Eric Holm saved the biggest – and one of the best – for last.
The longtime Truman High School activities director, who has played host to students at 45 signing ceremonies, oversaw his final signing class Tuesday morning, as he is retiring after serving at Truman the past 15 years.
And, as it turns out, it is the biggest class during a tenure that oversaw the building of a new football/soccer/track stadium on site, a baseball field that is located just north of the football field and countless other improvements and additions to his alma mater.
“This really is one of my favorite days,” said Holm, as family members, friends and coaches filled the Truman Auditorium as nine players signed their national letters, “because other than the day you are married, the day you decide where you are going to college has the biggest impact on your life.
“This is a major decision in a student’s life and we want to thank these students for their contributions to the Truman community.”
Under Holm’s watch, the boys basketball team made the state final four in 2007-08 and the softball team won a state championship in 2012.
Last school year, he was named Missouri State High School Athletic Administrators Kansas City District Athletic Director of the Year and he also dreamed up the idea of the Truman Hall of Fame, which has enshrined past Truman athletes.
Many of Tuesday’s signees could one day wind up in the Hall of Fame as the signing class included Kyler Barnett, baseball, Park University; Jesus Carbajal, football, Judson University; Anthony Carlson, football, Central Methodist University; Mason Chance, baseball, Kansas City Christian College; Don Edmondson, football, Missouri University of Science and Technology; Becca Gilpin, basketball, University of St. Mary; Alex Khan, baseball, Fort Scott Community College; Chase Schroeder, wrestling, Northwest Kansas Technical College; and Kaylie Simonds, basketball, University of St. Mary.
As they went on the stage to sign their letters, their respective coaches praised their accomplishments and talked about their impact, along with the impact of many of their parents, over the past four years.
• Truman baseball coach Corey Lathrom lavished praise on his three college-bound baseball standouts.
“Kyler is one of those kids you not only enjoyed coaching, but you enjoyed being around. I’ve known him since I broke his little heart when I cut him from the eighth grade basketball team, which he reminds me of on a daily basis (laughing).
“One day, he will be a baseball coach and I hope I am still coaching when that happens, because I would love to have him on my staff someday. He is like my baseball son and I am going to miss him.
“Mason is one of those players who will do anything to help the team, and he is as hard of a worker as I have ever coached. I told him that all it takes is for the right coach to see him at the right time and that happened with him and I am so pleased he is going to have the chance to pitch at the next level.
“Alex is such a hard-working kid and at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, he looks the part (of a college pitcher). Like so many of our guys, he is also great in the classroom. Of the 13 guys we have back from last year, six made straight A’s and Alex is one of those players.
“Each (of these players) are going to make an impact on the programs they are going to and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish.”
• Truman girls basketball coach Steve Cassity couldn’t say enough good things about his duo of Gilpin and Simonds, who will both play basketball at the University of St. Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas.
“Becca is a wonderful 3-point shooter, a real sniper,” Cassity said. “There were games where we’d be down maybe six or seven points late in a game and I’d turn to my coaches and say, ‘Becca’s going to get us back in the game.’ And she usually did. We wanted the ball in her hands in tight games, too, because she was nails at the free throw line.
“And I look over at Kaylie with her glasses, and her hair down and she looks like such a nice kid. But the players she guards would say, ‘That’s the kid who guarded me?!’ No one worked harder than Kaylie. She is known for her work ethic and hustle, but she scored 30 points on Senior Night!
“These two players were part of two conference and one district title and we’re going to miss them because they contributed so much to our program.”
• Football coach Charlie Pugh was on hand to honor Carbajal, Carlson and Edmondson as he greeted each player with a warm smile and a massive hug.
“Jesus is a man of few words, a hard-working role model who brings his lunch pail every day to practice and our games,” Pugh said. “Day in and day out, he got the job done.
“Look at Anthony,” the coach continued, comparing their height, “what do you think? Maybe 5-foot-10? He did it all for us, including playing offensive tackle. He puts so much heart and effort into everything he does. He is a great leader and he will be a great leader at CMU.
“And I am so excited for Don. He could have been an all-state wide receiver as he averaged 29 yards a catch when he played that position, and then lo and behold, our quarterback got hurt and he came up to me and said, ‘Coach, I will do anything you need.’ He has not scratched the tip of the iceberg, and I’m looking at his classes – man, pre-calc, college biology – and all A’s. He’s done it all at Truman.”
• It was a special ceremony for Truman wrestling coach Levi Goes, as he was able to honor his first state medalist in Schroeder, who finished sixth at the state meet.
“Chase is my first state medalist,” Goes said, “and he is very special. I met Chase five to six years ago when he came to one of our camps and his youth coach said, ‘You have a special kid here,’ and he was right. He has meant so much to our program.”
After the official aspects of the signing, there were smiles, more hugs and lots and lots of photos.
“It’s just a great day, and I want to thank (administrative assistant) Marilyn Reinhard for all she did today behind the scenes to make this so special for everyone,” Holm said of Reinhard, who put together a memory book that featured comments from each coach on the respective signees. “This is something I will really miss, especially what we’re looking at now. This is just a great day for everyone. It’s a great day to be a Patriot.”