Nine of Hancock College’s best student-athletes are putting the college’s motto to the test.

They’re taking to heart Hancock’s “Start Here, Go Anywhere.”

The nine signed their national letters of intent to transfer to four year universities during a ceremony Thursday at Hancock’s Joe While Memorial Gymnasium and, as a group, they’re going everywhere.

Representing football, track, soccer and women’s basketball, the group is spreading out from coast to coast.

“This is always the most exciting part of the academic year,” said Associate Dean and Athletic Director Kim Ensing. “It’s nice to win, nice to have championships and we’ve done a very good job this year but our most important goal is education — to develop fine young student-athletes who can build on what they’ve done here at four year college and universities. We are all so proud of these young men and women.”

Karly Beyers, a graduate of Pioneer Valley High School, is heading to Thousand Oaks to study and play basketball at NCAA Division III Cal Lutheran University.

“I wanted to go to Cal Lutheran right out of high school. They’ve got a beautiful campus, it’s still close to home and I wanted to stay in California,” said Beyers, who plans to major in education. “Coming out of high school, I couldn’t afford it financially so it wasn’t in the picture. But now, I’ve earned an academic scholarship so it’s worked out. Now I can go to the school I’ve always wanted to go to and still play basketball.”

Beyers is staying closest to home, the only one of the nine who is staying in California.

Her teammate Hannah Walls, a Valley Christian Academy grad, is going the farthest — to Eastern Nazarene University, and NCAA Division III school in Quincy, Mass. — a suburb just south of Boston.

“I’ve been to Boston twice on vacations with my family,” said Walls, who will work toward a degree in elementary education. “When I talked to their coaches, it felt more homey, like a huge family. The snow will be a new experience — I’ve never actually been to real snow before. Coming to Hancock, honestly I thought I’d only be able to play at the NAIA level. To play NCAA Division III at Eastern Nazarene is a big accomplishment for me. I’m super excited to go there.”

Joseph Goryance, a former tennis and soccer star at Arroyo Grande High School, will concentrate on soccer when he enrolls at the NAIA’s Waldorf University in Forest City, Iowa.

“It’s quite a way from here but I’ve talked to their coaches and they have a good program. I visited the campus last summer and it’s a very nice school,” said Goryance, who plans to major in business with a minor in criminal justice. “They’ve offered me an athletic scholarship. I don’t think I could have done it without the help of (soccer) coach Billy Vinnedge. He is amazing and helped me grow as a person and a player.”

All the players agreed with Goryance that their coaches — Vinnedge, track’s Louis Quintana, Cary Nerelli from women’s basketball and football’s Kris Dutra — are a major part of their success.

Eduardo Uribe, another Pioneer Valley graduate and the only freshman in the group, will run indoor and outdoor track and cross country at Roosevelt University, an NAIA college in Chicago.

“For me, it’s kind of a homecoming. I actually used to live in Chicago when I was younger,” said Uribe, who plans to have a double major in philosophy and international relations. “I still have some family there. It’s been a dream of mine to go back and live there again. I thought about going to the University of Chicago but I’ve known about Roosevelt since I was a kid and when I thought about my future, I knew that Roosevelt would give me the best education and career opportunities.”

The final five are all football players with Colton Adam, a Righetti graduate, also heading to Illinois to study and play at Trinity International University, an NAIA school in the Chicago suburb of Deerfield.

“I’ve got a scholarship to be the long snapper on the football team,” said Adam, who plans to major in communications with the long-term goal of becoming a chiropractor. “I’m hoping to get the opportunity to play a skill position like slot receiver, too. The coaches saw film of me from Righetti and Hancock. I’m not the biggest guy or the fastest guy but I’ve worked hard to earn this. I went there is April and it was very cold but it’s a nice town, a nice campus. I’m really looking forward to going there.”

Lesone Smith will actually be getting closer to his home. The Louisiana native is moving on to West Texas A&M University, an NCAA Division II college in Canyon, Texas.

“My family will be able to see me play some games,” said Smith, who plans to major in either business or criminal justice. “The coaches contacted me every day which was great. I’m very comfortable with the coaches and the campus.”

Kobi Smith-Parrott is heading to western Pennsylvania to attend Seton Hill University, an NCAA Division II school near Pittsburgh.

“The coaching staff recruited me very heavily and I couldn’t imagine a better fit for me with the program, coaches and college,” said Smith-Parrott, who grew up in Nebraska.

Taipule Asotau is heading to Colorado. The Samoa native will be off to Western State Colorado University, southwest of Denver in Gunnison.

“I talked to coach Dutra and he gave me a chance, said Asotau, who plans to major in exercise science. “I only played four games last year because I got hurt so I’m grateful that the Western State coaches are giving me a chance. I know it’s going to be a really different environment — much colder — than Samoa and Santa Maria.”

Jamil Viaud signed with the biggest school, NCAA Division I Kent State, a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) member of the Mid-American conference.

Viaud, who will major in physical therapy, will be getting closer to his Queens, New York home.

“The two years here changed my ability to handle the cold weather but I know I’ll be able to adjust to the Ohio weather,” said Viaud, who is getting a full scholarship. “I know other former Hancock players have made it to the NFL. I’m hoping to get a shot — I just have to put in the work.”

Before the signing ceremony, Hancock held a special ceremony to honor Shemarr Parker, a football and basketball player whose athletic career almost came to an end after a serious auto accident in 2016.

Hancock’s basketball team took a break from practice during the signing ceremony and Lanie Campos, Hancock’s Academic Counselor for student athletes, surprised Parker, a Santa Maria High graduate, with the California Community College Athletic Association’s (CCCAA) award for outstanding achievement.

“It’s amazing to receive this honor. Perseverance — that’s been my motivation,” said Parker. “I’ve used up my basketball eligibility but I can come back for one more year of football. I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet. I can’t believe they’ve given this award.”

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