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Top athletes from Clackamas, Oregon City, Putnam and Portland Waldorf decide where they'll continue their athletic careers

by: JOHN DENNY - Clackamas High School seniors (from left) Sydney Azorr, Erica Pagano, Elliott Cary, Kaitlyn Reiner and Taylor Agost signed National Letters of Intent before friends and family during Nov. 13 signing ceremonies in the high schools media center.Local high schools were well represented last week during National Letter of Intent signing day on Nov. 13.

Clackamas High School had five athletes sign, including Taylor Agost, who was one of the most heavily recruited volleyball players in the state.

Agost accepted a full-ride athletic scholarship to play for the University of Oregon. Her classmates Sydney Azorr, Erica Pagano, Kaitlyn Reiner and Elliott Cary also signed.

Basketball players Azorr, Pagano and Reiner signed with Western Oregon, Seattle Pacific and Colorado-Mesa respectively.

Cary has signed to play baseball at Oregon State University. The Beavers also signed Putnam star infielder Trace Loehr.

Oregon City High School had a special signing ceremony for Jessica Gertz. She’ll play basketball at NCAA Division I Long Beach State University.

Portland Waldorf senior Gabrielle “Ellie” Lesch also committed to OSU, where she’ll compete in rowing.

Agost, a 6-2 outside hitter who just started playing volleyball as a freshman, also received full-ride offers from the University of Washington, Oregon State, Boise State and the University of Hawaii.

Agost said that although the decision was not an easy one, there were several reasons why she chose Oregon.

“I was born in Eugene and I’ve been a Duck my whole life, so that was a factor,” she said. “They have an amazing volleyball program and great coaching, and when I went to visit I got along great with the players....

“It’s close to home, and that was important. I want my family and my friends to be able to come to my games.

“They were No. 2 in the nation last year. They lost two of their best players and they’re young, but they’re still good this year....”

“Taylor is an incredible athlete,” Oregon head coach Jim Moore said. “She’s going to have to learn to play at this level, but she certainly has the tools to play as well as anybody. She’s going to hit the ball like Canace (Finley), like Naya (Crittenden), those kinds of kids who can play way above people’s hands.”

by: JOHN DENNY - Proud parents Brett and Dalene Agost were on hand last week when their daughter Taylor signed a National Letter of Intent, accepting a full-ride athletic scholarship to the University of Oregon.Clackamas coach Jim Stultz says that Agost can jump 10-4, and that was a factor in her getting recognized by big-time collegiate athletic programs.

“When we do jump-reach, I’ve grabbed the rim with both hands, so [my jump-reach is] at least 10-4,” said Agost.

“When you get to the Pac-12, it’s like the strongest level in college volleyball,” Stultz said. “They’re looking for people that are athletic and can jump. Taylor can touch the basketball rim with both hands. I’ve never had that before. When we sent out a video showing her jump-reach, my email lit up like crazy....

“She also has tremendous quickness. When you do sprints in practice, normally a kid who’s 6-2 is going to come in last. Taylor’s always first....

“And her learning curve is off the charts. Taylor didn’t start playing until she was a freshman, but she is very coachable. She listens and picks things up quickly. She’s developed so that she’s become a good all-around player....

“As a junior she was ranked one of top 50 high school players [in the U.S.]. She could have gone anywhere in the country....

“It depends on what she wants and how hard she works for it. But if she wants to play professional volleyball or make the Olympics, she has that potential.”

Stultz says that Agost first tried youth volleyball as a third grader but gave it up after one year “because it was boring.”

“In third grade volleyball is serve, serve, serve and then nothing really happens,” Agost recalls. “It was kind of slow for me, and I was a fast-paced go-go-go kind of kid.”

Agost says she would not have taken up the sport again had it not been for a close friend, Natasha Horsch, who talked her into it just before her freshman year.

“Natasha and some of my friends were playing and she convinced me to give it a try,” Agost said. “The second I started playing, I loved it, and I said to myself, ‘Why haven’t I been doing this my whole life. I just loved it so much.”

Agost played basketball, a sport she had been playing most of her life, that winter. But after that she gave up playing basketball so she could concentrate on volleyball the year around.

And success followed. Agost became a varsity starter her junior year, earning first-team all-league and second-team all-state honors. This fall she was recognized as the Three Rivers League volleyball “Player of the Year,” and she was selected to the Class 6A State Tournament all-tournament team.

Agost was a part of Clackamas High varsity teams that won three consecutive league titles and placed fifth, third and fourth respectfully at the last three Oregon big-school state tournaments.

Agost, who has played for North Clackamas Volleyball Club club teams the past three seasons, says she’ll likely play for Oregon Juniors Volleyball Academy this winter.

“Nicole Rigoni [a setter for Southridge] is Oregon’s only other recruit from Oregon,” Agost said. “She plays for Oregon Juniors and [University of Oregon] coaches want us to play together in club, and at the highest level.”

Agost says she plans an education major at Oregon.

“I’ve always been interested in becoming a teacher,” Agost said. “Elementary school. I’ve been working with third graders [at Spring Mountain Elementary School] this fall, and I just love it.”

Agost noted that her mother, Dalene, has been an elementary school classroom teacher for years and is currently teaching physical education at Oregon Trail and Spring Mountain elementary schools.

Elliott Cary, who plays centerfield, is new to Clackamas High School, after transferring from Niceville High School in Niceville, Florida, this fall.

“[Besides OSU] I also got offers from Florida State, Florida, LSU, Auburn and Alabama,” Cary said. “It was real close between LSU and OSU, but I decided Oregon State was the best fit because I’ll get the most playing time there and I’ll have the best chance of winning the [national] championship. They said they’ll try to get me playing time my freshman year.”

Cary said he moved from Niceville, Florida, to Clackamas during the summer.

“I came [to Clackamas] because I want to get a state [championship] ring and hopefully I’m going to get it this year,” Cary said.

Clackamas made the Oregon high school 6A final last year and the Cavaliers return a host of players from that team.

His junior year of high school, Cary hit .438, had a .560 on-base percentage and a .656 slugging percentage and he was named Northwest Florida Daily News “Big School Hitter of the Year.” His father, Chuck Cary, pitched eight years in the major leagues.

Cary plans a business and marketing major at OSU.

Azorr, who also received interest from Northwest Nazarene and Northwest University in Kirkland, Wash., said she chose Western Oregon because, “I love the coaches and all the players. It’s the best academic fit for me and the coach said she was recruiting players to come in and play right away.”

Azorr plans an elementary education major.

Pagano, who also received an offer from Western Oregon, says she chose Division II Seattle Pacific because, “The team and the coaches were great. I felt like part of the family during my visit. The campus was great, it’s right near downtown. And the business program was a really good fit for me.”

Pagano, who plans a career in sports marketing or business management, says she’s planning on a business and marketing major.

A 3.8 student at Clackamas, Reiner said she also received athletic scholarship offers from Hawaii Pacific and Western Washington, as well as an academic scholarship offer from Linfield.

Reiner plans a career in nursing.

“It was a good fit,” Reiner said of Colorado-Mesa. “They have a really good nursing program and they are top 15 in the nation [in Division II women’s basketball].”

“They graduated their point guard, so I’ll get to play my freshman year,” Reiner said.

by: JOHN DENNY - Putnam coach Jason Stanley (left) and Trace Loehrs classmates (from left) Delaine Bohahan, Josh Bancroft, Joey Cardinal, Nick Edwards, Eamon Gallagher and Chris Kalonji were on hand last week when Loehr accepted a full-ride scholarship to play baseball at Oregon State University.Loehr also received full-ride offers from the University of Washington and Washington State.

“I chose Oregon State because of the coaching and because they’re a winning program. They’re always in the Super Regional and they develop players for the pros....

“I would love to play professional some day. It’s been my dream since I was three years old and going to Portland Rockies games.”

Loehr said OSU coaches have told him they are looking for him and Christian Donahue [an incoming freshman from Hawaii] to see a lot of playing time as freshmen.

“They said they expect us to come in and start as middle infielders our freshmen year,” he said.

Loehr said he is as yet undecided about his major.

Loehr and Donahue were starting infielders last summer on the USA Baseball 18U National Team that won the International Baseball Federation Junior ‘AAA’/18U World Cup, defeating Japan 3-2 in the final.

Loehr has excelled at shortstop the last three seasons at Putnam, hitting .520 as a freshman, .350 as a sophomore, and .578 last high school season, while stealing 22 bases out of 23 attempts. He had 48 hits last spring, 22 of them extra base hits.

Before committing to play basketball at Division I Long Beach State, Gertz said she also received a full-ride offer from Seattle Pacific University, and interest from Utah State and Weber State.

“During my visit [to Long Beach State] I instantly hit it off with the coaches and the team,” said Gertz.

by: JOHN DENNY - Parents Todd and Laura Gertz were on hand at Oregon City High School last week, as their daughter Jessica Gertz committed to playing basketball at Long Beach State University, a NCAA Division I school in Long Beach, Calif.A 3.8 student at Oregon City, Gertz says she plans to major in communications.

“I’ve always liked writing,” Gertz said. “I’ve been thinking about becoming a sports broadcaster.”

A 5-9 wing who averaged 8.4 points last winter, Gertz has shown dramatic improvement since the last high school season. She averaged 22.1 points to lead Oregon City High School’s traveling team in scoring this past summer.

“I’m shooting a lot better and I’m attacking the basket more,”Gertz said.

A member of the Lake Oswego Community Rowing youth varsity women’s rowing team, Lesch has taken the world of competitive rowing by storm. She began rowing as a novice in September of 2012 and by December she had made the LOCR varsity team. In January, she had the lowest erg score on the women’s varsity team and was invited to participate in the U.S. Rowing Northwest Regional high-performance training camp.

by: SUBMITTED - Portland Waldorf senior Ellie Lesch, pictured with parents Phil and Donna Lesch, has accepted a scholarship to compete for Oregon State University in rowing.Lesch won the Tough Love erg competition at University of Portland in February. She competed for a spot on the Junior National Team and then was invited to join the Junior National Team’s high- performance camp in April.

She stroked the Open Women’s 4+ for LOCR, which took second place at the windy Spring Regatta at Green Lake in Seattle in March. She attended the Junior National Team high- performance camp at the Coast Guard Academy boathouse in New London, Connecticut in June and July. Her camp team went on to represent the United States in the Varsity A eight at Club Nationals in Camden, NJ. Lesch rowed in the sixth seat and she and her crew took fifth in the finals of the collegiate team competition.

Lesch plans to study exercise science/kinesiology at OSU.

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