Alexa Avalos isn't letting COVID-19 wreck her final month as a high school student-athlete.
On May 2, the corner infielder for East Union's softball team inked a celebratory signing form to play Hiram College, a NCAA Division III school out of Ohio. She and her family set up a table outside of their home, decorated it with photos, balloons and Hiram College paraphernalia for all to see — from the sidewalk or via Zoom.
Avalos got the idea of this “distance signing” event from classmate Cameron Torres, an East Union football player who signed with NAIA power Kansas Wesleyan in April.
“I worked really hard to get to where I am,” Avalos said. “I'm the first on in my family who will graduate high school and go to college on a scholarship. It's really depressing in a way, because experiencing (graduation) with my family is something I've dreamed of. Not being able to fully celebrate that is sad and upsetting, but we're celebrating how we can for now.”
Avalos caught the attention of Hiram College coaches in a travel-ball tournament in Las Vegas last summer. She plays for USA Fastpitch coached by Gilbert Flores.
“I met (assistant) coach Stephanie Tickemyer and she was interested in me and how I play, my spirit and how I'm a hard worker,” Avalos said. “She kept in contact with me throughout the whole year and I did a whole lot of virtual visits.
“The decision was a long process. It took a year to make the decision but I'm very happy I did because I feel like the school is the best fit for me.”
Avalos will major in nursing and looks to become a nurse practitioner. With an enrollment of around 1,250, Hiram College has the small-school environment she was looking for, and she likes that much of the students are also athletes. She also appreciates head coach Scott Pohlman's emphasis on education.
“Going to Ohio is a new journey for me,” she said.
Fellow Lancers Chloee Agueda (Hawaii), Ariana Harris (Saint Katherine) and Bradee Jeffery (Embry-Riddle) will be playing at the next level as well. Avalos misses her teammates and wishes she could have at least had the opportunity to go down swinging as a senior.
“I had a great time playing with them in my four years — some of these girls I've known for a long time,” Avalos said. “It was a very memorable season even though it was cut short. I'm glad I got to spend it with these amazing girls who push me to be the person and player I am.
“I really thought we could have gone far. I was hoping to win a (Sac-Joaquin Section championship) blue banner this year. I'm sad we didn't get the chance to prove ourselves as a team.”