Four LHS athletes getting their shot
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
Four student-athletes who have enjoyed plenty of success during their time at LaGrange High will get a chance to compete on the collegiate level.
Twin sisters Zamya Rhaney and Zenay Rhaney have signed letters of intent to join the cross country and track-and-field program at Albany State University.
Also, Kylie Russell is staying at home to join the women’s soccer program at LaGrange College, and Cason Blackburn is headed to Kentucky after signing a scholarship to play men’s soccer at Lindsey Wilson College.
All four of the signees celebrated their decisions during a ceremony on Wednesday afternoon in the Steve Pardue indoor facility on the LaGrange campus.
The Rhaney sisters have enjoyed outstanding high-school careers, and they had the distinction of taking the top two spots at the Region 2-AAAA cross-country meet last fall, with Zamya finishing first and Zenay coming in close behind in second.
Chase Wilson, LaGrange’s cross-country coach, said the sisters have “been great leaders. They’ve been a unifying force within our girls. Their dedication to running, to cross country, has been fun to be a part of. I’m really proud of both of you, and I’m looking forward to seeing what you do at the next level.”
Russell is a four-year member of the varsity soccer team, and she helped LaGrange win back-to-back region championships in 2018 and 2019.
The Lady Grangers appeared to have an outstanding chance to win another region title in 2020, but the season was cut short by the Coronavirus.
Colin Ross, who coaches the team along with Andy Fritchley, believes Russell’s versatility is a key to her success.
“Kylie is a player who has been able to perform in a wide variety of (roles),” Ross said. “She’s stepped into just about every position besides goal keeper for us, and she never complained, she always asked questions, and she learned and grew as a player. She grew into a preseason all-state player which is quite a feat, and she’s also an all-region player who has won two region championships for us, and she should have had a third.”
Russell will be an integral member of this year’s LaGrange team that plays Northside-Columbus on Tuesday in the season opener.
After that, Russell will get an opportunity to play for LaGrange College this fall under the direction of head coach Fred Wagenaar.
“Kylie has all the qualities that LaGrange College is looking for,” Ross said. “She’s not just an incredible player that can play different positions, she also has the personality that coach Fred looks for.”
Blackburn is a goal keeper for the Grangers, and he’s been a key member of the program the past few seasons.
Blackburn helped the Grangers post a 7-3 record in 2020 before the season was canceled, and they went 14-4-2 and won a region title in 2019.
Blackburn, LaGrange head coach Shane Pulliam stressed, did everything it took earn the opportunity to play in college.
“I remember from the very first time I met him, he said coach I want to go play at the next level,” Pulliam said. “So, you have people that want to do that, they’re driven to go and do that, and they show up every day and do what they’re supposed to do. I kind of laid out the things that he needs to do, and he showed up and did it every day. He and his parents were at every recruiting opportunity that I brought forth. They were always willing to do whatever it took to go to the next level.”
OF NOTE: For much more on each of the signees, see Friday’s sports section.