RIPON — Ripon Christian High can be seen as one big family.
Several student athletes on Monday took that next step, signing on to play next fall for four-year colleges of their choice.
Jake Beukelman is going to play football next fall for Dordt College in Sioux Falls, IW, while Zach Cortwright will continue playing basketball for the Greenville College in Greenville, Ill.
Ryan Mailhot becomes the first-ever cross country runner to ink his name to a four-year college. He’ll be going to LeTourneau University in Longview, TX.
Abby Buitrago is keeping it close to home. She’ll be playing soccer next fall for Cal State East Bay.
“This is a big and exciting day for then,” said RC athletic director Kevin Tameling. “They’re taking that next step.
“It’s not their end all to be all – this is where (their faith) has led them to for the next four years.”
He’s the son of Steve and Joanne Beukelman. His uncle is Sierra High Assistant Principal Dan Beukelman.
They were among the family in attendance during signing day for Jake, who played inside linebacker and left guard for the Knights.
“It wasn’t until last year that I actually considered playing football at the next level,” he said.
Dordt already has several players from Ripon Christian on the roster, including wide receiver Spencer Hower and running back Derek Dotinga. The Panthers are NAIA school in the Great Plains Athletic Conference.
RC coach Trey Ozenbaugh is aware of the player that Dordt will be getting in the fall.
“He’s has tremendous motor (as a player) – Jake led our team tackles,” he said.
For that matter, Ozenbaugh believes Beukelman was among the leaders in the state in that category.
Beukelman is also a home-grown product, attending RC since kindergarten. He plans to major in Business.
Cortwright looked into other schools – namely, Cal State East Bay, Knox College, and St. Mary’s College in Moraga. But Greenville was the one that sought out the services for the Knights’ point guard and reigning Trans-Valley League MVP.
“They had a true interest,” said Cortwright, who appeared flattered by the attention he received from the liberal arts school located 45 miles east of St. Louis.
He’s the son of Steve and Deana Cortwright.
Cortwright, who was noticed for his court vision, play-making skills and shooting ability, will be going to a high-scoring Panthers program under the head coach George Barber.
Greenville, an NCAA Division III school, plays in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Cortright, who is currently playing for RC under coach Mark Hoffman, will soon be in an up-tempo, press defense and run-and-gun style brand of basketball at the next level.
He’s looking forward to joining the LeTourneau Yellowjackets.
The NCAA Division III squad is coming off its finest season, reaching the American Southwest Conference cross country championships.
Mailhot is the son of Donna and Robert Mailhot of Tracy.
He’s been at RC since the sixth grade, joining the school’s cross country program when it was first established four years ago.
Mailhot, who was introduced to running by a friend who trained for marathons, will look to study Material Joining Engineering at LeTourneau.
She has plenty of reasons to look forward to playing for the Pioneers. Buitrago, who has been at RC since the sixth grade, is originally from San Jose.
“I’m looking forward to being back in the Bay Area,” she said.
As the daughter of Cesar and Patty Buitrago of Manteca, she’ll be close enough to home while playing in Hayward. Abby will also be reunited with her Manteca Futbol Club teammate Kaleigh Doyle, Sierra High’s forward/midfielder. She, too, signed last week to play for NCAA Division II Cal State East Bay of the California Collegiate Athletic Association.
Paul Diniz, who is the coach of the Manteca Futbol Club, calls Buitrago a tough matchup for any team.
“She’s a phenomenal athlete with great speed and quickness,” he said. “Abby is a big scoring threat – she keeps defenses off balance.”
Buitrago plays forward/midfield, but is open to playing anywhere on the field at the next level.
She plans to major in Psychology.
To contact reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail email@example.com.