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Before families, friends, teammates, coaches and administrators, a pair of Hunt High girls soccer players and the school’s most accomplished female runner announced their intent to continue their respective careers at Barton College on Thursday afternoon in the school theatre.
Joining the Bulldogs family in 2018-19 will be midfielder Camille Ruiz and goalkeeper Rachel Cox off the Lady Warriors soccer team and three-time Wilson County female cross-country champion Isabel Reed.
Each athlete planned to sign her National Letter of Intent either later in the afternoon or evening.
The trio was applauded by athletic director Jon Smith and principal Eddie Doll.
The small-college environment impressed Ruiz and Cox, while Reed admits she was influenced by former teammate Evan Lee, now a sophomore and Barton’s leading male finisher in the recent NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas championships.
“It feels great,” reacted Ruiz, who has earned an academic scholarship. “I honestly never thought I would play in college, but I knew I wanted to.”
Cox is delighted to have decided upon her college future.
“It has been very stressful,” she commented. “I made sure I chose the school where God wanted me to be and to pick the school where I could succeed in grades and soccer.”
Noted Reed: “I visited the campus and it was really nice. I met the team and met the coach, and they were very welcoming. It was comfortable and felt right.”
Ruiz, the 17-year-old daughter of Alicia and Ed Ruiz, expected to attend Barton because “my dad works there and wanted me to go there.”
Cox, the 17-year-old daughter of Lee Cox and Amy Watson, chose Barton over Johnson and Wales and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
Reed, the 18-year-old daughter of Sarah and Ricky Whitley and Corey Reed, also considered the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, North Carolina Wesleyan and East Carolina University.
Observers, upon spotting Ruiz and Cox together, would immediately identify them as sisters and both assure they are often mistaken for sisters.
They plan to not only room together but a form a women’s soccer “sister act” at Barton.
The pair will be joining a deep roster, with the 5-foot-8 Ruiz anticipating playing midfield and Cox, also 5-8, tending goal.
“They are both extremely dedicated and hard-working,” noted Hunt head coach Richard Frazier. “They are good students of the game and in the classroom.
“Rachel is aggressive and confident --- which you have to be. Camille is skilled with the ball. She makes good decisions and distributes the ball well.
“Both will succeed at the college level, and I look forward to following their careers.”
Ruiz approaches her third year on the Hunt varsity and Cox looks forward to starting in goal after sharing responsibilities last season. Frazier said Ruiz led the Lady Warriors in assists last season.
“I don’t count goals,” she declared.
The possessor of a 3.8 grade-point average, Ruiz plans to earn a degree in either biology or pre-med. She played tennis her senior season.
“I know their coach and that it’s a small school,” Ruiz said of Barton. “Honestly, my goal is to play as much as I can.”
‘I’M GOOD AT IT’
“I loved the campus and I have know the coach for a few years,” Cox expressed. “I know a few of the girls there.”
Her Hunt background includes one year of varsity basketball and four years of junior varsity and varsity soccer. Cox notes she has played soccer since age 3.
She plans to pursue a degree in either communications or criminal law. Cox owns a 3.4 grade-point average.
The Barton recruit explains she cherishes the goalkeeper role because “I’m good at it and I especially love the challenge of one-on-one.”
The third oldest of six siblings, Cox mentioned her freshman-year goal as to “go in and compete for a starting position.”
The first order, however, for Ruiz and Cox is high expectations for their final Hunt season.
THE NEXT LEVEL
The 5-foot-6 Reed, coached by Rusty Boyette, emphasized most important for readying for the next level is working on her speed and preparing herself mentally.
With a 4.22 grade-point average, she aspires for a nursing career.
Reed doesn’t deny she’s concerned about the challenge to balance studies, as many as three daily workouts instead of one and racing 3.7 miles (six kilometers) per meet instead of 3.1.
But she reasons her Barton teammates deal with similar circumstances, are focused and will assist her transition.
Reed posted a career-best time of 20.08 minutes for 3.1 miles and was proclaimed 3-A All-Big East Conference all four years. She qualified for the state meet as a junior.
She mentions NCAA Division II as “very competitive, very diverse and with a lot of international runners.”
But Reed’s freshman-year goal is be among the top three in the Barton lineup.
“It’s my main sport and I have put a lot of focus into it,” she said. “It has helped me in being able to be a leader and to be able to make decisions for everyone and myself.”