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Kelso-RAL football (copy)

Kelso running back Max McDaniel will play football at Portland State University next year. 

He started his junior season as a rotational rusher, but will graduate as a Division I recruit.

Kelso running back Max McDaniel will sign with NCAA Division I Portland State University on Apr. 17 — along with a big crop of other Kelso college commits. Five other locals signed or plan to sign this period with NCAA Division II schools. He expects to work in on special teams with the school next fall, and eventually earn carries in the backfield.

“It was awesome, some of the most fun I’ve had playing sports,” McDaniel said of his time as a Hilander. “It was very eye opening to me, and introduced to a lot of things that will serve useful to my career ahead and my even my life.”

McDaniel rushed for 1,462 yards on 188 carries, scoring 11 touchdowns during his senior season.

He said he fielded offers from several schools, with Western Oregon being a serious contender and a few schools in California and Oregon were also in the mix. Ultimately, Portland State was where he wanted to be. The Vikings went 0-11 in the Big Sky Conference last year.

“Originally it was the proximity that attracted me, but once I looked into the school more I noticed certain traits that really caught my attention,” said McDaniel, who will join Rainier’s Dawson Carr in the program. “Plus my dad played baseball at Portland State back in the day and he really liked it.”

McDaniel noted that the offensive style was something he liked, and that getting out of a small town to experience a different style of living were also plusses.

Holt headed to Humboldt

Kelso’s Megan Holt is signing with Humboldt State, a California Collegiate Athletic Association Northwest Athletic School school in California just 100 miles south of the Oregon border, to play softball.

“The experience will be a really good one because it’ll take me away from home so I’ll be able to do things on my own but it’s not like I’m super far away where I can’t come home if I need to,” Holt said.

She’s been a major cog in the Lassies success on the diamond over the past three years and made pitching look easy for much of that time. She’s been around for state tournaments and more than a few rivalry games, but says her favorite memory was in her first season with Kelso.

“A game in freshman year against Enumclaw who we previously lost to in districts the last year,” Holt said. “They let me pitch that year and we ended up winning. It was really exciting that they let me pitch as a freshman and they put so much trust in me.”

Humboldt State is currently 19-21 this season.

Brandenburg inks with Concordia

Kelso’s Katie Brandenburg won’t be moving far, as the middle hitter is committing to Division II Concordia University in Portland to play volleyball for the Cavaliers. Concordia went 13-14 last year in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.

“I’m super excited and honestly just relieved that I was able to make a decision,” Brandenburg said.

Proximity to home was a factor, but Brandenburg will be working to earn her playing time as the team has another incoming freshman in the middle along with two girls already on the roster.

“I was not promised playing time,” Brandenburg said. “But their big thing is to keep working hard, and if you’re doing the best, you’re going to play.”

Retter joins long list of local GNAC athletes

Woodland high jump state champion Sarah Retter will be signing with Western Washington University to compete in track and field next season.

“It’s so beautiful up there,” Retter said. “I’d been up there before because my mother and sister were up there. I really fell in love with the campus, I just love that area.”

Track helped connect Retter with one of her best friends, Kate Cochran, something she considers a significant moment during her time running for Woodland. Another was breaking down a wall in Eugene at the Oregon relays last year in the high jump.

“It was the first time I’d hit a PR in two years,” Retter said. “I think (WWU) will definitely be different, just because I’ll be specializing in track. … It’ll be a different atmosphere than I’m used to, but I think it’ll be good.”

WWU is currently ranked 23rd in the nation in track and field and third in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. Retter is one of three Woodland track and field athletes in the GNAC, including Seattle Pacific University’s Julia Stepper and Saint Martin’s McKenna Flanagan.

Ilwaco duo headed to SMU

Ilwaco’s Eliza Bannister is going to specialize in track and cross country at Saint Martin’s University as a freshman, but is still planning on rooming with basketball teammate Makenzie Kaech, who’s signing with the private GNAC institution to play basketball.

“When we went to visit, we liked how close it was but it’s also far away enough to get a good college experience,” Bannister said. “Rooming together, that will be exciting.”

Kaech scored 2,010 points over four seasons with the Fishermen, second on the career scoring list. She joins a Saints’ squad that finished 8-20 last year.

“College ball is definitely going to be more difficult,” Kaech said. “Everybody is there for a reason, everybody spent the time to be there, and everybody is athletic. So I think putting in time this summer and working as hard as I can, just giving it my all, is really going to help me play at the level that these girls are at.”

Bannister, too, expects the experience to be a little different than what she’s become accustomed to in Ilwaco, but coaches have told her she’s going to see a big difference in herself.

“It’s a new level, I’m not in any way expecting to go up there and be the best,” Bannister said. “But I’m really excited to go up there with my new coaches and teammates to build relationships and see what it’s like in this new environment. To push myself harder than before.”

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Sports Reporter

Jason is a journeyman sports reporter who has covered the Golden State Warriors, Oakland A's, along with a heavy emphasis on the Oakland Raiders. He comes to Cowlitz County from Oakland, Calif. and is a loving father.

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