Breana Edwards signing

Rainier’s Breana Edwards signs her National Letter of Intent to play volleyball at Indiana University on Monday at Rainier High School. Her father and Columbians coach, Mike Edwards, and mother, Tina Edwards, sit beside her.

Courtesy of Breana Edwards

The 2018 class of athletes in the Lower Columbia area will go down as one of the most highly touted. Three locals signed or intend to sign their National Letters of Intent to NCAA Division I schools in the early signing period this November.

R.A. Long baseball player Andrew Walling signed his Thursday morning, officially agreeing with Oregon State University. Rainier volleyball player Breana Edwards, too, turned a sophomore-year verbal commitment to an official signing mid-day Thursday, signing with Indiana University.

Rainier basketball player Desirae Hansen will officially sign Monday with Portland State University.

The overwhelming feeling of relief and excitement was shared by all three.

“It feels really exciting to start the next chapter,” said Walling, who will forego his senior season this spring due to Tommy John surgery he had on his elbow in September.

“It feels so great now that I’m officially a Hoosier and I get to start preparing for the next chapter in my life,” said Edwards, who concluded her senior year with 152 kills over three games to help the Columbians to a fourth-place state finish.

“It’s real nice. I like it a lot, but I’m just going to keep working hard,” said Hansen, who starts her senior year of hoops on Monday looking to “leave my mark.”

And the traits they shared were also similar, proving that it takes more than a bit of luck to become a D-I athlete.

How does one reach the apex of their game? Let these three tell you:

Effort

Hansen couldn’t even count the number of hours a week she spends working at her craft.

Walling did his best to quantify the daily work — two hours in the weight room, 90 minutes swinging a bat, 40 minutes of ground balls, 45 minutes of long toss. “And then I have to go home and be a student,” he quipped. The multi-tool player is slated to be a first baseman and pitcher for the Beavers.

Edwards, too, rarely gets a break from year-round volleyball. Her main priority, though, is resting that shoulder in the high-school season. From stretching to lifting weights to build the muscle around it, Edwards has to put in the work to make sure she stays at the top of her game.

“It’s not just about the hard work, though,” Hansen says. “It’s about the heart too. You have to love working hard and getting to your goal. It feels that much better when you do.”

Character

All three athletes boast a grade-point average higher than 3.4. Walling leads the pack with a 4.0 GPA.

Being a D-I athlete is about the character of a person just as much as it is about the athlete. And even further than having a great GPA, it’s about supporting your teammates.

Whether it’s Hansen being the “hype person” for the Columbians softball team last spring, or Walling’s intentions to support his baseball team even when he’s not able to play this spring, the trio cares about their classmates.

“I see it as part of the high-school experience,” Hansen said. “When they’re playing, I love cheering them on.”

Leadership

For Edwards and Hansen, they stand out in the Lewis and Clark League because of just how superbly talented they are compared to the rest of the players.

But they rarely take all the credit for themselves. Edwards cheering on a great set or Hansen giving a pep talk to her point guard, they are the catalysts for team play, even if they know they might have to take over when called upon.

Any D-I athlete is often playing club ball of some sort, against players of similar talent. When they play the high-school game, they have to think about the game differently.

“It’s helped me be a better leader on the court,” said Edwards, who will likely compete for a starting spot right out of the gate at the Big-10 school. “You need all six players to win so just making sure everyone is positive on the court.”

Other commitments

Woodland’s Vanessa Franke committed to Northwest University for volleyball. R.A. Long pitchers Kaden Vanderwerf and Alex Brady committed to Lower Columbia College to play baseball.

Editor’s note: If you have signed or know of other signings coming up, please let us know by emailing us at sports@tdn.com.

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Joshua is the sports editor for The Daily News. He joined the staff in January 2016 after working at The Bellingham Herald. He is a Western Washington University graduate and native of the Puget Sound region.

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