and Tech, where
hell join big bro Brenden.
For Hill, shes looking to reach 20 feet in the long jump and
build on her discus and shot put records in her swan song.
The goal is to place high at state in every event, she
Not putting that past her is Niceville Principal Charlie Marello,
who led off the signing ceremony with an anecdote about witnessing
Hill practicing on New Years Day.
Chloe has that dedication and drive, and thats what
it takes to reach the next level, Marello said.
The work ethic also drew interest from Auburn and Robert Morris,
but UCF was the whole package. That includes its Biomedical Sciences
Once I visited I just knew this was home, said Hill,
whos looking to contribute right out of the gates.
For Warnecke, who became choked up when talking about his mom working
three jobs and making sacrifices so he could pursue his dreams,
hes looking to defend his long jump district title while setting
a couple of Niceville records.
I want to have the javelin
school record and the long jump record, Warnecke said. I
should break the javelin my first meet and the long jump should
follow soon after.
His path to the long jump, though,
was a bit circuitous.
The long jump coach came
up to me one day when I was lifting and told me I should come out
and try the long jump, he said. My first jump I beat
everyone on the team, so the next step was to win districts and
thats what I did.
His goals for his swan song?
I want to place at state
in at least three events, he said.
And at Troy?
To be the best I can possibly
be, said Warnecke, who will major in Biomechanical Engineering.
I want to go there and prove myself. I want to be the best
on the team.
For Thomas, shell join a Sun Conference program that went
7-7-2 last year.Its exactly what Ive been wanting
for forever, she said. I think my future teammates and
coaches are amazing and Im excited to be a part of the team
and finish off my career there.
With the Night Hawks she hopes to shine at center-mid, but first
theres work left to do at Niceville. The Eagles travel to
Leon Friday night looking for a fourth straight regional final berth,
which theyd host Tuesday.
We want to make it all the way just like our freshman year,
only this time we want to finish it off, said Thomas, who
Niceville coach Michael Denton called resilient for
persevering through so many nagging injures.
Going all the way is also the end goal for Sherwin and Morales,
who have helped the Eagles post 16 clean sheets en route to a 24-1-2
mark entering Saturdays lauded matchup between the states
top-two ranked team.
I want to get the fullest out of the season, Sherwin
said. I want to get to Leon and I want to beat them. I dont
know what all the hype is about. I havent seen them yet, but
I think we can beat them. If we beat Leon, I think we have a good
shot at state.
Added Morales, Leon will be a huge test for us, but were
just taking it game by game. We know if we play our best well
put ourselves in a position to win.
For Morales, in Evangel he saw a tight-nit environment that could
foster both his professional and athletic dreams.
Ive always wanted to play college soccer since I was
little and I had a couple of schools offer me, but I felt this was
the best fit personally for me, he said. The school
is small, small classes, and they have my major which is biology.
The fact that I can continue to play soccer and pursue my dreams
is the perfect scenario.
The same goes for Sherwin, who will follow his brothers path
to South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.
The goal there is one, education, Sherwin said. I
want to be a mechanical engineer, so I hope to graduate there as
a mechanical engineer and get a good job. I get to play soccer,
too, and better yet with my brother so itll be a lot of fun.