The seven Christopher High student-athletes who are set to play a sport at the four-year level expressed a common theme during a May 18 letter of intent signing ceremony on the school’s football field. Whether it was family, a friend, a coach—or all three—they said they couldn’t have done it without the support of loved ones.
The list of national letter-of-intent signees include Adam Andrade (Chapman football), Braden Clark (Concordia lacrosse), Danielle Russell (Gettysburg tennis), Duncan Ellis (Occidental basketball), Emily Budelli (University of the Pacific softball), Jordan Anaya (UC Davis field hockey) and Tyler Swan (McKendree baseball).
Clark, a three-year varsity starter on both the lacrosse and football teams, credited Cougars lacrosse coach Clint Wheeler for planting the seed that he had the potential to play lacrosse in college.
“He said I should consider looking into it,” said Clark, who is one of the most prolific goal scorers in the area. “I didn’t think I had the talent, but I looked into it, got pretty serious and committed myself to play the sport in college after that.”
Russell made her mark on the CHS girls tennis team, teaming up with best friend Sommer Filice to win the Pacific Coast League Mission Division doubles championship in 2019. That same year, the Cougars won the team division title for the first time in school history.
“It meant so much to me because I got to represent my school and my team,” Russell said. “But it meant even more to me I got to have Sommer by my side.”
Russell said Gettysburg was her dream college because it is one of only three universities in the U.S. that offer her history major with a minor in Civil War Era Studies.
“It’s everything I could ever ask for in a school,” she said. “It’s always been my dream to go there.”
Budelli, a four-year varsity standout on the softball team, credited her travel ball coach, James Jimenez of the California Suncats, for sending Budelli’s highlight videos to the University of the Pacific coach, who then reached out to Budelli.
“I really do owe a lot to coach James,” Budelli said. “I was looking at schools to play at, but then Covid happened and it kind of made things very difficult. I didn’t think it was going to happen, so this is nice.”
Swan has made steady improvement in his four years at Christopher, becoming a reliable catcher on the baseball team. For as long as he can remember, Swan has wanted to play at the four-year level.
“It actually has sunk in and I’m excited,” he said. “I feel like I’ve earned it.”
“Tyler is a solid catcher, he’s got a great arm, and he’s put in the time to get where he’s at,” CHS athletic director and baseball coach Ryan Dequin said.
Andrade, a safety on the football team, led the state with six interceptions in just three games this past season. He credited former CHS assistant coach Marcel Brincon for jump-starting his football career.
“He’s the only reason why I’m playing safety,” Andrade said. “He pretty much taught me everything about the position and showed me the ropes.”
Andrade was laser focused to have his best season yet during a truncated season.
“I had the mentality that since this was the last time I would be playing in high school, I had to show improvement to colleges,” he said. “It was a big drive to go out there and show my best possible self.”
Ellis’ journey to Occidental College in Los Angeles to continue his basketball career has been a global adventure. Born in North Carolina, Ellis moved to Japan when he was 6 months old because his dad was in the Marines. He didn’t move back stateside until he was 9, and it took him a while to get adjusted. Basketball provided the avenue to making friends, being a part of a community and gaining a small circle of people who could mentor him.
Since Ellis has blossomed at Christopher, he sees a scenario where he would return to give back and help out.
“Christopher was my home,” he said. “This is where I have all my best memories. I found a way to make it to college playing the sport I love and would love to come back and help the next generation of kids do the same.”
Anaya, a four-year standout on the field hockey and girls soccer teams, will be playing field hockey for Division I program UC Davis. Even though Anaya started soccer at a very early age and only started playing field hockey in her freshman year, her athleticism and work ethic allowed her to make a rapid ascent.
Anaya had to learn things on the fly because she didn’t know anything about field hockey when she tried out for the team as a freshman. But Cougars coach Dani Hameon proved to be exactly what she needed to get up to speed.
“Dani definitely saw a spark in me and is the one who absolutely carried my field hockey career,” Anaya said. “I had absolutely no knowledge of the sport, but as soon as I got the skill setup, I fell in love with it.”
Equally outstanding as a goalie on the soccer team and a midfielder on the field hockey squad, Anaya made the decision to pursue field hockey in college—not soccer—during her junior year. She credits her parents, Christina and Dave, along with Dave’s best friend, Tim Hardy, for filming a lot of her games so she could send that to college recruiters and coaches.
“Being able to send film sparked the recruiting process for me,” she said. “Davis is the ideal place for me, and I can’t wait to start my college career there.”