Grain Valley sending large class of student-athletes to college

By Bill Althaus
The members of the Grain Valley High School 2021 national signing class, took a deep breath, removed their masks and posed for a group picture Wednesday morning in the high school gymnasium. The class includes The Examiner's Offensive and Defensive Football Players of the Year, Cole Keller (second row right) and Hunter Newsom (back row second from left), and Raena Childers (second row, far left), the first Eagles soccer player to sign with a Power 5 school as she will join her sister Rylan at the University of Kansas.

As senior Cole Keller walked into the Grain Valley gymnasium he looked at all the student-athletes and their parents and marveled at the sight.

Keller is part of one of the largest signing classes in the history of Grain Valley High School as 17 senior student-athletes took part in a special ceremony in the gymnasium Wednesday.

The class included Raena Childers, who will become the first Eagles soccer player to sign with a Power 5 school as she will join her sister Rylan at the University of Kansas. Rylan originally signed with UMKC.

Keller and Hunter Newsom, The Examiner’s Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, also signed with NCAA Division II schools Washburn University and South Dakota School of Mines, respectively.

As Keller walked into the gymnasium, he looked at all the student-athletes and their parents and said, “You look left or right, up or down, and you see a lot of hard-working kids and the parents who let them play sports so a dream like this can come true.

“I owe so much to my parents, but there were other parents along the way and I see a lot of them in here, too,” added Keller, a Class 5 all-state quarterback. “You know, so many people couldn’t come to our games because of social distancing and the pandemic, but it is so cool to see everyone here today. 

“This is even better than I ever dreamed.”

National Signing Day:Meet Mizzou football's Class of 2021 signees

Childers, along with her sisters Reighan and Rylan, has helped rewrite the Grain Valley soccer record books.

“I can’t wait to get to KU and play with Rylan,” said Raena, who had 25 goals and 10 assists as a sophomore before her junior season wiped out by the COVID pandemic last spring. “When I went to KU I liked everything about the school – the team, the coaches, the campus. It was just what I was looking for.

“And I actually committed to KU before (Rylan) left UMKC to play at Kansas, so that is going to be so much fun.”

When asked about the demands of playing for a Power 5 team, she said, “I love that challenge. Today, seeing all of us sign our letters makes it seem real. KU has a great program, it’s close to home so my family can come watch us play. It just has everything I was looking for.”

National Signing Day:Here are the players Missouri State football added

The football team also had four others sign, offensive lineman Jack Bailey and tight end Parker Stone with Quincy (Ill.) University, defensive lineman Quincy Jones with Hastings (Neb.) College and linebacker Zach Kirk with Baker University.

Clara Gower of the volleyball team also joined Bailey and Stone in signing with Quincy. Another volleyball player, Kelly Kirkpatrick, signed with Missouri Valley College.

Baseball players Jacob McAhan (MidAmerica Nazarene), Parker Bossman (Kansas City Kansas Community College), Cole Arndofer (Hannibal-LaGrange) also signed, along with softball players Malia Gutierrez (Johnson County Community College) and Haley Martin (Central Methodist).

Basketball player Keeton Maxon signed with Southwestern (Kan.) College; wrestler Shane Duckworth signed with Missouri Valley; and Maddi Mayfield joined the cheer squad at Avila.

“We have 17 athletes representing nine sports who are going to continue their athletic and academic careers at the next level with us here this morning,” Hart said. “They and their parents have worked hard for countless hours and made so many sacrifices and I am happy we can honor all of them today.”