For as long as they can recall, William Chrisman High School seniors James Bailey and Bri Burns have envisioned some lofty dreams.
And those dreams became reality Wednesday afternoon as they headlined a 2017 National Signing Day Class of seven Bears, by inking letters to play for Division I schools.
Bailey, The Examiner’s 2016 Offensive Player of the Year, will continue his football career at FCS-level Western Illinois in Macomb, Illinois, while Burns, a member of the Bears’ 1,000-point club, will play basketball at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas.
They were joined by Adreon Bell, who will play basketball at Nebraska-Kearney; Celine Armstrong, softball at Southwestern (Kan.) College; Kyron Mason, football at Missouri Western; Cameron Watters, football at Central Methodist; and Kelsey Thompson, dance at Graceland University.
“I’ve been thinking about, dreaming about signing a Division I letter for a long time, but especially since my freshman year at Chrisman,” said Bailey, who is also a state champion in the discus. “I transferred to Chrisman my sophomore year, and I didn’t know how things would work out. But they worked out even better than I could ever imagine.
“Today is a day I want to thank my coaches, my teammates, my family and everyone who has supported me during this journey.”
He was offered many scholarships, but said the Western Illinois always had the edge.
“The school, the coaches, the players all made me feel at home,” Bailey said. “The first time I walked on campus, I felt at home, like that was the place I was meant to go.”
Burns had a similar experience at Stephen F. Austin.
“When I made my visit, I experienced so much warmth – and I’m not just talking about the heat that comes from Texas,” Burns said, smiling. “I felt like I was at home – I just felt so comfortable.
“I am so excited about playing at Stephen F. Austin and I have so many people to thank – my parents, my grandparents, my coaches and teammates. I would not be making this journey without them.”
Bell, who needed just four points to join Burns in the Bears’ 1,000-point club entering Wednesday’s game against Park Hill South in the Northland Classic, was thrilled to sign her letter.
“College is taken care of, paid for, now I can concentrate on high school,” she said, throwing her arms into the air with excitement. “This is a great day!”
It was a great day for activities director Greg McGhee and the athletes’ respective coaches, too.
“I’ve only been here a short period of time, but I am so impressed with this class for what they have done in their respective sports and activities and what they have accomplished in the classroom,” said McGhee, who honored each signee with a video and photo presentation on a large screen on the stage of the high school auditorium. “They are all great representatives of William Chrisman High School.”
Matt Perry, who was recently promoted from assistant to the new football head coach at Chrisman, is also a counselor who helps students in their quest to attend college.
“I hope everyone in the audience,” he said to the crowd that nearly filled the auditorium hall and seats, “pays attention to what it took for these student-athletes to achieve what they have achieved in the classroom and in their respective sport or activity. Use them, each of them as an example. They are what high school student/athletes are all about.
“Use them as an example to be the best you can be and maybe next year you will be up here signing a letter of intent.”