With combined athletic careers that included more than its share of team and individual accomplishments, Taylor Linzie, Ava Palm and Jaden Sanchez were missing just one thing — a proper send-off.
When schools closed shop due to the coronavirus pandemic, the three Bakersfield High athletes were unable to celebrate signing with their respective colleges.
Well, better late than never.
The three Drillers finally had their chance to shine Tuesday night when about 100 people crammed into the Just Wing It Bar and Grill in the Marketplace to celebrate the culmination of their four years of hard work.
“It’s definitely very exciting,” said Ava Palm, who has committed to play volleyball at UTEP next season. “I’m really happy that I get to have like a final goodbye to high school since I wasn’t able to have a signing ceremony in April because of the virus.”
Palm finished her BHS career with more than 1,000 kills, 192 blocks, 161 service aces and 756 digs, and nearly a 40 percent hitting percentage.
“I think it’s kind of the perfect way to open up that new chapter, especially with two of my other friends that are also signing today,” Palm said. “So I was pretty excited for it.”
Linzie was also looking forward to the signing event and is looking forward to starting a new path playing basketball at Cal State East Bay.
“I’m excited to finally celebrate with two of my close friends,” said Linzie, the BVarsity All-Area girls basketball player of the year. “It feels great. It’s like closing a door. I’m sad to have ended my high school career, but I’m glad it ended the right way with me getting a scholarship.”
Starting in a new location should have a familiar feel to it for Linzie. She moved from the Bay Area for her freshman year at Bakersfield, and now four years later after leading the Drillers to three straight Central Section championships, she’s heading back there to play in college.
“Now I get to continue my schooling somewhere that I have a lot of family,” said Linzie, whose mother grew up in Oakland. “When I first came out here it was a fresh start, so it’s like starting over all over again.”
Sanchez won’t have far to go to continue his wrestling career. He signed with Cal State Bakersfield where he will now compete in the nearby Icardo Center.
“Tonight means a lot because when I went into high school I made a few goals, and one of them was to play a sport in college,” said Sanchez, who placed third at 160 pounds in Central Section Division I, fifth at Masters and went 3-2 at the state meet last season. “So to be able to accomplish that means a lot to me because I put in the work and to be able to play in college lets me know what I’ve achieved.”
Being able to celebrate those achievements was important to Sanchez, as well.
“Throughout high school I always made sure I attended all the signings to help them celebrate,” Sanchez said. “Finally when it was my turn, I was excited that I was going to be in the opposite position, but then all of a sudden all of these things happened, and the next thing you know we’re not even in school and we weren’t able to even sign any papers. I was fortunate to barely get a tour of the campus before they shut things down. So it’s nice to be able to celebrate everything.”