HORSEHEADS, N.Y. (WETM) – It was a special day for three Horseheads student athletes, who signed to the next level.
Horseheads standout athletes Kailee West, Ayla Kerwan, and Samantha Oakes signed to compete in their respective sports at the NCAA Division III and NJCAA level. Monday’s signing day was the third for the Blue Raiders in the past three weeks, touting plenty of high level athletes.
Horseheads softball’s Kailee West signed to play with the Corning Community College Red Barons next year. West missed the 2023 season with the Blue Raiders, due to injury, but remained closely involved in team activity throughout the year.
“After her injury, she could’ve just folded and left the team, said Blue Raiders Head Coach Paul Richmond. She showed up to every practice and game, doing everything we asked her to. She is the greatest teammate.”
West will look to continue her road back to the softball field with the defending NJCAA Region III Champion Red Barons and is excited to work on her game with the team.
“When I get back to being healthy, I am going to have to work really hard, said West. I am just ready to be a part of the team, meet new friends and improve my game.”
Once West returns to full health, she will join the Red Barons alongside a familiar face. Elmira Notre Dame standout pitcher Olivia Switzer has committed to play for the Red Barons and is a longtime teammate and opponent of West.
“It’s really cool, said West. I have played on travel teams with Olivia for years. We’ve spent hours traveling and being on the field together, so it is just really special.”
Ayla Kerwan and Samantha Oakes both signed to continue their cross country and track careers at the next level. Kerwan will run cross country and winter and spring track for Susquehanna University, while Oakes will do the same for Allegheny College.
Kerwan and Oakes were both excited to continue their career and transition to the next level.
“I am very excited, said Kerwan. I’m excited to see what the next level brings and the competition.”
Kerwan stated that she is ready to join the River Hawks team, which fostered a caring and motivating environment. Horseheads Track and Field Coach Kim Balliet credits Kerwan for her relentless pace and tough mental fortitude while taking on 3000 meter races, rather than the shorter 400 meter race. Kerwan ran track at the varsity level since her freshman year, but had been running for years prior.
Samantha Oakes found plenty of success in her Blue Raider career. The senior competed in the state qualifiers in several individual events and a relay. Oakes took on other events, such as steeple chase and long jump, in which she earned state qualifying results. Balliet emphasized that Oakes was a key part of the Horseheads leadership group on the team and helped her gain more knowledge in the sport.
Oakes said that she will miss the team spirit and comradery in Horseheads, but hopes to bring that to the Allegheny College team. The standout runner shared her excitement to compete in the 800 meter race, as well as steeple chase, and is ready to take on a higher level of competition.
“It will definitely be a step up from high school and I will have to re-adjust, said Oakes. The training program there will be a lot harder, but I am looking forward to making a lot of progress.
Oakes also shared that next season will be the first in over 8 years that she will not be a teammate of Ayla Kerwan.
“I think we’ve learned how to push each other, said Oakes. Keep pushing forward and keep progressing to the next level.”
Oakes said that she and Kerwan will continue to keep in contact and motivate each other, even though they will run at different schools.