The array of Stockdale athletes signing to compete in collegiate sports Monday was vast: boys and girls; swimming, running and jumping; tall and short.
Like, really tall and really short: On one end was Eric Sande, a 6-foot-4 swimmer who signed with Minnesota and thanked the assembled in Stockdale's library with a deep, booming voice; further down the table were Riddhi Patel and Tori Blackmon, two Division I distance runners who might measure 5-1 with shoes on.
"Eric and I are actually really good friends, but it's funny to talk to him because you have to look so far up," said Patel, who signed to run at Saint Louis University. "He always does the 'How's the weather down there?' joke."
But there was no joke about the impact of the eight athletes gathered Monday. Six signed with Division I schools, two have been Californian Athletes of the Year in their respective sport (with Sande a strong candidate for this year's swimming honor, too) and all eight have grade-point averages of at least 3.2.
"It's really exciting," Sande said. "Everybody here has worked really hard, and to have our accomplishments recognized is a great thing."
Sande, who has family in Minnesota, will compete in the Big Ten Conference, one of the nation's strongest for swimming. He said the Golden Gophers approached him after he swam a 1:05.3 in the 100-meter breaststroke at the Junior National Championships last summer.
"I wanted to go where I could swim against good competition," Sande said. "The Big Ten is one of the fastest conferences in the nation."
Blackmon is headed to Cal State Bakersfield, where she will run cross country and track.
"I can't believe it; it's extremely exciting," she said. "I always knew I wanted to run in college, and this way I can have home-cooked meals and go home whenever I want to."
Other Mustangs celebrating their signings throughout the year included the reigning Californian Girls Golf Player of the Year, Kaley In, who will play at UC Irvine, and the Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year, Conner Fisher, who is headed to Cal Poly.
Also celebrating were Asia Cooks, who will play basketball at Marygrove College, an NAIA school in Detroit; and Alexis Perez, who will play soccer at Division II Cal State East Bay in Hayward.
Kiare Tanner, the defending Central Section triple jump champion, was not present but was recognized for signing with Cal.
Spring sports are still going strong at Stockdale -- the school won or shared Southwest Yosemite League titles in baseball, softball, boys tennis, boys golf and boys track and field. All of those, along with girls track and both swimming programs, are still alive in the postseason.
Still, in many ways the ceremony felt like the end of an era at Stockdale: athletic director Mark Hance is stepping down, to be replaced by boys golf coach Jim Keene; also retiring from coaching is girls basketball coach Glenn Hager, and baseball coach Dan Lemon is considering making this his final season.
Most of them looked on as their latest crop of standout athletes enjoyed their moment in the sun.
"It just feels really nice," Patel said. "All of us have worked hard, and we know that sometimes hard work doesn't always pay off. It's really nice that it did."
Villanueva to Fresno Pacific
West High baseball star Hunter Villanueva signed to play for Fresno Pacific, a winning NAIA program. Villanueva, who says Sunbirds coaches have told him he'll play immediately, figures to play shortstop and third base in Fresno. He is batting .532 with 13 doubles, five triples and five home runs as a senior for West, which plays at Visalia-Redwood on Wednesday in the first round of the Central Section Division II playoffs. He has also scored 45 runs, which is tied for the area lead, and driven in 23.
"I just like the close campus there, how it felt like everyone knows each other," Villanueva said. "They saw me play this year in Fresno (at the Easter Classic), and we were very interested in each other."
League diving champions
Centennial's Karlee Burks aided the Golden Hawks' third straight Southwest Yosemite League swimming title with the top diving performance in the county, a 413.15 score in the one-meter event Friday.
Noelle Farrer won the girls Southeast Yosemite League title with a score of 393.40. Ridgeview's Paige Oliver took the South Yosemite League crown at 256.35.
On the boys side, Stockdale's David Hamilton won the SWYL title with a score of 394.60. Garces freshman Colin Clark won the SEYL at 236.15.