Celebrating the achievements of three of its athletes Thursday afternoon, Coconino High School hosted a signing day for Jake Plecas, Dana Parker and Aly Jones as the three signed national letters of intent to Division I universities.
After committing to Arizona for beach volleyball more than a year ago, the signing was sort of a formality for Parker. Meanwhile, Plecas signed to play baseball at Utah Valley while Jones will remain at home by signing to dive at Northern Arizona.
A UNIQUE CAREER
While Coconino does not offer swimming or diving as a sport, Jones spent the past six years learning under Northern Arizona’s Nikki Huffman. The club coach for Northern Arizona Divers, Huffman aided Jones in finding a place in college despite the hurdles along the way.
“It’s been kind of hard, and the other two schools in Flagstaff have a diving team, so I debated switching multiple times,” Jones said. “But my club coach really helped me out finding coaches, and it was really successful.”
Remaining in the same pool with the same tutoring for her college career, Jones said the decision became so much easier given the perks of remaining in town.
“I’m so excited; my family, I‘m always going to have them backing me up because they will always be here,” Jones said. “I am not going to have to get used to a whole new coach, it’s like I’m just diving right into it literally and figuratively.”
Jones said Huffman was always supportive of her, even if it meant she wouldn’t end up as a Lumberjack, but the perks around Flagstaff led to her decision. Among them was Northern Arizona’s Aquatic and Tennis Complex, which opened in February 2016 and currently serves as the location for the NCAA Zone E Diving Championships.
SETTLED BEFORE SENIOR SEASON
For Plecas, the signing to Utah Valley allowed him to focus on playing for the Panthers this spring.
“It’s really big, just a big stress reliever knowing I can do what I want and be doing it the way I want,” Plecas said.
Signed as an outfielder for the Wolverines, Plecas said he could end up playing all three positions but hoped to land in center long term. The senior said he’d do the same this year for the Panthers.
An All-4A Conference second team player, as well as the Grand Canyon Region player of the year, Plecas finished his junior year tied for a team-high with three home runs and seven doubles. Leading the team in triples (5), RBIs (35), hits (39), runs (31), batting average (.438) and OPS (1.267), Plecas proved to be an offensive force for Coconino last year.
“Put a lot of time and work into it, and I got what I wanted out of it, so that's a great thing,” Plecas said.
LEAVING A SPORT BEHIND
Recently named to the All-Region first team and the Grand Canyon Region offensive player of the year, with 4A Conference honors pending, Parker wrapped up her indoor volleyball career before focusing solely on the sand going forward.
“I’m going to miss it,” Parker said. “Looking back on it, I had a lot of fun playing these last four years at Coco. Just the school atmosphere, the excitement and intensity of the indoor game, that’s what I’ll miss.”
While the spring’s beach volleyball season remains, Parker’s longtime commitment to Arizona becoming official took some pressure off of the senior.
“Just to have it finally be official is another weight off my shoulders,” Parker said. “Just knowing that it is for sure. It has been a long time since I committed, and now that I am officially signed, it makes it real.”
While her former partner on the court, Boise State’s Drew Hannemann, won’t be back with Parker on the Panthers in the spring, the senior said she is hopeful for her final year at Coconino.
“I’m really excited, I think we have a lot of young girls coming up that have a lot of excitement to play with us here,” Parker said.