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Signing Day

Congratulations to the 16 Norfolk Academy seniors who signed commitments to play athletics at a wide array of colleges during a ceremony on November 8, 2023.

  • Lee Acra, Lacrosse - Hampden-Sydney College ​
  • Lizzie Adams, Field Hockey - Columbia University ​
  • Brooke Bettencourt, Field Hockey - Wake Forest University ​
  • Jack Chesson, Lacrosse - Hampden-Sydney College ​
  • Jack Clayton, Football - Washington & Lee University​
  • Dylan Defoor, Track and Field - William & Mary  ​
  • Zahir Griffith, Football - United States Naval Academy ​
  • Plyler Hunter, Baseball - Albright College ​
  • Andrew Kim, Soccer - United States Military Academy​
  • Carter Lucas, Rowing - Trinity College​
  • Mack Panko, Field Hockey - University of Iowa ​
  • Gretchen Scott, Field Hockey - Brown University ​
  • Luke Shinofield, Lacrosse - University of Denver ​
  • Lily Stockwell, Field Hockey - Middlebury College ​
  • Cooper Tyszko, Football - Wesleyan University ​
  • Charlie Violette, Lacrosse - Randolph-Macon College 

Across the nation, student-athletes traditionally are able to begin signing commitments to compete in college in November of their senior year. Schools hold ceremonies highlighting the athletic and academic accomplishments of these students.

Academy's ceremony in Johnson Theater highlighted not only the athletic feats of the 16, but their academic successes and growth. Director of Athletics Chad Byler thanked the teachers, coaches, and advisors who helped each student-athlete reach this point, as well as the parents and family members who have been supporting them through their many years of hard work.

“Each student on the stage here has their own story about their journey over the last four years, and that journey sometimes has been challenging," Byler said. “But students, you have left a unique legacy here as a Bulldog, through your commitment, respect, toughness, and spirit. And you all have one thing in common, you're going to be a Bulldog for life. We are extremely excited about what you have accomplished and what you will accomplish in the years to come."

The student-athletes are role models, Mr. Byler added. Their work ethic and dedication over the years have inspired.

“Thank you for the example you have set for all the Bulldogs, on your teams now, and in all our younger levels," he said. 

College Counselor Steve Monninger, who also is Director of Fitness, Strength, and Conditioning, and coach of the football team, serves as a bridge between the college counseling and athletics departments. He reminded the student-athletes of all they've accomplished and the work they'll need to put in at the next level. 

“When you compete in college, things will not always come easy," Monninger said. “There will certainly be moments of significant adversity that are going to come your way. Our advice to you is that you rely on the values of work ethic, grit, and mental toughness that you've already demonstrated here at Norfolk Academy."

“Be ready to push yourself harder than you ever have before. We know you will continue to make us proud," Mr. Monninger added. 

The student-athletes then spoke, thanking their families, teachers, coaches, trainers, and so many more people who have helped them along the way. Here's a snippet:

  • Lee Acra: “I would like to acknowledge my teammates for pushing me every practice, lifting me up in games, and making me a better person on and off the field."
     
  • Lizzie Adams: “There are so many people I have to thank for their role in my academic, athletic, and personal development, including countless mentors, friends, and teachers."
     
  • Brooke Bettencourt: “I want to thank my coaches for pushing us to be the best players we can be, but more importantly the best people we can be. You've created the best environment that makes us work hard but also allows us to have so much fun together. You've given me so many little memorable phrases and I will take all of them with me next year and beyond."
     
  • Jack Chesson: “I've had the best teammates and managers who I'm also lucky to call friends, and they are a huge reason I am here today."
     
  • Jack Clayton: “I will cherish the memories I have made playing football at Norfolk Academy and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to put on a Bulldog uniform.
     
  • Dylan Defoor: “If you would've told seventh grade me that I would be able to compete at the Division I level, I would've laughed. ... I would like to thank those involved for lifting me up." 
     
  • Zahir Griffith: “I want to thank my whole NA football team. We have learned so much together through wins and losses and tremendous amounts of adversity. I am proud to call this team my brothers and will cherish the memories we made together."
     
  • Plyler Hunter: “My first coach was my dad, who introduced me to the game at 4 years old and coached me all the way through an epic run at Cooperstown at the age of 12."
     
  • Andrew Kim: “Throughout my life I have been blessed to be surrounded by those who wish nothing but the best for me to help me pursue my goals. Everyone I have come across has left me with something to learn to better myself and grow better as not just a player but a man."
     
  • Carter Lucas: “Today is the culmination of a lot of work for many people, not just myself. The Lord has blessed me with the people, school, and situation to make me a rower."
     
  • Mack Panko: “Coach Werkheiser, thank you for making my senior year my best one yet."
     
  • Gretchen Scott: “I have so many people to thank for the contributions they have made to my growth as an athlete, student, and person."
     
  • Luke Shinofield: “It has been a journey filled with blood, sweat, and tears, 5 a.m. wakeups ... However, I know this is just the start."
     
  • Lily Stockwell: “For as long as I can remember, field hockey has been there for me. It has comforted me, inspired me, encouraged me, enraged me. But it has always been there for me."
     
  • Cooper Tyszko: “My future of playing college athletics while also receiving a world-class education at Wesleyan is one that I would not have been able to reach without the coaching and support from Norfolk Academy."
     
  • Charlie Violette: “Thank you to all my coaches who helped me grow into a more complete and all-around athlete."

Monninger closed the ceremony, before everyone moved into the lobby for celebratory photos, with a final thank you.

“The sentiments of humility and gratitude by these young men and women are a reminder that this is not just their journey," Monninger said. “Everyone in this room had a huge part in it."


Watch the signing ceremony on our NA-TV broadcast channel

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