Five LaGrange student-athletes sign to play in college

Published 10:30 am Saturday, May 18, 2024

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It was a full house in the LaGrange High team room on Wednesday as the Grangers saw five student-athletes sign to continue their journeys in college. It was five signees representing five different sports (Carlee Roland – soccer – LaGrange College, Molly Blackburn – volleyball – Reinhardt, Zai Paegler -basketball – Southeast Community College, McKinsey Gaddy – softball – LaGrange College and Alyssa Rhaney – track and field – Albany State), displaying the full scope of athletic talent at LaGrange. 

Roland will be applying her craft just a few steps away from where she made her name known on the soccer field at Callaway Stadium. 

“I wanted to stay close to my family and LaGrange College just felt like the perfect place for me to be,” Roland said. “

It was a steady climb for the senior fullback. Roland came into the fold as a super raw but talented freshman. She did not get a lot of playing time at first, but quickly adapted to the high school game and became a crucial starter for the Grangers during her final three seasons.

“I really didn’t know if I wanted to play in college until I came into my senior year and really didn’t want it to end,” Roland said. “I started looking at places to play and I had an offer from Huntingdon, but LaGrange College felt like the place I needed to be.”

Roland was a captain and leader for the team but was far from a one-sport athlete as she played flag football and golf.

College volleyball was not even on the radar for Molly Blackburn until after her junior season wrapped. Blackburn is graduating a year early and did not think she would be continuing to play volleyball once she graduates. That was until former teammate and current Reinhardt volleyball player Katy Beth Bedingfield helped get her a chance at playing in college.

“I wasn’t planning on playing volleyball after high school, but Katy Beth texted me and told me they needed more players and I went on a visit and they offered me a spot on the team and now here we are,” Blackburn said, flashing a winning smile. “She texted me for like two weeks because I was unsure if I wanted to play at first.”

Blackburn was an impactful player for the Grangers the last couple of seasons and even though her time in blue and white will be briefer than she imagined, she will never forget those special moments on the court for the Grangers.

“It was scary at first, but also exciting at the same time,” Blackburn said. “I wasn’t always sure that this would be my last year in high school, it hasn’t really sunk in yet.”

Some journeys keep you close to home, some do not. Peagler will be making a big change when heads to Lincoln, Nebraska in the fall. 

“I’m excited, but it is a little scary to be so far from my family for the first time, but sometimes you have to go out of your comfort zone to succeed in life,” Peagler said.

“I am very scared,” his mother interjected.

Peagler was a rim rattler for the Grangers. A valuable depth piece early in his tenure with LaGrange, Peagler came on strong as a senior. During his final year with the Grangers, Peagler took the bull by the horns and solidified himself as the team’s starting center.

“I have dreamed of this moment since I first started watching college basketball when I was a kid,” Peagler said. “There was a lot of work out over the years to get me to where I’m at now.”

Unlike Peagler, Gaddy will not have to travel far for her shot to play college sports. 

“I’m excited to stay at home and play for the Panthers,” Gaddy said. “This was something I’ve always wanted and I’ve been committed there for a while now.”

Gaddy was the only senior on the LaGrange team this season. After transferring from LaGrange Academy before her junior season, Gaddy fit into the Granger way with ease.

Now, she will get the chance to be teammates with a former coach LaGrange assistant coach Kenzie Hornsby is also a Panther softball player.

“I’m excited to play for coach Mel(Rushing) at LaGrange College and alongside coach Kenzie, well, just Kenzie now,” Gaddy said with a chuckle. 

Track and field runs in the Rhaney family. It will be a family event once again at Albany State as the youngest Rhaney is set to join her two older sisters as part of the Rams’ track and field team. It will be a special reunion and they have not shared the same track since Rhaney was a freshman in high school.

“My sisters are on the track team there and the coaches there have been recruiting me since I was like a freshman,” Rhaney said. “They eventually won me over and I’m so excited to me rejoining my sisters. It’s going to be a movie.”

While her older sisters might have introduced her to the sport, Rhaney’s love for track and field blossomed on its own.

“I did get into it because of my sisters, but as I continued to do I really grew a passion for it and I would not be the same person I am today if I never ran track.