Here are where some of our local athletes are headed to pursue their college athletic dreams. (Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com)
The Central York boys' lacrosse team has done something for the first time in program history, even before the 2017 season begins.
Senior TJ Ross and junior Kollin Vaught recently committed to continue their playing careers at NCAA Division I colleges.
Ross, a GameTimePA.com first-team all-star last year, committed to New Jersey Institute of Technology. Vaught verbally committed to Cleveland State.
It marks the first time in the program's history that two Central players committed to Division I schools. They become Central's first Division I players since 2014 graduate Max Haldeman committed to UMBC.
NJIT's location played a role in Ross' decision. He said he has family in the New York City area, "so I will always feel somewhat at home and can always have family at my games."
"I knew I wanted to be close to a city for the great opportunities to gain knowledge through internships while in school," he said. "I loved the coaching staff and how they have a great outlook on becoming a winning program in future years."
Ross is a three-year starter for the Panthers and has been playing lacrosse since he was 7.
"He's always wanted to go Division I, and NJIT is a school who has given him that opportunity," Panthers head coach Tom Mayne said. "TJ is a very good player. Last year he won a lot of awards. He has continued to grow and get better. He's definitely our top attack man and probably our top offensive player."
A former baseball player, Ross made the switch after attending an event with Mayne, where the coach encouraged youth to play lacrosse.
Mayne told the attendees to throw a baseball with their hands and with a stick, Ross said, to see which ball went farther.
"Obviously we threw it farther with the lacrosse stick, and right then my brother and I both quit baseball and started playing lacrosse," Ross said.
"I think I liked the challenges the sport has," he continued. "Some sports you can just pick up and play if you're athletic, and I liked that I had to practice all the time to learn how to catch and throw with both hands."
Ross said he's excited for his senior season when he'll take the field with fellow Division I commit Vaught and other Panthers who have garnered interest from college programs.
"Playing with the kids on my team is such an honor, we've all grown up together and we've all used each other's help somewhere along the way throughout our recruiting processes," Ross said.
Vaught, meanwhile, plans to join a Cleveland State program that's playing in its first NCAA Division I season this year.
"Kollin was very impressive this summer and got a lot of attention. He was their No. 1 recruit, and he liked the fact that he was thought of so highly," Mayne said. "Kollin is a phenomenal athlete. As a freshman, I could see he was destined with nothing but upside."
Vaught wanted to get the commitment out of the way early, saying the campus "felt like home."
"The environment was great, everyone was nice and friendly, and I love that the school is in the city of Cleveland so I have many activities to do," Vaught said. "Coach Sheridan has a great vision for the program and it's exciting to be a part of the start of it."
He's an excellent FOGO (face off/get off) player, according to his coach and teammate.
"I think he's going to be the MVP of our team this year," Ross said, "because whoever we play, we will have a huge advantage at the X."
"He has really settled into the face off guy and won all-county last year in that role," Mayne said. "I don't know of anybody that can compete with him. He can do more than face off, but a dominant face off guy is huge."
What's his secret? Vaught says there isn't one.
"I just do face off drills on my own, or go to face off clinics with Jeremy Rualo, and Brent Hiken from Fast Break University who are always working with me on the weekends and getting those extra reps and getting that work in," Vaught said.
The duo is excited to lead the Panthers this spring.
"Our goal this year is get that (YAIAA) championship and win districts," Vaught said. "We are grinding out and putting work in at 6 a.m. practices, working hard getting ready for this upcoming season. We want to dominate every team we face this year, and let them know what Central is made of."
Ross said he'd like to capture the elusive YAIAA crown. The Panthers haven't won the league tournament since 2013.
"We do need to learn how to work together, but I think we have the most talent in York and we're starting to gel better than any team I've been a part of," Ross said. "I think every player has the county championship on our minds and we really want it."