A diverse collection of student-athletes signed national letters of intent last month during a signing ceremony at Park Hill South High School.
Park Hill South celebrated javelin thrower Grace Dieleman, diver Taylor Young and basketball player Anthony Bell for their respective commitments to continue athletic careers.
Long known as a softball-first player, Dieleman may have caught the Park Hill South faithful by surprise when she elected to throw the javelin at the next level.
“I hadn’t tweeted it or really told anybody so many people didn’t know I was signing,” Dieleman said. “And most people thought I was signing for softball because it’s been my main sport throughout high school.”
Dieleman, an all-region softball pitcher, ultimately decided to advance her talents as a javelin thrower, electing to compete at Division I Elon University, a private school located in North Carolina that participates in the Colonial Athletics Association.
“I knew I wanted to go far away from home since I was little,” she said. “We took a spring break trip out there and I fell in love with that side of the country. And I knew I wanted a smaller private school.
“I love Kansas City, but I also love to travel and I didn’t want to spend the next four years here, and I wanted to carve my own path at a school far away. I really fell in love with Elon, not necessarily just for their track program but for the school in general.”
Dieleman holds the Panthers’ javelin throw record at 126-0. She set the record as a freshman and has improved it ever since. However, Dieleman is looking to make her first state meet this spring. She just missed out on a state berth last year, finishing fifth in her tough sectional.
“It was frustrating because I know I can be all-state. The top-8 throwers in our state are actually in our sectional,” said Dieleman, who was offered roster spots at North Carolina schools Wake Forest and High Point University.
“I was very happy when Grace told me she was going to throw in college,” Panthers throws coach A.J. Roth said. “I know with the right coaching and program she is going to improve so much when she leaves. I wish the best for Grace and hope to watch her compete at the next level.”
For most of her life, Young, a gymnast-turned-diver, wanted to enter the U.S. Naval Academy. A trip to the Navy in the sixth grade formed her at a young age.
But, four years later, she shifted her focus to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
“I changed gears because I wanted to support my country on a humanitarian mission as opposed to the Department of Defense,” Young said.
Now, as a senior, her dreams have come true. Young will enter the U.S. Coast Guard Academy next fall as a student-athlete, participating as a diver on the swim and diving team.
“I got the letter of assurance in October, so I was very excited,” Young said. “And then I got my medical, and then officially holding that appointment in my hand … (There was) just so much pride and so much hard work had paid off. I was so proud to be able to serve my country and get my education at the same time.”
Young completed her four-year high school diving career this past fall at Park Hill South. She finished in a career-high third place at the Class 2 state championships. Young, who missed most of her junior year due to a back injury, finished 10th at state her sophomore year and 20th as a freshman.
“I love the sport and I love what it teaches, the mental aspect and that you have to overcome certain things,” she said. “I contacted the U.S. Coast Guard Academy diving coach before I got my letter of assurance. I wanted to make sure they knew I was interested. I know the coaches have a lot of influence on whether or not you’ll be accepted, and if they have a good letter for you in your file, the likelihood is a little higher. They definitely helped me out.
“I am very proud with how I’m leaving Park Hill South.”
Bell is ready to make a statement at his next stop. And that stop is not far from home at the junior college level. Not far at all, in fact.
“It’s maybe six minutes away from home,” Bell said.
Bell signed to play basketball at Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley, the Kansas City junior college located just south of Riverside and the Missouri River.
“It was a little stressful on the way to getting that done, but after I officially signed and I knew where I was going to go, it was really exciting,” Bell said. “I really think that the JUCO process will be better for me to move on and go to a higher level. I think it’s the best route.
“And with Penn Valley, it’s their goal to move people to the next level and they’re recruiting some good talent this year, so I think it’s going to be a good move for me.”
After coming off the varsity bench as a junior, Bell, a 6-foot-5 forward, earned time in Park Hill South’s starting lineup during his senior season. And he produced, averaging nearly nine points and eight rebounds per game while shooting 64 percent from the field. He added nearly a pair of blocks and 1.3 steals per game to his resume.
Bell, who also received interest from Missouri Baptist, Avila and Baker, said he’s looking forward to uncovering new parts of his game that weren’t shown on the high school court.
“I was mainly playing in the paint,” he said. “I’ve been working on my guard play believe it or not. I’ve been making sure I have ball handling skills and it’ll be fun to show what I can do and not just play as a big.”