MISSOULA — Missoula Hellgate High School celebrated 12 student-athletes on Wednesday during National Signing Day as each athlete made their commitments to compete at the college level official.
Four of Hellgate's football players were celebrated for their next steps. Ian Finch will stay in Missoula and play football at Montana while Tommy Nilson is headed to Bozeman to play for Montana State. Jacob Sweatland made his commitment to Carroll College in Helena while Layne Cooney rounded out the group as he committed to Montana Western.
"Just being able to move on to the next level and knowing that multiple of my teammates are also going is a really good feeling," Cooney said. "Knowing that I played with the guys is awesome."
Four athletes — two boys and two girls — signed to play soccer at the next level. Gabriella Beaton signed on to play at Saddleback Community College in California while Clara Tallent will play for NCAA Divison II Fort Lewis College in Colorado.
"It was a goal for a long time and then I wasn't quite sure," Tallent said about pursuing college soccer. "I kind of went through a drought for my love for soccer and then my junior year I had a new high school coach and it just really showed me this is something that I want to do and now I'm really excited to have another four years."
Marcus Anderson will also head to Fort Lewis College to play soccer while Lars Thorne-Thomsen will play NCAA Division I soccer for Seattle University. The duo helped lead Hellgate to their third straight State AA title in 2021, and the Knights have won six of the last eight boys state titles in soccer.
"It's been a goal of mine and more of a dream," Anderson said of signing. "I'm super excited to play the sport I love and be with people that I can make connections with."
Two members of Hellgate's undefeated girls basketball team signed to continue their playing days after high school, as Bailee Sayler signed to play at Montana State University Billings while Keke Davis signed with Montana Western.
Rounding out the group was swimmer Kihla Lax, who signed to compete at Washington State, while distance runner Kensey May signed on to run cross country and track and field at Syracuse University. May won her second straight Montana Gatorade girls cross country award on Monday.
"It's super exciting. I just feel really grateful that I have the opportunity to do all of this and signing is just super fun and having all of my family and friends here to see me taking the next step in life," May said. "I feel super honored for getting recognized for all of my hard work and everything."