WOODLAND PARK - Danni Lopez, Michaela Huntington and Hannah Erickson were all smiles as they sat at the head table in the Woodland Park High School library on Feb. 6.
The three seniors inked their names to college scholarships on national letter of intent day as a crowd of about 75 folks looked on in delight.
“This is something all athletes work toward,” said Lopez, who will play softball for Friends University in Wichita, Kansas. “It's exciting that it's finally happening.
Lopez decided on Friends - an NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) school - last fall shortly after Woodland Park's season ended in the Class 4A regionals.
“I couldn't have done this without all my family and friends,” said Lopez, an outfielder who bats left and throws right. “I'm really blessed. I thank God every day for all I have.”
Lopez, who maintains a 3.8 GPA, proved to be one of the top slap hitters in the state. Her .631 batting average was sixth-best among all classifications. Her 41 hits led the Panthers. She showed speed on the base paths as well, swiping a team-high 19 bags in 23 attempts.
“Danni's been a daughter to me,” said Woodland Park coach Dale Huntington. “We've spent all summer together the last five years. To be able to see one of the kids you've had a hand in coaching have this kind of success is great.”
Huntington will attend Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas. Bethany plays in the same conference (Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference) as Friends.
Huntington also proved to be invaluable for the Panthers softball team. She batted .514 with six doubles and 20 RBIs. She had 14 stolen bases while splitting time between second base and pitcher.
“I I couldn't have done this without all the coaches; each one makes us work harder in different areas,” said Huntington, who maintains a 3.6 GPA.
Huntington's older sister, Alex, plays softball for Division II Black Hills State in Spearfish, S.D.
“To have two girls playing college softball is pretty special,” Dale Huntington said. “I am very proud of Michaela and the works she puts in this. She gets no slack from me.”
Erickson will attend Western State in Gunnison. She was recruited for throws, and will specialize in the discus and javelin during the outdoor season, and the weight throw (similar to the hammer) during the indoor season.
“I'm glad to be going away, but it's still close enough to home,” said Erickson, who maintains a 3.6 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society.
Erickson advanced to the Class 4A state meet last spring in the discus, and almost qualified in the shot put.
“Western is getting a great thrower; a great athlete,” said Woodland Park throws coach Brent Cottrell of Erickson.
Woodland Park track and cross country coach Ron Payton has had the pleasure of working with Erickson on many levels.
“Hannah just loves to compete; she loves to train,” Payton said.
Erickson and Huntington are also members of Woodland Park's girls basketball team.